Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Amazing Music

Music is amazing - with what it can do to people and for people.  I have always watched how through the magic of music people of different shapes, sizes, colors and ages can unite.  It always makes me smile.
Recently, someone posted a video on Facebook that stirred many thoughts and emotions for me.  As I watched it, I thought of how intense and happy the students looked.  I thought "Wow!  What a teacher to make this happen" and, I thought, "Look at the variety of children." Though we all worry and concern about diversity, we have to look at this and think "We have come a long way."  This would not have happened when I grew up in the 60s.  Children of different races, gender and ages are working together to play music that the teacher must have loved as a teenager.   (And, I'll bet none of them even think about those things.  For this generation, it just is.)
                   Children's MS Band Plays Zeppelin
The value piece :
1.  Working together
2.  Using 'classical' instruments to play 'classic' rock
3.  Benefits of musical training - timing, coordination, math skills, language
4.  Feeling of achievment and pride
5.  Being an individual, yet part of a group

When I first started teaching middle school, the first
MTV Video was produced.  I copied it onto a VHS tape and brought it into class.  We watched it and a couple of the other new videos.  I told my students "Look.  Through music and video, the walls that divide us will come down as people join together to make these productions."  It fascinated me, because in the 60s, there were still "Black" and "White" radio stations. Most of the time, we didn't know what the artist looked like.   Today, we have a wonderful variety.  

So, this short blog isn't about something you can make or an idea for the classroom.  (Well, maybe in a way it is.)  It is about looking at the faces of the children in this video and realizing all that is happening because one teacher took the time to combine two things she obviously loves (teaching and music) and created an experience these children will NEVER forget.

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See you next month - on the 25th!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Seeing Possibilities

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

Recently we had fun using cups and pet food containers for art. We used them for stamping.

Press a cup into the ink and stamp circles. We were thinking and talking about families, so I encouraged kids to use the circles as faces. 

Some did. Some didn't. 

But exploring and using the cups and small bowls with the ink pads was a fun and creative experience.

So often we get locked into ways to use things. I do this even with my repurposed materials. We use things this way.

But letting a little creativity and a little "out of the box" thinking can encourage lots of new possibilities.

I hope as you work with preschoolers, kindergartners, or any young children, you open up to possibilities. Place a few items on a table and encourage the kids to think of what to do with them. Place a few unusual items in the block center. Paint with something other than a brush.

We are living in a quickly changing world. Thinking in new and different ways is (and will be) a valuable skill. 

Encourage new and different thinking. Even if that's just putting paper cups and ink pads on a table and seeing what happens.

(My favorite ink pads - ones that will totally wash off hands, arms, etc. with soap - are from Discount School Supply. I get nothing from that company. Just wanted you to know about these great ink pads.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chinese New Year 2015 - Looking for Year of the Sheep & A Good Friend!

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL, wishing you a Happy New Year – again! Thank you for joining me!

Today is New Year’s Eve of the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. We’re leaving Year of the Horse and entering Year of the Sheep on Feb.19.

I wrote about customs associated with this 15-day celebration in last year’s post, Gung Hay Fat Choy! You’ll find a rich and colorful resource of song suggestions, favorite books, fireworks and Chinese instruments apps, and links to stories, a parade, lion dancers and dancing dragons.

Looking For A Good Friend

Dance into the new ear with How Pung Yo, a popular Chinese singing game. Full disclosure: I teach the game in English. The version you chose depends on the personality of your class and what level of movement you want to encourage, but the progression below is from the simplest to the most complicated and active. Those lucky enough to own I Will Be Your Friend or Roots & Branches can listen to lovely and distinctly different versions of the song on the accompanying CDs – but never fear! YouTube is here to help!

My kiddos delight in this YouTube video (“Looking For Friends”) of cheery animals dancing together. I share it on my iPad before introducing the singing game, and ask children to watch closely and imitate the animals’ movements. It is helpful to practice bowing and shaking hands with a partner before starting.
Please Note: YouTube links are subject to change, and sometimes material disappears. Download the video to your mobile device to circumvent any nasty surprises!

(1) Single player. One child changes place with another. All sing.
Teach the song to the children. Make a circle, with one child in the center of the ring. This child is “It,” and walks or skips inside the circle while children are singing. He/she stops in front of another child at the end of the line, “Now I find a good friend.”  On “Jeeng gah lee ah/ I bow to you” the two bow to each other, then shake hands on “Wah guh sho/ I shake your hand.” On the last line, they trade places, with the new friend going into the center.  Repeat. Continue until everyone has had a turn (no repeats!).  Teaching Tolerance: I Will Be Your Friend (Gao Hong - I Find a Good Friend)                                               

(2) Everyone looks for a new friend while singing.
 All the children play and look for a friend simultaneously. Everyone walks or skips for the first two lines of the song, then turns to the nearest friend, bows and shakes their hand. At the end of the song, dancers wave goodbye to each other. Repeat, finding a new friend. Chinese American Service League (CASL), Chicago

(3) Long dragon-dancer trains of new friends weave around the room while all sing.
Follow directions for #1 (above), but instead of trading places, the new friend holds gently on to the shoulder of the first child (“It”). Repeat the song, adding a new friend with each repetition.  New friends are added to the end of the train, until everyone is selected.
Note: Only the first child (the leader) shakes hands with children as they are added. 
(Hao Peng You - Looking For a Friend)

Music & Lyrics:
            Jow yah, jow yah, jow yah jow,                        Looking, looking, looking for,
            Jow do wee guh how pung yo.                         Now I find a good friend.
            Jeeng gah lee ah.                                             I bow to you.
            Wah guh sho.                                                   (I) shake your hand.
            Nee shur wah duh how pung yo.                     You are my good friend.

Den-Den Daiko Drums for the New Year!

Spin-drums, including one made by Briana a decade ago!

After dancing, it’s time to scare away any bad luck that may be lurking about! I bring double sided spin-drums from different parts of the world and let my kiddos explore the sonic difference between drums while madly twirling the drum’s spindle!  Things we find out: Big drums are lower in sound, small drums are high. Wood sounds different than hide or plastic or paper, etc. Speed of spinning alters the sound. We’re musical scientists!

Whether they’re called den- den (Japan), bolang jo (China), damru (Tibet, India), flip, spin or pellet drums, they are fun for one and all. I’ve made versions of spin-drums, mostly with paper plates and beads, but this year I’m going to try something new, inspired by a Learning 4 Kids post: Homemade Musical Instrument: Den Den Drum, which uses wooden spoons as the instrument base. Look out world!

Learning 4 Kids photo: Janice Davis

Keep your heart open to the wonders of the new year, and banish your preconceived notions of what it means to be a sheep on this turn of the zodiac. Life is full of surprises!

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 *

Monday, February 16, 2015

Making Music with Child-Crafted Instruments!

Children take great pride in their own creations! Often they use something more carefully when they’ve made it themselves. 
   Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here - gettin' crafty! This month I’ll show you how we made bolang gu – pellet drums for celebrating Chinese New Year, and claves, for tapping out rhythms and using as manipulatives.  I have offered posts on songs to use with both of these instruments – be sure to take a look at the original blogs to go with these instruments.

CLAVES (CLAH-vays) are percussive sticks of the same size that can be tapped together rhythmically.  I use 1” dowels cut in 8” lengths. You can make 6 claves out of a 48” dowel rod – and if you ask really really nicely, the guy at the lumberyard may cut them on the circular saw for you! Use your “teacher card” – smile and say “it’s for little kids!”  Works every time!

CUT medium and fine grade sandpaper into 3” squares – each child will need one square of each.  Have your students sit on newspaper – less clean-up later.  They should sand each end of each stick (they’ll each need 2 sticks) until they are smooth and there are no splinters.  Put the child’s initials on the end of each stick with marker if you intend for them to take their claves home eventually.

Paint!  I use washable acrylics – but we still wear cover-ups, just in case.  Put out about 4-6 colors.  Some helpful hints for your artists:
    1.   Try not to mix paint colors on your stick – it will look muddy.
     2.   Drain the brush of excess paint each time you dip to prevent globs of paint, which won’t dry properly.           
   I stand the painted claves upright in a shoebox to dry.

When claves are totally dry (at least overnight), a light sanding by the kids will bring up the colors. Towel off all debris. I spray claves with glossy polyurethane for protection.  Voila – colorful child-made claves!

For song ideas to use with your claves, check out my Dec 16, 2013 blog: “Tap It Out!”  You’ll find “I Can Hammer”, “My Grandfather’s Clock” and “The Red Red Robin Stick Dance” – the latter with a FREE DOWNLOAD!

CHINESE DRUMS are percussive instruments that can be used to accent a song OR story!  This year, the lunar new year begins on February 19 – and you’ve got 15 days of celebration to enjoy learning about a beautiful and intriguing holiday observance. It's the year of the goat/sheep!
    Check out my January 2013 blog “Chinese New Year – Sing, Dance, Create!” for the Nancy Stewart’s beautiful FREE DOWNLOAD “Gung Hay Fat Choy” – which means Happy New Year in Chinese.  You’ll also find a quick recap of some traditions – from red envelopes to cleaning the kitchen.  There are also great read-able book suggestions.
    This year my 4 -5 year olds made Bolang Gu – Chinese drums – from paper plates, a dowel, some ribbon and beads.  They really enjoyed the process AND the firecracker-y sound they made when played.

Supplies:  white glue, a stapler, a hole punch. 
Optional: stickers, or construction paper “good luck” in English & Chinese characters.
For each drum you will need:
two 6-8” paper plate (red or multi-colored)
two 8” pieces of ribbon, string or cord
4 small plastic beads
1 3/8” dowel, 10 – 12” long (I got pre-cut dowels at the craft store)

To make (highlighted steps were done by me – use judgement as to what your students can safely handle):
1. if using colored plates, press plates inside out so that color is on outside
2. staple 2 plates together around the edges, leaving a place to insert the dowel
3. punch hole at 3 & 9 o’clock
4. decorate plates – stickers, “good luck”- whatever you choose
5. put ribbon through hole on each side, thread bead, tie knot at end of ribbon
6. insert dowel, drip a little glue into each side of dowel, turn it once to spread

When glue is dry, hold dowel between flat hands and rub hands together to turn the dowel.  The beads will swing back and forth, hitting the drum faces – pop pop pop!
    Katie at Gift of Curiosity has a nice blog on this project.  Check it out!

    As I told my class the story of Nian (n’YEN) – the sea creature who ate whole villages – and the old man who scared Nian away forever by putting up lanterns, red banners and firecrackers – they used their drums, scarves and voices, too!  Great fun!  We also used our drums in “Gung Hay Fat Choy” – during the final verse, I dance the dragon/monster – they make loud noise to scare me away!
    I wish I had pictures of this final verse – but I was IN IT!  Try it yourself – if you can’t make drums, the children can clap their hands loudly.

Yes, there is preparation when making instruments. I have found it worth it – students and their parents tell me repeatedly how their child played with the instruments they made many times at home, and that these are treasures and memories that are valued.

    Hooked?  Make rainsticks! Check out my May 2012 blog: Rainsticks to Sing With!

       Yours for a TapTap and PopPop Song!       

       “Miss Carole” Stephens
       Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Montessori-Inspired St. Patrick's Day Phonics Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I love celebrating St. Patrick's Day with children ... it's such a fun holiday! There are lots of great St. Patrick's Day printables available, so I saved the rainbow printables and activities for next month. 

Free St Patrick's Day Printables and Montessori-Insired St Patrick's Day Phonics Activities 

I shared my list of free St. Patrick's Day printables in my post today at Living Montessori Now. Here, I've created some St. Patrick's Day phonics 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. 

St. Patrick's Day Salt Tray for Writing Letters St Patrick's Day Salt Tray for Writing Letters 

For this activity, I used the free Irish Themed Letter Cards from Communication 4 All. To color the salt, I simply added some green food coloring to salt in a plastic bag. A salt tray a perfect way to reinforce writing for preschoolers.

If you'd like to know more about how to introduce letter sounds in Montessori education, check out my post with Inexpensive and DIY Sandpaper Letters

ch, sh, and th St. Patrick's Day Sorting Activity
  sh, ch, and th St. Patrick's Day Sorting Basket 

This activity uses the free Sh, Ch, and Th Sorting from Every Star Is Different and the St. Patrick’s Day Digraph Activities from Make, Take & Teach (for the shamrocks). I used a Montessori services basket to hold the materials.  

I used a Montessori Services rug for my layout. I only show 8 cards of each phonogram in the layout, but there are 11 of each available.

 sh, ch, and th St. Patrick's Day Layout Hidden 

Hidden Treasure CVC Phonics Activity Hidden Treasure CVC Phonics Activity 

This activity uses the fun idea of hidden treasure to reinforce phonics. I used the Hidden Treasure CVC Printable by Amy Swan at Teachers Pay Teachers. You could have a scavenger hunt by hiding the cards around the room and then having the children write the pictured CVC word on the recording page that's part of the printable. 

I made a hands-on activity with no writing by cutting apart the sentences from the recording sheet. I used a medium-size tray from Montessori Services for the activity. I added gold coins to a container and then buried the cards in the coins. Children could just sound out the pictured words or write the sentences on a separate recording page if preferred.

I Spy St. Patrick's Day Words 

I Spy St Patrick's Day Words

This activity was super simple to prepare. It uses the free I Spy St. Patrick’s Day Words from Teach with Laughter. The tray is the Montessori Services large plastic tray, which I use for many types of activities. I simply added a magnifying glass so that children could read the tiny words on the page. 

The words are all phonetic on this page except for "leprechaun." Even children who sound out words will typically figure out the word after sounding out the beginning part of "leprechaun."

St. Patrick's Day Word Book 

St Patrick's Day Word Book

This activity uses the free St. Patrick’s Day Word Book from Making Learning Fun. It was another activity that was super simple to prepare. The printable is actually meant as a sight-word activity. I used only the phonetic words to prepare a simple St. Patrick's Day phonics word book.

St. Patrick's Day Spelling Game

St Patrick's Day Spelling Game 

This is a fun way to reinforce spelling! It uses the free St. Patrick’s Day Spelling Game from The Measured Mom. The Measured Mom gives clear directions on how to use the printable. It can be used with any spelling list.

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

More Free Valentine Printables and Montessori-Inspired Valentine Activities

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to St. Patrick's Day freebies from around the blogosphere: Free St. Patrick's Day Printables and Montessori-Inspired St. Patrick's Day Phonics 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.

Have fun preparing for Valentine's Day!
Deb - SigantureLiving Montessori Now Button  
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 39 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Seven Valentine’s Day Ideas to Do for Your Child, Any Time of the Year

Forget the expensive chocolates and sugar candies for your child this Valentine’s Day. Use the reason for the season and demonstrate love for your child without spending much money. Here are seven ideas of things you can do in the days leading up to that special day.

Hide Love Notes or Surprises – Toddlers to teens love to be surprised. Hide a small valentine, an encouraging note, or a small valentine chocolate somewhere for them to find each day leading up to Valentine’s Day. Get creative and mix it up.  You could also leave a note each day in one place that contains clues to helping them find what you’ve hidden.

Plan a Party – Help your child plan a V-Day party with all of their friends. For one activity at the party, provide a personalized mailbox (or bag) for each child. On blank slips of paper, have each child write down words that describe what they like about each of the other kids, one child per slip of paper. They will deposit them in each other’s mailboxes.

Schedule a Date – Schedule a special Valentine date with each of your children. Put it on your calendar and tell your child so they will have something to look forward to. Scheduling in these dates ahead of time ensures they will happen. Then everything else that is less important can fill in around them. Why not schedule a date with your significant other as well?  Do this every Sunday night for the week to come.

Frame a Picture of the Two of You – Take a picture of you and your child, frame it, and then give it to your child to put in his or her room on the dresser or night table.  If you have more than one child, create one for each of them.  For an older child, put a picture of the two of you in a locket that the child can wear.  This will also help calm a child who feels anxious when being away from the parent.

Have a Special Movie Night – Have a movie night with your child(ren), complete with big pillows to snuggle up with and a big bowl of popcorn. The one difference in making this night special is that the movie being featured will be the home movies you have of your child(ren)!

Make Mailboxes – In a family meeting have everyone make and decorate a mailbox using any household craft items.  On slips of paper, have everyone write short love notes to everyone at the table as a practice run and then insert them in the appropriate mailboxes.  Have everyone hang their mailboxes on their bedroom door knobs for accepting mail whenever someone desires to write a note.

Compose a Poem for Your Child – Compose a poem about your child or describing how much you love her. Print if off on special preprinted paper with a border that can be purchased at office supply stores. Frame it and hang it on your child’s bedroom wall. You could even include the child’s picture or her foot or handprints if you had them done earlier. Sign it and read it to her nightly.

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, three grandchildren, and three step children and resides in Enfield, CT.  You can visit his Web site for further information and parenting advice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

10 Adorable Homemade Valentines

I am remarkably blessed to have worked with some creative parents and teachers over the years. And now, with Pinterest on the scene, folks who were reluctant to get crafty are inspired to get their crafty fingers creating! My Valentine's Day posts are always some of the most popular on my blog, little illuminations, so I thought I would share some of the fun homemade Valentines I've posted through the years. Let me share that these are not my creations, they are all fun things that children or co-workers brought to delight our little friends.

 "Ring Bling"
This cute ring is made from pipe cleaners and a Hershey's Kiss. The pictures just don't do it justice! The kids loved wearing these as much as eating them! 

"You've got the WRITE stuff!"
I love this pencil valentine! It's made with either a Rolo or Toblerone wrapped in yellow paper with a Hershey's Hug for the pencil point!

"Bee Mine" 

"You're a 'Doggone' good friend!"

"Love Bugs"

"Purrr-fect Valentine"

LOVE Handprint and Footprints
This is a perfect Valentine to frame and give to a parent or grandparent as a keepsake to remember how small little hands and feet once were. The hand makes the "O" and the feet make the "V" in "LOVE".

Big Bear Hug
A little bag of gummy bear candies with a bear tag is a sweet way to say "I like you"!

"Owl Always Love You"
These are adorable owls made from scrapbooking papers perched on a Twizzler!

"I Dig You!"
I love this simple idea! A small shovel and some candies wrapped in a treat bag make for a simple but adorable little Valentine!

If you'd to see more Valentine ideas from little illuminations, this post is a little round up of several of my most popular Valentine's posts: 

Visit me on Pinterest for more crafty Valentine inspiration:

I'm thrilled to say I have been blogging here on PreK+K Sharing since the very beginning!  I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. Stop by and visit me anytime at where I share my PreK classroom adventures or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!

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