Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Labor Day Salute to Some of the Unsung Heroes of Our Economy

For my entry this month, I am deferring to my supervisor, colleague, and friend of 19 years, Dr. Ellen Abell. Dr. Abell is an Extension Specialist and Associate Professor in the College of Human Sciences Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University.

Labor Day is a day to celebrate the labor movement and the workers in our nation’s labor force who keep our economy, education system, government, and country moving forward. On this holiday weekend, as you are relaxing and, perhaps, grilling up a tasty feast, here is a little food for thought:
Question: Who are the workers on whom families depend to enable them to go to work every day?
Clue #1: Work is an essential part of family life that is usually done outside the home.
Clue #2: In 65% of two-parent families with children under 6, both parents work outside the home.
Answer:  Child care workers. Without the women and men willing to undertake the challenging work of caring for other people’s children, parents would be unable to work. So, one can reasonably argue that child care workers are the unsung heroes of our modern-day economy.
Child care options for families can vary from a traditional child care center to a group or family child care setting based in the caregiver’s home. Expectations about the quality of care our children receive have grown as we understand more about the importance of the earliest years for a person’s positive growth, learning, and life-long health. As a result, the skills and training required of providers have increased. However, the average annual wage of a child care worker in Alabama remains low at $18,390 (U.S. average is $21,320), well below what it takes a family to thrive in our economy. We depend on people who earn low wages for us to be able to go to the jobs that support our own families.
According to data compiled by Child Care Aware America obtained from a the nationwide network of child care resource and referral agencies, in the U.S., just over 15 million children under the age of 6 were in some kind of child care because the adults in their families worked. About 2.2 million people earn their living caring for these children.  In Alabama, almost 225,000 children require child care because their parents work, and there are 11,000 child care workers in centers and an additional 1000 family child care homes.

So, on this Labor Day, let us salute

those who make going to work possible and who dedicate their labor to supporting our children’s healthy growth and development.
For additional information about quality child care, visit the eXtension’s Alliance for Better Child Care. To access additional information and resources for families, go to our Families and Children pages and/or visit eXtension’s Child and Family Learning Network.

Originally posted on and used with permission.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's Not a Box

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

I love to repurpose. Sometimes I think it's a sickness. In fact, the other day we went to Sam's and ended up with this at my house.

I debated and debated about putting it in the trash. It's still sitting beside the trash can (but not tossed out just yet). I keep thinking about things we could do with it.

We could paint with marbles or golf balls. It's a great size for paper to fit in and the sides are tall enough to make sure the marbles or balls stay inside.

We could build inside it. My kids enjoyed building in the blocks bin a while back. I think with some smaller blocks and this box, we could have a great time creating.

We could use it for sand. We used trays once to have more individual experiences with sand. But this box has taller sides. I think it would be great for exploring sand (or barley or other sensory materials).

We could fill it with shredded paper and hide names or words or letters for kids to find.

We could use it for a portable writing center or art station. Put a few pieces of paper and markers or other art materials in it. Place the box in any area of the room so materials are ready for use at a moment's notice.

We could use it for a doll bed. Can't have too many places for our dolls to sleep.

We could play games in it (especially ones that toss dice) or work a puzzle in it.

We can use it to contain counters or letter tiles....

Hmm. Guess I need to retrieve that box and put it in a safe place!

What ideas do you have for my great box?

P.S. One of my favorite books is Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. Read it with your kids and then let them decide what that box really is.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Educators Who Care, Share: Singers, Sites & Songs - Part II: Midwest & Great Lakes

©2014 Brigid Finucane -
Chinese Lanterns
Special Note: It's impossible to limit this post to two parts, as originally planned. The richness of Heartland talent necessitates a Part III! Today’s alphabetically arranged post ends with K for Kate Kuper.  Part III will open with Bruce O’Brien and conclude with Barb Tilsen.  Stay tuned!

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

This post takes up where my July 18, 2014 entry, Educators Who Care, Share: Singers, Sites & Songs – Part I: Midwest & Ontario, left off, and continues the mission of listening locally – highlighting musicians from the Midwest and Great Lakes region who write or perform for the EC population (though some also write for and work with older children). Many are teaching artists, conduct residencies, and present workshops. All are musical treasures.

I’m focusing on artist’s whose work I  use consistently. You'll notice that specific songs are mentioned with ideas for use.  Sound sample links are provided when available. Please remember that this list is intended to be a gateway and is in no ways exhaustive.

Karen Banks-Lubicz
1. Karen Banks-Lubicz, IL.
About Karen: “Music has always been a part of Karen’s life, and she’s grateful to be able to share it with people of all ages as a Wiggleworms teacher…” at Chicago’s beloved Old Town School of Folk Music (OTSFM). She also teaches in Ravinia’s outreach program, Reach, Teach, Play.

Kiddo Faves: From Karen for Kids
Back and Forththe perfect rocking song, either alone or with a partner. The melody and lyrics are enchanting, and invite one and all to “make music a part of your day.” Linda Robertson, also from OTSFM, recorded it on her lovely CD – so you can listen to a bit!
Hush Little Baby  - performed in a minor key. I use it as a comparative listening example after my classes have learned and sung the song along with Marla Frazee’s book of the same name. I wrote briefly about this process in a previous post.

Bom Bom Biddy a nigun, or song without words, is a surefire hit with little ones, and uses tempo as a driving element. The ending (“shhh”) can also be used additively. For those of you with older kiddos, here’s a challenge! (Note: the tune is a different tonality, but it’s essentially the same song – on steroids). It's amazing how complicated a few syllables can get!

Of Note: If I Were a Bird, the lyrical tribute to the power of imagination, co-written with Amy Lowe,* provides intriguing writing prompts for older kiddos. It  could even be the inspiration for a class book with illustrations contributed by students. *Amy Lowe also teaches at Merit!
Joanie Calem
About Joanie: “I am a musician, singer/song-writer, and teacher.  I have been creating music and teaching people of all ages since 1983. My goal in both my performances and teaching is to invite my audiences and students to share a sense of creating community through singing and playing together.”

Wintertime - Joanie paints evocative pictures with her lyrics, and after this year’s polar vortex assault, I so appreciate her poetic approach to winter! I partner this song with the exquisite book, WINTER’S TALE by Robert Sabuda, which explores animals in their winter habitat though magical pop-ups (the crowd goes wild!). I move the verses around to pair with Sabuda’s images, and use the chorus to transition between images: “Wintertime is cold time, slow time, snow time. Winter is the soft time of the year.”

Snow is Falling - I love scale songs. This song goes from high to low, with the class moving as the words suggest. A glockenspiel is the perfect accompaniment. It’s short, whimsical, allows for whole-body movement, and is sing-able (the key to success!). “Snow is falling down, down…”

Spring is A-Comin’ is piggybacked on to the melody of Train is a-Comin’ –and invites children to say and sing simple phrases relating to Spring (rain is a-fallin’, birds are a –singin’, etc.). The repetition of single phrases is great for ELL and our younger kiddos. Create your own class verses for other seasons!

Of Note: Joanie’s has two other CD’s: Shanah Tovah, Shanah M'tukah – A cycle of songs for the Jewish year (traditional and original songs) and But First Do No Harm, original songs writtenfor parents, family members, therapists, and teachers of children not on the neuro-typical path.”

3. Laura Doherty, IL
I'm a Little Fish
Laura Doherty
About Laura: …a nationally touring children's recording artist and award-winning producer with an ear for a catchy melody, she’s launched three CDs with child-centric themes, and like Karen (above), she’s affiliated with OTSFM.

Kiddo Faves:
Laura’s videos are fantastic art collaborations – and never fail to delight my kiddos. Here are two:
I’m a Little Fish. I’m not sure which is more amazing - the banjo-playing octopus, or the crab walking down the sand bank!
Wheels in the City

Wheels in the City. “Let’s go looking for wheels in the city, rollin’ rollin’ round and round…” is a celebration of urban transportation and all things round.
Goodbye Song
Goodbye Song- This song is not a video, but it’s the perfect way to end a class or day. “It’s time, it’s time, it’s time to say goodbye. A kiss, a hug, a wave – we’ll see you next time…” Picture everyone smiling and swaying while singing! Cha cha cha!

Of Note: I just saw Laura at my local Skokie Library. From past experience, I knew that she would beautifully engage the crowd with her songs and props, but I was unprepared for her artistry in another area - creating sound effects. A revelation!

4. Jim Gill, IL
Jim Gill
About Jim: Jim Gill is a musician and author, (and)… a child development specialist, having completed his graduate studies in child development at the Erikson Institute of Chicago with a special emphasis on the study of play. Jim has numerous CDs, but the songs I bring to my classroom, are often the ones I sang with my then small (now 21 year old) daughter. They have staying power!

Kiddo Faves:
Silly Dance Contest is a freeze dance, ideal for embracing then shaking sillies out when kiddos must remain inside due to inclement weather (too common in Chicago!). "Dance any way you want to, dance any way you please!....But stop when I say freeze!" 

May There Always Be Sunshine, is a lovely, composed, Russian song, which has become a signature piece for Gill. Years ago, with help from illustrator Susie Signorino-Richards, he turned the song into a book. The illustrations are based on suggestions offered by children he’s sung with over the years. The end page of the book lists hundreds of ideas!* Both songs are on Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and other Contageous Tunes.

Two for Tea
Two for Tea, a new song I heard recently a Solomon Schechter Pre-K concert, is charming update of an old song, and great for dramatic play and math! "...add one more, and that makes four."

Of Note: *This year, after singing May There Always Be Sunshine and sharing the  book with my Merit families, I invited children to draw their response to “May there always be…..” and made my first class e-books from their artwork – a resounding success. The drawings, ranging from tender to hilarious, clearly expressed each child’s personality!

5. Kate Kuper, IL
Kate Kuper
About: Kate is a professional dancer, musician, and “…a Teaching Artist, working with children, from preschool through 8th grade. All her materials are kid- tested, and evolved from teaching to and creating with children over many years."

Kiddo Faves: From Alpha Beat – Songs, Dances, Poems, and Imaginary Journeys for Children.

The “Gentle Warm Up” section is lovely, and very singable. Tracks 3-5 reference the melody “Old Joe Clark.”
Action Dance – Verbs are our friends. Over thirty of them are used in this guided, stay on one spot, movement piece! Locomotor Movement  "goes from one place to another."

Swirl and Twirl, evolves, using spoken and “instrument only” tracks, into The Snowflake Dance.  The clearly designed Companion Guide can be downloaded from her Home page under AlphaBeat, and contains substantive material related to each track.

Of Note: Kate is a master rhymer and wordsmith, with a pocketful of great classroom management directions, e.g., “Stand tall, one and all.” Her blog, Let’s Talk Creative Dance, further amplifies how movement, music and literacy can support learning.

©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 *

Blog History: December 2013 – Present          

©2014 Brigid Finucane - Thank you for reading!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Start School Singing!

Hi from Miss Carole at Macaroni Soup!
    Last August I blogged about how to “Sing Your Way Through the First Week of School!”  Read it – it’s a great companion for this post, with 5 great songs to start your year.
                             WHAT’S NEXT???

    It’s Week 2!  Let’s keep the music moving forward to “Start School Singing!”  Active Music improves fitness, stimulates neural connections and is accessible to children of all abilities.

    Here are 5 more songs to get through Week 2.  Listen to them at the links provided to the Song of the Month pages on my Macaroni Soup website.  They’re all easy-to-learn, kid-tested and Teacher Approved!  (AND they’re all on my “BALONEY!” cd!)
    As you add a song each day, be sure to repeat the previous day’s song.  By the end of the week. You’ll have a 15-20 minute Music Time – great for growing brains and bodies!  Mix in some of the Week 1 songs, too!  Yippee!


DAY 1:  We Like to Say Hello

We like to say hello 
In another way
We say Hola!  
That’s the Spanish way!

    Yes – this is a “zipper song” – just replace the underlined words with another language and sing it again.  I write the words on posterboard and tack it to my table or wall so that my students can see the words – many call out the choices by the color of the card!  Ask your students if they know how to say hello in another language – and add their suggestions to the list.  It’s a wonderful way for children to share their knowledge and backgrounds.
Jambo….Swahili                          Bon Jour….French
Guten Tag….German                  Aloha….Hawaiian
Ni hao….Chinese                        Konichiwa….Japanese
Shalom....Hebrew                       Ciao....Italian

DAY 2:  It’s a Beautiful Day!  by Kathy Ried-Naiman 
A beautiful day for JUMPING!
          Song of the Month 9/10

It’s a beautiful day, it’s a beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day for singing!
It’s a beautiful day, it’s a beautiful day
It’s a beautiful day for singing!
Singing, singing, it’s a beautiful day for singing!

Verses:  Dancing, jumping, twirling – or add your own idea!

This great song is a no-brainer – just do what the lyric tells you to do.  I teach my students the sign language for “singing”, and that’s what they do during the first and final verses.  Go to the ASL browser to see it demonstrated, or stretch out your left arm in front of you, move your right hand back and forth over it, as if playing a harp!

DAY 3:  Wishy Washy Washerwoman
          Song of the Month 7/10

Waay down in the valley where nobody goes
There’s a wishy washy washerwoman washing her clothes
She goes wishy washy UP, she goes wishy washy DOWN
She goes wishy washy UP, she goes wishy washy DOWN
That’s how the wishy washy washerworman washes her clothes!

Additional verses:
V.2: drying her clothes, she goes whoo-eee! 
V.3: folding her clothes, she goes side, side 
V.4: eating Oreos, she goes dunk, mmm 
V.5: saying adios, she goes bye bye, ta ta, au revoir, ciao baby!

On "Waaay"  put both hands overhead and shake them! 
For lines 1, 2 and 5, pat hands on thighs to the beat 
For lines 3/4: 
    V.1 Zigzag hands (L/R/L) from lap to overhead and back down (R/L/R) 
    V.2 Sweep a side-by-side circle with hands in front, first counter clockwise, then clockwise
    V.3 Clap hands to the right, then left (repeat) 
    V.4 Hold imaginary cookie in one hand, pretend to dunk in glass of milk! 
    V.5 Wave hand goodbye, then blow a kiss at the end!

For the whole story on this one, you really should read the SOTM page!  
BOOK BUDDIES:  Check out the Mrs. Wishy Washy books by Joy Cowley - they are an wonderful way to pair literature with music!

DAY 4:  Blow the Balloon!  (a fingerplay – learned from Hugh Hanley)
               Audio link - Song #16
Start with hands together in front of chest.  Widen the space between them with each “blow” – until you “pop” the balloon at the end.

Blow the balloon.
Blow the balloon.
Blow, blow, blow, blow, blow!
Where did my balloon go?

DAY 5:  Down I Flop!
        Song of theMonth 4/11

Clapping, clapping, see me clapping 
Clapping, clapping, all day long! 
Nobody knows I can clap so well 
Nobody knows I can stand / so / still.
(big pause) 
Clapping, clapping, see me clapping 
When I am tired, down... I .... FLOP!
2. stamping 
3. jumping 
4. walking 
5. running 
6. Tiptoe
Flopping en masse!

   Once again, do what the song tells you to do!  Flopping?  Demonstrate falling to the floor while in control of your body.  We don’t flop onto another child, or into walls or furniture!  You’ll need open floor space for this one – great for outdoors, too!  Be sure children learn to run going in the same direction with respect for others’ space.

 Now you’re cookin’!  If you have questions, concerns or want to tell me how YOU do one of these songs, PLEASE write a comment at the end of this blog.  Or you can email me – but it’s better to share with everyone!

   If your school or district needs an in-service to re-charge your music curriculum, call or email me!  This Fall I’ll be in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Washington DC doing workshops and concerts.  Check out my EventsCalendar!  I’ll also be presenting at the NAEYC Conference in Dallas in early November.  I will have time to skip out and do a local workshop just for your TX group!  Let’s talk!
Yours for a Back-To-School Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
MacaroniSoup! Active Music for Active Learners!
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