Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Christmas Blog

What?  I can't believe my day to blog is Christmas!  So here I am - Christmas morning, writing a blog before I start the cooking and preparations.  NO!  I'm writing this earlier in the month and doing that 'schedule ahead' process.    Go be with your treasured relationships - after you read this!

HOpPy hOliDaZe

I've been researching the meaning behind Christmas Carols and why music is such a big part of the holiday season.  Literally hours have gone by while I've sat and went from article to article trying to decide what to post on the Facebook Page.  
Be sure to follow  as many posts will be about how Caroling started; how the holiday music affects our mood; trivia on Carols etc.

The main message is : No matter what the time of year, music will be a part of the festivities and has been since the beginning of time.  It is an integral part of who we are. Humans instinctly use music in their every day lives and always have.  Holidays just make it a bigger occasion.

Daniel Levitin - as always - gives a very insightful piece of the brain research behind it.

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago as pagan songs celebrating Winter Solstice.  The word Carol meant to dance to something.  These Carols used to be sung during all four Seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas time has continued on.  Christians took over the Solstice celebrations and replaced pagan songs with Christian ones.  In AD 129, a Roman bishop said a song, "Angel's Hymn", should be sung at Christmas.  St. Francis of Assisi took this further by creating the first Nativity Plays in the 1200s.  For more information, please visit : History of Christmas Carols
Because of its Pagan roots, the celebrations were banned by Cromwell in New England. People were actually punished for singing!  Imagine!!  Today, this practice is being picked up again as schools ban Christmas music.  Ridiculous!   Part of a music teachers job description is to familiarize children with all cultures through music.  Celebrating the season of Christmas should not be banned.  There is too much history and benefit in the ritutals.  As long as religion is not being taught, children should sing songs from all holidays.  Christmas is a big part of American tradition.  (Many of the most famous Carols are written by Jews.)

When creating your family traditions, I know music will be a part of it, intentionally or not.   And when the season is over, keep the music playing.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tape Adventures

Hi! It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended use.
We love tape. We use tape in the usual ways - to stick things together.

Recently we made scrolls as we learned about people writing many years ago. We used tape to attach straws to paper and roll it up, just like they did with scrolls.

© Brick by Brick

We used tape in other ways, too. We use tape in art experiences quite often.

Sometimes we use tape with paper to just create. We sometimes add stickers to the mix, too.

© Brick by Brick

© Brick by Brick

We have used tape to mark off areas and make a collaborative "quilt" drawing.

© Brick by Brick

We have used tape to help decorate shakers and other instruments.

© Brick by Brick

We have painted over tape to create interesting designs.

© Brick by Brick

© Brick by Brick

Tape has other uses in other areas of our room, too.

We have used tape to create areas for building or playing games.

© Brick by Brick

We have used tape to make letters and spell words.

© Brick by Brick

We love to use tape to create roads...all over the place.

© Brick by Brick

© Brick by Brick

© Brick by Brick

We even use tape as a fashion accessory!

© Brick by Brick

Tape - it's not just for sticking things together or wrapping gifts. (But we've done that, too!)

How have you used tape?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

SINGING A STORYBOOK - Wintertime / A Winter's Tale

Hello, everyone. Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Thank you for joining me. This post marks the first anniversary of writing for Pre-K and Kindergarten Sharing. 

During the year I’ve shared musical ideas, examined strategies for singing books, and explored iPad apps for (music) classroom use. In the summer, I launched a 3-part plea for listening locally,  focusing on singer songwriters from the Midwest and Ontario who have contributed substantively to the early childhood repertoire. My campaign will return in 2015, highlighting another region of the United States and Canada. Stay tuned!

I offer two celebratory gifts to light up December’s darkness. The first is a Solstice song by Stuart Stotts, a fellow CMN member and friend. It appears on his most recent blogpost, but don’t stop there. If you investigate a bit, you’ll unearth many sonic treasures!
This song commemorates the darkest days that go hand in hand with the season – at least in our hemisphere! The message of hope and light, however, is too transcendent to be consigned to a one-day observance. It also lends itself perfectly to the EC classroom use. Recommendation: Present this as a listening activity before teaching the song. That way, your kiddos can hear the arc of the story and experience Stott’s personal singing style and exquisite guitar work. After the song has been learned, sung, and moved to, ask students for their ideas. Even deep in winter…

Wintertime / Winter’s Tale
My second gift is to offer another way to sing a book. What’s that you say? We’ve already done that? Well, yes and no. I propose that there are times to bravely disregard the given text, and instead to substitute it with the lyrics and melody of an unrelated, but thematically connected song.

This is a different approach than November’s Piggybacking Melodies, where a book’s text is sung, or piggybacked, onto a familiar (children’s) song.

Drum roll, please. It’s time to beguine.

I can’t remember which came first – hearing and falling in love with Joanie Calem’s Wintertime from her CD, Dancing Through the Seasons, or stumbling across Robert Sabuda’s paper engineering masterpiece, Winter’s Tale, and becoming enraptured with its images. At some point, I put the two together, and magic happened.

The lyrics are a perfect complement to the book’s images. When I sing this storybook, the room becomes hushed as the listeners give themselves over to the perfect fusion of image, lyrics, and melody. If Sabuda had been familiar with Wintertime, he might have just thrown up his hands and declared, “My talent is manipulating paper into improbably gorgeous forms. I’ll leave the words to Joanie!”  Artists appreciate each other – or so I’ve been told.

The video I’ve provided is far more static than the reality of what happens when the book is presented in real time. Each page is slowly opened, revealing the marvelous artistry of the paper structures. Every page except for the final one has an additional side flap that, when opened, expands the story with another layer of pop-up animals.

Click on link to access video:

Full disclosure: I’ve taken a few liberties. The books sequence from page to page has been rearranged to accommodate the lyrics.  The chorus should be sung twice every time it occurs. For brevity’s sake, I limited the repetition in the Shadow Puppet. When I present it to my kiddos, I always sing it as written.

You can find out more about the song, access sheet music, and even hear Joanie signing the song with guitar accompaniment sponsored by the excellent Songs for Teaching site. Access to the mp3 and sheet music is free of charge.

Thank you for joining me! Have a glorious holiday and lovely new year.  I look forward to greeting and exploring 2015 with you!

©2002 Joanie Calem

Refrain: Wintertime is cold time, slow time, snow time,
Wintertime’s the soft time of the year.

1. Rabbits hop through the cold,
Digging up their summer gold.
Hop and jump all the day,
They aren’t bothered by the gray.
Cardinals chatter in the trees,
Finding winter’s nuts and seeds.
All their other bird friends
Flew down south ’til winter’s end.

2. Squirrels jump from branch to limb,
Climbing trees with shimmy shim.
Busy all year ’round,
Nice warm nests above the ground.
Possums, skunk and raccoon,
All are friends of winter’s moon.
Prowling ’round in mud and snow,
The cold just makes their thick coats grow.


3. Now bears are a diff’rent story.
When they hear the North Wind’s song,
They climb into their caves,
Sleep away the winter long.


I am continually inspired by The Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2014 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Hi!  “Miss Carole” Stephens of Macaroni Soup here, and I've got exciting news! 

  I've released a new recording – “Polka Dots!”  It’s chock-full of 24 great songs and fingerplays for movement, singing AND learning! In this month's blog I’ll share one that has a familiar tune, one spoken piece, and then GIVE YOU – FREE - a fun new song that I wrote! 
                  Keep reading!
    In 25 years of teaching music and movement with young children, I've often wished for songs about certain subjects, or songs that promote practice of specific skills, or songs that are for annual events that are age appropriate for my typical classroom/concert audience – sixes and younger. I've written little pieces of songs, and in some cases whole songs that fit the bill – but they never got finished, polished and ready to record. Well, TEN of the songs on “Polka Dots!” are written by me!  I hope you like them – the teachers that have been using them are giving me a thumbs up, for which I am very grateful! 
    Here we go! Let’s start with one based on an old English poem, sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

A sung fingerplay adapted by Carole Stephens

Little Arabella Miller found a creepy caterpillar
First it crawled upon her mother – EWE!
Then upon her baby brother – WAAH!
All said, “Arabella Miller, take away that caterpillar – YUCK!”

Little Arabella Miller found a creepy caterpillar
First it crawled on little brother  - (baby giggle)
Then upon her dear grandmother – “Hmmm…”
Gran said, “Arabella Miller, how I love your caterpillar!”

Line 1: start walking two fingers – I use pointer and tallman – from wrist to shoulder.

Line 2: walk fingers to top of head, pause to “Ewe!”

Line 3: walk fingers to other shoulder, pause to “waah!”

Line 4: walk fingers down other arm, speeding up as you finish, tossing the caterpillar to the floor!

    This song can be done with each child creeping their fingers on themselves, or a caregiver or friend playing the caterpillar with their fingers.  No matter how you do it, it’s a giggle.  AND it is a wonderful way to demonstrate Appropriate Touch – we use gentle fingers!  I love doing this one with babies, toddlers, and my preschoolers still love it, too!

    At the end of the first verse you might say, “Then Arabella Miller’s Grandma came to visit, and she saw things a little differently!”   Sing the second verse, going in the opposite direction with the walking fingers.  End gently petting the hand. Nice!

A flower grows like this!
GROWING   (spoken)  
             adapted by Carole Stephens

A FLOWER grows like this
A TREE grows like this
A CARROT grows like this
And I grow like this - 

ACTIONS:  Start standing, hands cupped around face like a blossom.  For the tree – shoot hands straight upward. For the carrot, put tips of fingers together, and dive to the floor.  For the last line, stand up and strike a pose – “ta dah!”

    As with many short action rhymes like this, plan to do it again – and again!  The better the children know the rhyme, the more fun it becomes!  I use a visual before we start – that the children can “read” left to right, as we identify the different items. As you can see, you don’t have to be an artist to draw something the kids will recognize – my sister got all the artistic talent in our family, but I get by!  Just some markers and foam board.  It works!

                                Now for the “freebie!” 
    Years ago I got tired of being hit when I complimented a child for something saying “That was great – high 5!” BOOM! It felt like they’d broken my wrist!  Then came the “nucks” – BOOM! I got punched.  Instead of giving up completely, I decided to try to change the behavior by teaching my students how to give a gentler high 5.  I taught them the five little words – which we tap each finger on one hand for each word to emphasize that “High Fives Should Not Hurt!” 
Good job, Anna and Belle!

    Guess what – it works. The children are gentler with each other, with teachers – even teaching friends how to give a softer high 5!

    You can hear the song sample here, or hear and download the whole song off the Soundcloud!  It’s so short and easy to learn, you’ll be able to sing it after a few listens! 
          That's the freebie!

High Fives Should Not Hurt   

               by Carole Stephens ©2014
High 5’s should not hurt – 
No no no no no!
Hi 5’s should not hurt!
High 5’s should not hurt – 
No no no no no!
Hi 5’s should not hurt!
When you want to say “good job” to a friend
Remember “high 5’s should not hurt!”
These 5 little words should go through your head:
High – Fives – Should – Not – Hurt!

MOTIONS: Hold up one hand, fingers splayed, in the air, tapping each finger with the pointer of the other hand each time you sing the title phrase. You can shake your head or waggle that pointer for the “no-no’s”.  Give a thumbs up for “good job”.  That’s it!  Spread the word: “High Fives Should Not Hurt!”

    Like what you hear?  You can purchase the cd at CdBaby!  Get these 3 songs, plus “A Very Fine Day”, “Mother Nature”, “No More Pie!”, “Giddy-Up!” (all featured in my previous blogs) – AND 17 MORE highly usable songs like “Rainbow ‘Round Me” and “I May Be Little!”
Remember - High 5's Should Not Hurt!
     I wish everyone a wonderful end of 2014 – and a joyous start on 2015!

  Yours for a Polka Dot Song!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Montessori-Inspired Gingerbread Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I love gingerbread activities at Christmastime, so this post was extra fun to prepare. I'm still adding to my list of free gingerbread printables ... there are so many great ones! 
Montessori-Inspired Gingerbread Activities Using Free Printables 

I shared my list of free gingerbread printables in my post today at Living Montessori Now. Here, I've created some gingerbread activities using free printables for preschoolers through first graders. 

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools

 Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. 

Gingerbread Visual Discrimination and Fine-Motor Activity

  Gingerbread Visual Discrimination and Fine-Motor Activity 
This is a simple but fun activity using the free Gingerbread Visual Discrimination Printable from Pre-K Pages. You can print, laminate, and cut out the task cards as I did, or you can create a booklet for children to use. I used a large plastic tray and added quick sticks from Montessori Services along with small glass gems to include a fun fine-motor activity. The glass gems are placed on the two matching gingerbread people on each card.

Gingerbread Man Color Sort 

  Gingerbread Man Color Sort Tray 
For this activity, I used Gingerbread Man Color Sort from Making Learning Fun. You could just cut out the cards with the gingerbread men instead of individually cutting out each gingerbread man, which would be a bit quicker. I wanted my gingerbread men to look more like cookies, so I cut out the individual gingerbread men. The plates are just construction paper using the printables from Making Learning fun. I used a Montessori Services rug for my layout.

  Gingerbread Man Color Sort Layout  

Gingerbread Odd and Even Activity 

  Gingerbread Odd and Even Tray 
This tray uses the Gingerbread Even or Odd from Mrs. Kelly’s Klass. I love that this can extend the Montessori cards and counters introduction of odd and even. If you use the Montessori Primary Guide cards and counters lesson linked to in the post, you can see how to introduce odd and even in Montessori education. 

Of course, it helps if children are comfortable with cards and counters and have been introduced to the decimal system before doing this activity. This activity can show that odd and even is only dependent on the units place value. (Note: the gingerbread man from this activity would be great for a place value activity similar to my Christmas tree place value activity here last year.) 

You could have glass gems available as a way for children to check any odd or even numbers they're unsure of. You could also have one control dot for odd numbers and two control dots for even numbers on the back of each card as a control of error.

Gingerbread Odd and Even Check

Gingerbread Man Symmetry Design Tray 

Gingerbread Man Symmetry Design Tray 

This activity uses the free Gingerbread Man Symmetry by Floriane Siegel at Teachers Pay Teachers. I'm not a fan of coloring activities unless they further creativity or have an educational purpose. (Montessori activities such as coloring specific continents or parts of something are some of my favorite uses of coloring.) I like this activity because it allows children to create a design and learn about symmetry with the coloring activity.  

Gingerbread Holiday Beginning Sounds Activity 

  Gingerbread Holiday Beginning Sounds Activity  

Gingerbread Holiday Beginning Sounds from Kinders on the Block is a cute printable for a phonics activity reinforcing beginning sounds. I used miniature clothespins to help develop fine-motor skills. These 1 3/4" clothespins are from the Building and Blocks Toolbox from Montessori By Mom.  If you want to make the activity even more challenging, you can use 1" clothespins.

You can learn more about introducing beginning sounds in my DIY Sandpaper Letters post.  

Where Is the Gingerbread Man? Activity

  Where Is the Gingerbread Man Activity 
I was excited to find the Gingerbread Common Core Positional Word Daily Writing Activity from The Barefoot Teacher. It can be used for a writing activity using the printable page. 

I thought it would also be fun as a variation of Elf on the Shelf. The gingerbread man could be printed out in whatever size you'd like and put in a new place in the classroom or home each day. Children could identify the location using positional words either verbally or in writing. 

Here's the link to my favorite laminator ... inexpensive and great for almost any activity that needs to be laminated! 

More Free Christmas Printables and Montessori-Inspired Christmas Activities

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to gingerbread freebies from around the blogosphere: Free Gingerbread Printables and Montessori-Inspired Gingerbread Activities.

You'll find lots of Montessori-inspired December holiday activities and ideas in these posts at Living Montessori Now: Activity of the Week – Montessori-Inspired Decorating the Christmas Tree Activity, Activity of the Week – Gift Wrapping Work, How to Use Godly Play at Home During Advent, December Family Activities, Turning Christmas Crafts into Montessori-Oriented Activities, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Activities, 50+ December Family Activities, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Activities (Part 2), Holiday Manners, How to Prepare a Special Kids’ Table for Holiday Gatherings, Homeschool Christmas, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Playdough Activities, 40+ Christmas Countdown Activities, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Crafts, Montessori-Inspired Nativity Activities, Montessori-Inspired Hanukkah Activities, Christmas Around the World: Scotland, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Activities and Free Christmas Printables, 40+ Christmas Sensory Tubs, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Scavenger Hunt, Montessori-Inspired Kids’ Gift Wrapping Activities, Hundreds of December Holiday Activities for Kids, Christmas Countdown Activities {with Lots of Free Printables}, December Themed Activities for Kids, Using Variations of Elf on the Shelf to Encourage Kindness, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Cards and Crafts, Montessori-Inspired Set-Ups for Christmas Playdough Activities, Christmas Gingerbread Man Fine-Motor Activity or Craft, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Craft – Painted Wooden Ornaments, Free Christmas Tree Printables and Montessori-Inspired Christmas Tree Activities, Montessori-Inspired Little Passports Activities – Israel (includes Hanukkah activities and free printables), Using Kindness Elves to Encourage Kindness {Ideas and Free Printables}, Free Nutcracker Printables and Montessori-Inspired Nutcracker Activities, Montessori-Inspired Christmas Activities with Spielgaben {Free Printables}, 20+ Christmas Phonics Activities, Free Christmas Songs and Rhymes for Circle Time, Baby or Toddler Handprint or Footprint Keepsake Ornament, Free Hanukkah Songs and Rhymes for Circle Time, Kids’ Christmas Activities Pinterest Board, Kids’ Non-Christian Religious Holiday Activities Pinterest Board.
Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12.
Happy holidays!
Deb - SigantureLiving Montessori Now Button  
Deb ChitwoodDeb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 39 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and baby granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Here's a Unique Gift to Give to Yourself This Holiday Season

Christmas is upon us and many of us are thinking about the gifts we want to give to others. But before you hit the shopping mall, think about taking care of yourself first. Remember those instructions from the flight attendant about putting your own oxygen mask on before you assist someone in your care? So what sort of gift could you give to yourself? I have one to offer up and when you receive it from yourself, it can have devastating positive lasting results.  I’m talking about emotional health here!

One night, my wife and I were leaving a holiday social event. We couldn't help but share with each other on the drive home, the lingering feelings we had after listening to a few other couples, bicker with each other and complaining to the rest of us. None of them had anything encouraging to say and the experience made us want to leave. That’s the night several years ago that we decided together on two very important gifts for each other going forward.

I'm A Teacher, What's Your Super Power? Teacher 12 oz Coffee Mug Great Gift

Our first important decision was to surround ourselves only with encouraging and supportive people. Over the next few days we began ‘cleaning house’ by listing all the adults in our lives who we felt were toxic. These are the people who complained and berated others, bickered with each other in front of others, and the ‘doubting Thomas’ who usually tell you every reason why your new idea won’t work.

The second thing we did was to promise each other to always speak respectfully and kind to each other, not only in front of the kids, but out in public as well. This was especially important if the other was absent. We promised never to air any issues we have with each other in public and to address them in private. This included not making each other the butt of a joke or busting on each other in humiliating or embarrassing ways.

To cultivate a relationship and life as good parents (and teachers), it’s critical to remain
positive, encouraging and to always focus on gratitude for all of the gifts that appear in our lives each day. Steer clear of the ‘crabs’ that will always try and pull you down to join them in their misery or misfortune, and to pass this all on to our kids. So here are some additional guidelines we came up with for ourselves.

1. Surround ourselves with positive and encouraging people. This was a difficult task to perform, limiting who we would invite to social events. Unfortunately, it meant eliminating some family members!

2. Add statements of gratitude to our blessings before family meals. Take notice of all the little things that others did for us and recognize the gifts that appeared in our day that helped us in some way.

3. Send out hand-written thank you notes (not emails) each week to anyone who helped us solve a challenge or provided service to us in some capacity.
As adults raising (and teaching) children, we owe it to them to understand the difference between encouragement and discouragement and how to manifest what they need to develop their own resiliency.

Bill Corbett has a degree in clinical psychology and is the author of the award winning book “Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids,” in English and in Spanish.  He is happily married with three grown children, two grandchildren, three step children, and lives in Enfield.  You can visit his Web site for further information and parenting advice.
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