Friday, December 25, 2015

Some Christmas Thoughts

      Merry Christmas to all who celebrate.  

Today, this blog will feature memes about some traditions and Christmas Songs.   Enjoy.  And, by all means, share.
(of course, as always, I've thrown in a brain fact or two.)


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let's Go Camping

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

Dramatic play and pretend play are key ways for young kids to learn and play. And it's a great place for repurposing items. 

I have a tent but I never go camping in it. We use it in our classroom. We set it up in a corner. (Well, it takes up more than a corner.) We play in it. We read in it. We enjoy using it in lots of different ways.

reading in a tent (Brick by Brick)

Sometimes I limit the number of kids at a time. This allows for more play and less "wrestling" (just to move around). Placing a sign on the tent helps reinforce literacy, using writing in meaningful ways.

tent in a classroom (Brick by Brick)

Don't have a tent? Repurpose a flat sheet and a table. Drape the sheet over the table and you have an "instant" tent. (This is also easier to store and takes up less space in the room.)

sheet and table tent (Brick by Brick)

sheet and table tent (Brick by Brick)

Need a campfire? You can repurpose for that, too. A rack from the kitchen storage area, a few twigs or pieces of kindling, a few blocks (or rocks), and some tissue paper create a great campfire.

campfire in classroom (Brick by Brick)

Add a few pots and pans from the kitchen center (or your own kitchen) for more play.

campfire cooking (Brick by Brick)

Have a good time camping this your room.

Friday, December 18, 2015


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

Star Light, Star Bright is one of my favorite poems to bring to the classroom, especially at this time of year when the darkness seems omnipresent. The poem also connects me to my childhood, when I used to fervently wait for a wishing star to appear in the indigo twilight of a northern Minnesota sky. My mother taught the song to me when I was quite small, and I tell my students in Pre-K and Kindergarten that I learned it at their age (which instantly makes them more interested!).

I’ve always sung the lyrics, and blithely assumed such was the case with, well, everyone!  A current television ad that appropriated the poem for mercenary purposes, however, features a child’s voice chanting (speaking) the words, and at a recent workshop I presented, I was surprised to find that almost half of the adult attendees knew the poem but not the song. Let’s change that right now!

Star Light’s melody uses two notes. Think Rain, rain, go a-way (High, low, high-high, low) – and use those same two notes, or pitches, for Star Light, Star Bright.

Star light, star bright, (High, low, high, low)
First star I see tonight, (High, low-low, high-high, low)
Wish I may, wish I might, (High-high, low, high-high, low)
Have the wish I wish tonight. (High-high, low-low, high-high, low)

c.2015. Brigid Finucane
The lyrics are simple, but rich. They connect to the beauty and mystery of the natural world while honoring the wistful yearning of the human heart. Close your eyes and make a wish. What is it that you most long for?

Often, my kiddos will tell me that they wish for a new toy or a vacation to Disneyworld. But sometimes the answers take my breath away – No more fighting, someone in their family getting well, having enough food to eat or a place to live. Classroom teachers who are present during class tell me they find out new things about their children when Star Light is sung.

After teaching the song and playing it on desk bells (one child, one phrase, until everyone has a turn), we talk about various wishes. This is a perfect way to open a discussion about the difference between wants and needs. At this point, it’s interesting to add another layer - a counter chant – to provide aural richness and give the children exposure to part work. It’s a nice precursor to singing rounds, which I (usually) present in 1st grade.

c.2015. Brigid Finucane
I’ve introduced counter chants with children as young as Pre-K and as old as 3rd Grade. The younger the group, the simpler the chant should be, e.g., a simple counter chant for Pre-K and K might be “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, high in the sky”- repeated twice. Depending on your class, elicit student ideas for a counter chant. Your students may come up with evocative, funny or surprising solutions! Tweak as needed to work with the song – and marvel at human creativity!

After a counter chant is made, the next step is to put it together with the song. But how? Most classes I work with have co-teachers, and it’s great to enlist their aid. Break the class into two parts, and ask a teacher to lead a part. Start with the chant. After one complete repetition of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, high in the sky,” add the song. The“Twinkle” counter chant repeats until the song is done. Then switch parts. Keep a steady beat so that both groups stay together. Rushing = chaos. I guarantee!

I use Star Light song to teach notes on the staff starting in Kindergarten. I bring it back in Third Grade as part of the recorder curriculum.

This year, each of my two great Third Grade classrooms created their own counter chant, then performed the end result at the Winter Assembly. Here’s how it worked.

c.2015. Brigid Finucane
Class 1 made a list of favorite toys:
Legos, hula hoops, jump ropes, collectibles,
Footballs, dolls, silly putty, dog(s).

Class 2 made a list of their wishes for the world:
Hope, peace, love for our families,
First aid, no war, kindness and joy.

1. Both classes sang Star Light then played the song on their recorders.
2. The group broke into two parts, with Class 1 speaking the TOYS counter-chant. After a full repetition, Class 2 joined, playing Star Light on their recorders.
3. Both classes sang the song again.
4. Class 2 spoke their WISHES counter chant, and after a full repetition, Class 1 joined, playing Star Light on their recorders.
5. Both classes ended the piece by chanting “First aid, no war, kindness and joy” several times, getting softer on each repetition.
6. They bowed. Together.
7. The crowd went wild!

 I send you greetings of the season, and wishes for a bright new year full of children’s laughter and song, and hearts full of Hope, peace, love for our families, First aid, no war, kindness and joy. First aid, no war, kindness and joy.

Merit School of Music, Chicago
Call on Merit School of Music! Our onsite school is in the West Loop. We work in the schools throughout the area providing band, orchestra, percussion, choir, early childhood, and general music instruction with project based units including Recorder, Music and Storytelling and Songwriting. We do great work! YoYo Ma is a supporter!

Chicago Families
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions. It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer & Brigid Finucane. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with time for family networking. Storytime is be offered once a month on the 2nd Monday. The next session is January 11, 2016.

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.

©2015 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Blog History

June 2015. Summer Songs

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Let's get JINGLE-Y!

Jingle bell fun!
Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup is getting down with the bells!  

It’s that-time-of-year when many of the schools I work with have Holiday Programs, with or without Christmas, Hanukkah or other religious references.  I never sing about religious holidays unless requested to do so, but sometimes I get asked, “Could you sing something in the spirit of the holiday without mentioning it?” 


 Here’s one anytime song that includes bells, a fingerplay where your fingers are the bells, plus a little information about that evergreen – “Jingle Bells!” 

Jingle Bells” was written in 1850 in my home state: Massachusetts.  The author, James Pierpont wrote it as a merry little jingle for WINTER (not Christmas) entitled “The One Horse Open Sleigh”.  There is much speculation about where, when and even IF Mr. Pierpont wrote it from scratch, but most of the money seems to be on yes!  As phonograph records became popular at the turn of the century, “Jingle Bells” sold well.  Though there is no mention of Christmas in the lyrics, many people associate it primarily with the holiday. 

Jingle fast!

    I love to pair “Jingle Bells” with either “Ring Those Bells” (see my 12/2011 blog ) and/or “Jingle Bells and STOP!”  Let’s explore the latter today.

We’ll jingle bells and jingle bells and jingle bells and STOP!
We’ll jingle bells and jingle bells and jingle bells and STOP!
 V. 2  We’ll jingle high and jingle high…
 V. 3  We’ll jingle low and jingle low….
 V. 4  We’ll jingle fast and jingle fast ….
 V. 5  We’ll jingle very slowly, jingle very slowly…
 V. 6  repeat first verse!


Watch the video of my 3’s & 4’s from St David’s Nursery School in Glenview, IL sing & jingle.  It’s that easy!  Remember, you should do the motions along with your children – they look to you to lead them.

 I’ve recorded it on my “Season Sings” cd, and you can hear a clip of my recording HERE.

BELLS:  I use sturdy quality bells on a velcro wristband (Item#RB811CS) or hand-held bell rings (Item#RB839) from Rhythm Band Inc:  

Note:  Be careful when choosing bells for young children.  No matter how many times you tell them the bells are not to eat, they may try to put them in their mouths.  Choose well-made bells that will not come off their holders and become a choking hazzard.


 Oh – one more little goodie!  I love to add this little fingerplay, “FIVE LITTLE BELLS” to super-size my jingle bell unit – and I definitely do not use bells.  Hold up the correct number of fingers, then “ring” them:

5 little bells hanging in a row.
The first one says, “Ring me slow!”   Ding.  Ding.  Ding.
The second one says, “Ring me fast”  dingdingdingdingding
The third one says, “I wanted to be last!”   Sorry!
The fourth one says, “I’m like a chime!”  Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong!
The fifth one says, “Ring us all in wintertime!” Ring-a-ding ding! Ring-a-ding ding!

    You don’t even HAVE to have bells to do this one!  I did it 3 times over the past 2 days in concert with hundreds of children at the Early Learning Center in Des Plaines, IL – no bells!  We jingled our fingers – shake shake shake!  The kids loved it!
Jingle high!

That’s it!  I’m enjoying my birthday lunch with fellow PreK and K blog author Brigid Finucane today!  And you?  
         GET JINGLING!

Yours for a Jingle Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Montessori-Inspired Snowman Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I love snowmen ... especially when I'm nice and warm! Now that I live in San Diego, I'm having lots of fun introducing snowman activities to my 2-year-old granddaughter. 

The activities in my post today are mainly for preschoolers through first graders, though, although some will also work for 2 year olds. 

You'll find lots of free snowman printables in my post today at Living Montessori Now

Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired snowman 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.

Snowman Cutting Strip Practice 

Snowman Cutting Strip Practice

Free Printable: Snowman Cutting Strip Practice from Preschool Snowman Pack by Royal Baloo 

This was a super-easy activity to prepare. I just printed out the printable on cardstock (which is easier for young children to cut than paper). For interest, I added a gift box for the cut pieces of paper. 

Snowman Button Counting and Practical Life Activity

Snowman Button Counting and Practical Life Activity

Free Printable: Snowman Button Counting Mats by Perfectly Preschool at Teachers Notebook 

I used a Multicraft tray, craft gems for buttons, and a toast tong for an added practical life activity. I only used 1-5 (with the exact number of "buttons") for this activity, although there are snowman mats for 1-10 if you use small enough "buttons." 

Number Snowman Hide & Seek Number Snowman Hide & Seek

Free Printable: Numbers 1-10 Snowman Hide & Seek by Maureen Prezioso at Teachers Pay Teachers 

This is a cute way to help children understand the different ways to represent each number. 

I used a Montessori Services rug for the layout. You could simply have the child search for all the snowmen that represent the same number.

Number Snowman Hide & Seek Layout
Snowman Beginning Sound Sort

Snowman Beginning Sound Sort.

Free Printable: Snowmen Beginning Sound Sort from Snowman Literacy Centers by Lorie Duggins at Teachers Pay Teachers 

Snow scenes and snowmen are available for s, t, p, and r. There are 4 snowmen for each letter sound, although you could use 2, 3, or 4 sets. 

The child simply sorts the snowmen and adds them to the correct snow scene. You can find resources on how to introduce Montessori phonics in my DIY beginning Montessori phonics post

Build a Snowman CVC Words 
Build a Snowman CVC Words

Free Printable: Build a Snowman CVC Words from Let It Snow! Winter Mini Unit by Chevron and Centers at Teachers Pay Teachers 

This is a fun extension to the Montessori movable alphabet. The letters aren't one color for vowels and another for consonants, although most children who can spell the words won't have a problem with that.

Build a Snowman CVC Word Layout

Compound Word Snowmen

Compound Word Snowmen

Free Printable: Compound Words Snowman by Anna Navarre at Teachers Pay Teachers 

This activity is for advanced preschoolers through 1st graders ... a creative way to reinforce the idea of compound words.

Compound Word Snowmen Layout 

More Free Snowman Printables  

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free snowman printables from around the blogosphere: Free Snowman Printables and Montessori-Inspired Snowman Activities

More Montessori-Inspired Snowman Activities 

You'll find more Montessori-inspired snowman activities in my "Montessori-Inspired Winter Activities."

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. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!

Happy winter!
 Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb 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 40 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

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