Saturday, May 24, 2014

Crayons + Sandpaper + Shirt + Iron = Wearable Art!

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose. 

We repurposed sandpaper and an iron for wearable art!

Recently we had field day at my school. In preparation, I was handed a bundle of white t-shirts. They said, "You can decide how to decorate your class's shirts." And in my mind, I heard "good luck."

I wanted to do something that wasn't too difficult or involved. And I wanted to do something that the kids had a large part in doing. I did an online search for "quick and easy decorating kids t-shirts" or something similar. And I found lots of great ideas - especially on this post from Putti's World.

I jumped from that post to this one about using kids' drawings. I knew I had the idea that I wanted.

I bought some sandpaper. I wanted one that was relatively smooth but would still give some texture. 

The kids drew pictures. I cautioned them before they started - everything will be opposite. Don't write words or the letters will be backward. "Unless you write the letters backward," said one girl. And that's right. If you want words on your shirt, write the letters in mirror-image.

Sandpaper drawing (Brick by Brick)

Tip: Go over the design to make the crayon marks as dark or vibrant as possible. Lighter drawing will not transfer as well.

I did the ironing. I put several paper towels in a brown envelope and slide that inside the shirt. Then I laid the drawing facedown on the shirt and covered it with two paper towels. I began to iron.

Ironing shirt (Brick By Brick)

Or better, I began to press. Don't move the iron around as you would to smooth wrinkles. Hold the iron down with pressure for about 30 seconds. Then reposition the iron and repeat. Believe me, I developed a technique after doing 18 shirts. The first ones were okay but not as vibrant as the latter ones.

Tip: Use the high cotton setting. And no steam!

T-Shirt (Brick by Brick)

After using the iron, carefully peel the sandpaper from the shirt. I think they turned out great. The only thing on the shirts was the work of the child. Each one was unique and really great! 

These could be a great year-end project. You could also iron drawings on fabric to make pillows, wall art, or other items. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parent/Child Creative Dance Class and Dance Party

I teach Creative Dance for children at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM) Preparatory Department.  For the last class of the year, parents, family, and friends were invited to join the children for an hour of dancing together.

We did a mirror warm up where I took them through a playful progression of isolations and other warm up exercises.  The participants followed along as if they were looking in a mirror: if I lifted my right arm, they would lift their left arms up the same way.  If I stepped forward, they were to step forward, and if I stepped to the side, they would mirror that as well.  The music I used was Dance in Your Pants by David Jack, who has written and recorded some of my favorite children's music - it is fun, energetic and the beat is irresistible.
The Chicken Dance!

Dancing the Macarena!

We also did some classic popular dances, such as the Chicken Dance (a Cincinnati favorite), the Cupid Shuffle (a great workout if you use the whole song), the Bunny Hop (also a good workout), the Macarena, and we finished with a Conga line. I did one problem-solving activity, which is described below:

~Create a dance with your grouping of family or friends~ 

Each loosely-defined group (parent(s)/child/siblings/classmates/friends) was asked to:

  •  Think of three or four movements that they like to do. 
  •  Put these movements in order, making a repeatable  phrase
  •  Once they did that, they were to practice doing the phrase four times in a row.  
  • Now all they needed for their original dance was to come up with a beginning and an ending.  One way to describe this composition is that they are creating a long dance sentence.  They have already created the words of the sentence (all of the movements from their repeatable phrase). Now we needed to think of a beginning position, like the capital letter which starts a sentence, and an ending position, like a period or exclamation point that finishes a sentence.  It can be any shape or position that they like.
  • Perform the dances with music! (see the paragraph below)
  • Take a bow at the end

Once everyone had time to practice their dances, I put on a couple of different types of music (1. Baroque Hoedown, Perrey and Kingsley, CD: The In Sound from Way Out, and 2. Bop 'Til You Drop, by the Nylons).  They danced their compositions all together.  This activity was well-suited to the multi-aged group, which ranged from a baby on its father's chest in a carrier, to adult parents and friends.
Creating a Dance!

We finished our dance party with a Conga line.  Three people were asked to be leaders, and we had three lines moving simultaneously around the room, to Greg & Steve's Conga Line.  At first, we were doing a small kick on the strong fourth beat of the music, but then I asked them to make a different shape with their bodies each time on that accented beat, then to make a funny face on count four.  We waved good-bye to each other as the song finished, as this was our last chance to be together before summer vacation begins!

Keep on Dancin',

Connie Bergstein Dow

©2014 Connie Bergstein Dow

Sunday, May 18, 2014

SPRING! Songs, Chants & Apps to Welcome the Season

Hello everyone! Ms. Brigid here, fromMerit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. Thank you for joining me!

©2013 Brigid Finucane, Chicago Botanic Garden
©2014 Brigid Finucane
The earth is finally awakening and turning pretty again, with apple trees in full bloom,  arches of bleeding hearts, and lilacs starting to perfume the air. Inside, my geranium cuttings are blossoming after a long winter’s hiatus, and the gardenia has opened four buds today, with dozens more on the way! It’s Spring!

This is the perfect time  of year for bird songs, stories, and dramatic play in the classrooms – made more magical by the appearance of my plush Audubon robin toy. 
Press the back and  fat tummy (filled with worms!) simultaneously, and the robin “sings” an authentic song!         I encourage children to look for robins outside in their yards, parks, and playground.  All of a sudden, bird becomes robin who nests amongst the apple tree blossoms and whose eggs are the color of the sky.


©2014 Brigid Finucane, Blackbirds in the garden!
Of course, the robins have lots of friends, including two little red-winged blackbirds, named Jack and Jill. My Audubon blackbirds, are a bit shyer than the robin, and make their presence known by calling to the children from the depths of the music bag. I ask, “Does anyone know who is making that sound?” No one does. “Does it sound like a robin?” No! Only a robin sounds like a robin! Out come the Audubon blackbirds, squawking away! After introducing them to the group, the song is taught. There are many different melodies to choose from,* but it works equally well as a chant (spoken). Get your blackbird fingers ready! 

                                                  Two Little Blackbirds
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill,
One named Jack, the other named Jill.
Fly away Jack!  Fly away Jill!
Come back Jack!  Come back Jill!

*My melody.  Made with Shadow Puppet app

Over the years I’ve added more verses: Some shared by friends, others I’ve made up. The verses I like best are (often) silly, composed of opposite pairs and have a kinesthetic element – but that’s just me! Your kiddos will guide you to the best choices for your class. Invite them to offer their ideas, and make rhyming the first two lines a class challenge! In the ideas below, the blackbirds are sitting on a…, playing in the…., flying in the…., etc.,  e.g.,

Two little blackbirds flying in a  cloud. One was soft, the other was loud.
Two little blackbirds playing with their Dad.  One was happy, the other was sad.

snow /  fast and slow                                            snow  / sang high, sang low
gate  / early and late                                             stick / healthy and sick
bend / beginning and end                                    kite /  heavy and light

Two little blackbirds chatting by the pool, one was hot, the other was cool.
driving in a car / near and far                            flying into town / up and down      
sitting on a wall / short and tall                         so pretty to behold  / shy and bold
chair  / here and there                                          wheelbarrow / wide and narrow

Cool note: Tim turns the blackbirds into penguins for the winter!
Two little blackbirds sliding down a hill, one name won’t and one named will.
Spinning in the breeze / dance and freeze        Sitting on my shoulder/ hotter and colder
Sitting on my knee / you and me                        Sitting on my pinky / fresh and stinky

In addition to singing, we talk about blackbirds’ habitat and look at pictures of them in the wild on my iPad. Did you know the females are brown? My kiddos do, thanks to the iPad app, iBird Yard +, which offers fascinating and easy to navigate support materials that include photos, bird songs/ calls directly in the app and a slideshow option with sound. Photographers are credited, which is a very nice touch.

A song from the Hebrides dances through my brain as I walk through my neighborhood in my self-appointed role as a plant detective, applauding the appearance of buds and blossoms and sprouting green spears:           
                        For day’s work and week’s work as I go up and down,
                              There are many gardens, all about the town.

The song goes on to name flowers and trees blooming in the in the gardens, and ends perfectly, in sync with my thoughts:

                        I have passed your railings, When you never knew.
                        To people who have gardens I give my thanks to you.

©2014 Brigid Finucane

Yes, it’s time to plant a garden – and I have just the poem to share, written by Susan Salidor . It’s not only a surefire hit, but includes all the elements: earth, water, sunshine and time! 

First You Take a Seed 
©Susan Salidor
First you take a seed                             Mime holding a small seed.
And you plant it in the ground.          Plant the seed.  Make sure to cover it.
Next a raincloud comes                     Make a fist and move it across the “sky.”
And waters all around.                        Open fingers and “rain”/wiggle fingers
                                                                               over seed.
Then the sun shines brightly,              Draw a circle in the sky, open fingers to
Without a sound.                                    Finger to lips – “shhh!”
And in just a few days,                          Slowly push one hand though fist like
                                                                               plant growing.
A flower is found.                              Open and wiggle fingers for “a  flower.”

©2014 Brigid Finucane, Emma!
This is a great partner game. One person plants, the other is the flower. Switch. 
©2014 Brigid Finucane, Emma & Kate (Sisters)!

But wait! There’s more! Watch Susan reciting the poem on YouTube, then take a look at the happy teacher-created bulletin board based on the poem!

Spring in the Midwest means rain, rain and more rain! Rain everywhere - 
but not on me!

Rain On the Green Grass 
Rain on the green grass,             Lower both hands in stages, with fingers apart.
Rain on the trees,                          Lift arms like branches on either side of body.
      OR Tree sign:  Arm vertical, open hand twists. Elbow rests on opposite hand.
Rain on the rooftops,                   Make shape of house, starting with peak of roof.
But not on me!                               Point to your own self with index finger.

©2014 Brigid Finucane, Briana Hornsby (daughter)!

1) Vocal echoes with comparatives.
Ask students to echo. Draw from high/low, piano/forte, staccato/legato,  fast/slow, singing/speaking voices. Each phrase can be done a different way.

2) Beat & rhythm.
Clap or walk the beat (“feet to the beat”) while reciting the chant, then clap the rhythm.

3) Half and half.
While standing with a partner, rock the beat for the first half
of the chant, and pat the rhythm (“rhythm hands”) with your partner for the second half Be gentle! There are no trips to the hospital in music class!
©2013 Brigid Finucan
4) Drums, Please!
Play the chant’s rhythm on a gathering drum, buffalo drums or nested frame drums,* phrase by phrase. Older children can try chanting and playing the rhythm all the way through without echoing. This is great syllabication practice! *See the Percusssion Discussion below for simple ideas about introducing drums to your classroom.*
©2013 Brigid Finucane

5) Crescendo Rainstorm!
After saying and playing the chant’s rhythm, finish with a crescendo storm!  A crescendo is when sound gradually increases from soft (piano) to loud (forte). First practice with hands on the room’s carpet, then try it with drums. Start with one finger on each hand, then gradually add more until all fingers and both hands are  engaged.  Crescendo!!! It’s also great fun to introduce, then say, the words pianissimo (very soft) and fortissimo (very loud) in Italian, the language of music. If young children can casually tell me, “My parents drink cappuccino,” they can also say fortissimo!

6) Crescendo circle.
Hold hands in a small circle. With feet to the beat, chant Rain On the Green Grass very softly (pianissimo). Repeat, taking a small step backwards, and recite the chant a bit louder. With each repetition, the circle gets a bit larger and the volume a bit louder, until finally, the circle is fully extended and the volume level has reached fortissimo (very loud). Crescendo!

*Percussion Discussion!

Drums are exciting! Minimize the potential for chaos by taking time to introduce the drums and demonstrate sounds that can be made. Discuss appropriate use, starting and stopping together, etc.

I have found success with bringing in several nested drums and placing them flat on the floor so kiddos can use alternating hands  when they play rhythms and the crescendo rainstorm. Groups take turn playing. When one group finishes the sequence, the next group takes their place.

Sit one to three children at a drum, depending on the sizes of the drums, children and class! Consider using a ritual like the described below, so that you can easily check that no instruments are being assaulted and everyone is having fun.  I start with a ritual every time the drums come to class. The players echo everything I say, and mirror my playing.

Hand’s up!                 (Said after every phrase)
Hello, drum!              (Hit drum, using the word’s rhythm)           
Give it a scratch!      (Scratch drumhead gently. Experiment with sound.)
Now pet the drum.   (Rub the drumhead gently. Experiment with sound.)
Good drum!                (Hit  drum, using the word’s rhythm.)   

Bits and Pieces
The Children’s Music Network's listserv is bursting with wonderful ideas for celebrating the season. Here are a few of my favorites:

Stuart Stott’s impeccable blogpost and song celebrating gardens and community.

©2013 Brigid Finucane
Liz Buchannan’s version of Two Little Blackbirds / Robins  connecting traditional songs to literacy learning.

Mike Whitla’s composition, “Trees Need the Sun”, whose first verse goes:
Trees need the Sun (make a circle with your arms for the sun),
Trees need the rain (use your fingers to show rain),
Trees need the earth (touch the ground with your hands),
It's always been that way.

© 2012 Rock’n’Rainbow Music Publishing/Rainbow Songs Inc.

And last, but not least, Debbie Carroll’s “Simply Beautiful” version of The Tree Song by Lorraine Lee Hammond, a perfect song about an apple tree through the seasons.  " Springtime the blossoms grow on me.  They open, they open." It makes my heart sing.

And in the did I use my iPad in the activities and blog creation, anyhow?  
Apps: iBird Yard +, Shadow Puppet (video sing-along), Camera for taking pictures of kiddos, Diptic and Photostein (photo frames), Educreations (adding text to photo collages), Screenshots of gathering drums, app icons, and more!
©2014 Brigid Finucane

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 *


Friday, May 16, 2014

Flannelboard Fun with Music!

  Spring has finally sprung here in Chicago – Yippee!  Ok, it was in the 40’s this morning, but it’s better than a month ago.     Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup here – this month with ideas to use with a flannelboard at music time. 
  You may ask why we need to complicate things with props and visuals.  Actually, for about a third of the children in your care it facilitates learning!  
  Here’s my rationale:  children are born with a Primary Learning Style:
  • Auditory
  • Visual
  • Kinesthetic

 While our Primary Learning Style is how we optimally process information, we all access the other learning styles to unravel the data coming at us.  Providing an image related to song content increases understanding and memory, assists processing, and invites participation by children right off the bat!
  For example:  “We’re going to sing a song about ducks,” I tell the children.  “In this song we’ll quack, waddle, and pretend there’s water running off our feathers!”  If that is all I offer the kids, some of my Visual Learners may not have heard what we’re doing because they’re still trying to get a picture in their brain of what a “duck” is!  If I don’t demonstrate what “waddle” looks like and invite them to wiggle their tailfeathers, my Kinisthetic Learners, who need to have a physical relationship with the topic to be explored, may have no idea what “waddle” feels like.  Having a felt piece to put on the board, or a duck puppet they can touch will get them up to speed! During music time, my Auditory Learners are usually just peachy because they are getting the information they need from my mouth to their ears. 
    Hey - see the "duck sticks" in the bag on the floor above - and the duck book on the other side?  I'm all for visuals!

  Let’s add visual images with an inexpensive and easy-to-make flannelboard!  You can get your materials at a craft store (Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, etc)
You will need:
1 foam board (about 30” x 20”)
Packing tape, matte knife & scissors
Flannel (about ½ yard)

   1. Iron out the creases in the flannel.  Place on flat surface.
   2. Cut foam board in half with sharp matte knife to make two 20x15” boards.
   3. Put foam board on flannel. Cut flannel 3” bigger than board on all sides.
   4. Fold long sides onto board, tape in place.  Fold corners as if wrapping a present, tape in place.

VOILA!  You’ve got a flannelboard!


    NOTE 1:  Using flannel (not felt) allows the cover to be laundered as needed.  My white board gets smudgy-looking every few months, so I rip off the tape, pop it into the washer/dryer and after a quick touch-up with my iron it goes back on the board.
     NOTE 2:  This kind of board is easy to paint on, too!  I use Scribbles fabric paint to make a bare tree for adding leaves, snowflakes, raindrops, etc.  Or my leafy tree – done with a sponge brush – for apples, cherries, birds, etc.  Still washable – just hang to dry and don’t iron over the paint!
     NOTE 3:  Flannel comes in many solid colors and patterns.  Experiment!  I use solids for color identification songs, while a printed cloud background is great for birds, kites and planes!
      NOTE 4:  I have a small easel (from Office Depot) to hold my board so that I can walk away from it to pass out the felt shapes to the children.  It's a wonderful addition to using flannelboards!
  Now you’re ready to cut felt shapes to go with your song!  Here are a few of my favorites.

FOR RIGHT NOW – “I’m a Little Seed”
    Tune:  “I’m a Little Teapot”
Lyrics:  I’m a little seed in the dark, dark ground
             Out comes the sun, yellow and round
             Down comes the cool rain, soft and slow
             UP! the seed begins to grow!

   First make your felt shapes – “dirt”, enough raindrops for every child to put one on the board, sun, tiny seed, plant and flower.  There are patterns for these pieces on my website’s Song of the Month page for this song, or on my Tiny Tunes cd.  Have children create the flannelboard picture piece by piece (learning about what seeds need to grow in the process) before singing the song.

Movements:  curl up on the floor in a tiny ball.  Then stretch hands high overhead to make the sun.  Wiggle fingers to the floor as rain.  Pop back up, hands high, to be a flower!  What color is each child’s flower?  Repeat the song.

Here is the Beehive

FOR SUMMER – “Here is the Beehive”
     No tune – a fingerplay!   Hide the "bees" inside your fist - pop up one finger at a time as they come out!
     Hear it on my Season Sings cd.
Here is the beehive
Where are the bees?
Hiding inside, where nobody sees!
They’re coming out now –
They’re alive!
1-2-3-4-5!  Bzzzzzzzzzz!
     I purchased this adorable felt set from a wonderful vendor at the CA-AEYC conference a few years ago.  Unfortunately there is no identification on the package.  Anyone know?  Produce your own hive and 5 bees – decorate with fabric paint if you’d like!

FOR FALL – “Leaves are Falling”
      Tune:  “Jingle Bells”
      Hear it on my Season Sings cd, soundclip HERE.
Lyrics:  Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
            Falling on my nose!
            Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
            Falling on my toes!
            On my head, on my ears
            Even my elbows!
            Leaves are falling, leaves are falling
            When the brisk wind blows – WHOOSH!
Movements:  Shake hands quickly overhead, then touch each part of the body as it’s sung.  Repeat, speeding up the tempo with each repetition!  Remember to start at a very moderate tempo so that you can go faster!

Your flannelboard:  I used brown fabric paint and a brush to create the bare tree.  Fabric markers or paint for the grass at the bottom.  Cut leaves of different colors – red, green, brown, yellow and orange.  Have each child put a leaf on the tree before starting the song.

GREAT PROJECT:  I made small flannelboards for each child in my class (yes, I don't have a life sometimes!)  I gave them brown markers to draw a tree, green for grass.  They chose felt leaves I'd cut - and they had their own flannelboard song to take home and sing with!  A ziploc bag is taped to the back of the board to hold the leaves. They loved it!

Other great songs for the flannelboard:
Sea Shell, Sea Shell
(SOTM means it was a Song of the Month on my website. 
 BLOG – it was featured on PreKandKSharing!)
Sea Shell, Sea ShellJune 2012 BLOG

Black Bat Farm

Black Bat FarmOctober 2004 SOTM

Little Mouse, Little Mouse

Little Mouse, Little MouseFebruary 2011 SOTM  
(in this picture it was Turkey, Turkey!)
Pumpkin, Pumpkin

Pumpkin, Pumpkin – 
September 2012 BLOG                                    

Ok - now I admit I am not artistic.  Things CAN go wrong.              
I was creating a new "multi-cultural" face for "Everybody Has a Face" - my "Ernie-like" face (left) was getting old.  But I gotta say - this gal (right) came out looking a little scary. Yikes!
   So you can't go more wrong than I have - just start over!

Let’s review – a flannelboard with felt visuals that go with a song can increase understanding and memory, assist processing and invite participation by all children in your group.  What are you waiting for???                                                            Get cutting!

Yours for a Flannelboard Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Kids!
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