Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Laughing Classroom

When you are working with children, do you ever think "I should teach them how to laugh"?  Probably not.  Most teachers are too focused on "Can they read?" or "Can they write?".  Unfortunately, some children need to be taught to laugh.  
As with anything, one of the best ways to teach something is to model it.  BE a HAPPY teacher.  Laugh at things in the room.  
What a wonderful gift to give!!!

Children are drawn to people who make them laugh.  This is why you always find them sitting around the adult who is doing silly tricks (finding a quarter in their ear) or making balloons into silly objects.

Laughing produces endorphins and oxytocin,  neurochemicals that play a role in good feelings.  What happens when we tie singing with laughter?

When I sing "Let's Make a Silly Song", the children love making the faces and sounds and doing the silly dances.   With this, we are combining the wonderful effects the music and singing is having on the brain with the laughter.                   

Here is a gift to all of you for National Humor Month.
Go here; Download this song:
You Gotta Laugh

When prompted for coupon, please use LAUGH.  You will get it for FREE.  No Joke!

What are the other benefits besides the obvious ones that affect your mood? Well,
laughing, in the "You Gotta Laugh" song, involves vowel sounds.     A   E   I   O   U
Each vowel is formed in a different part of the mouth and thus, vibrates in a different part of the head, which, in turn, energizes  a different part of the brain.  
                     They also exercise face muscles!!!
Our vowels are used to sing many songs.  "Apples & Bananas", "B A Bay", "You Gotta Laugh".  Each of these songs, while playing with the concept of vowels and sounds is also doing much more.  The sounds of the vowels shape our faces differently, exercising these muscles in our face.  They also vibrate off different regions in our brain and energize each as they do.  Any song that has us sing through all the vowels, wakes up, exercises and involves the whole brain.

By singing these vowels, you sustain the sound and cause the vibrations to last longer.

You don't even have to learn anything new!!!
      Here is a list of wonderful songs that use vowel sounds that are also FUNNY!

B A Bay                                Let's Sing a Silly Song
     Apples & Bananas                  Salty Dog
             Down by the Bay                   You Gotta Laugh
                     Go Go Vowels!                    John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
                           Chicka Chicka Boom Boom       I Had a Goat
What songs can you add to this list?

This is a great article that outlines all the benefits of laughter.
                                            Article on benefits of laughter
Although you should laugh every month, I think you should laugh even more in April.  It's contagious; it feels good; and it's healthy!

For daily brain facts, visit / like :   Daily Brain Facts
                                                              Daily Brain Facts
Maryann "Mar." Harman
Music with Mar., LLC

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cardboard Construction

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

I've written before about my struggle with tossing a box. But you cannot keep every box. What else could you do with it? Cut it up and build with it.

We have a collection of cardboard pieces. Some are from cutting flaps off boxes or cutting up the box itself. Some are left from art projects or other activities. Some are former packing materials (inside boxes!). 

Recently I placed a collection of cardboard pieces with my blocks. My kids had a great time exploring the possibilities.

Cardboard pieces make great roofs. They make great ramps.

They make great walls or floors. We have discovered all kinds of ways to use those cardboard pieces.

I am continually surprised and impressed with all the ways that kids can creatively use...well, just about anything. And these recent experiences with cardboard pieces are no exception.

How have you used pieces of cardboard? Share any ideas for art or construction or...anything.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Piano & Forte! Songs and Books for Investigating Music Fundamentals

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

Spring has arrived suddenly, after another winter that was way too long. Will it stay, or will we be ambushed by one last errant snowstorm or accosted with another brutal temperature drop? Basking in the unexpected warmth and splendor of a sunny day, we hardly know what to do! A friend confides quietly, “I heard a bird sing yesterday,” and we both marvel. Birds. Songs. Spring.

The world is hushed, yet on the brink of great things. It’s a time of wonder – and a time to bring wonder into the classroom. It’s time for Jack in the Box or Jack in the Cone, as the case may be.

Quietly I start singing, holding my little puppet:
Jack in the box, still as a mouse,
Hiding deep in your dark little house.
Jack in the box, so very still.
Won’t you come out?
(Jack) Yes, I will!

I look down at the puppet while singing, “Won’t you come out?” The puppet is shy, and won’t come out. It swivels its head around, at eye level. I say, “He’s shy. We have to be really quiet. Can you sing ‘Won’t you come out?’ with me?” The children sing earnestly, imploringly. Finally, Jack pops out, as we all sing “Yes, I will!” in loud, strong voices.

“In music, we have a special word for quiet, called ‘piano.’ Can you say that with me?” I mime playing a keyboard, then put my fingers in front of my lips and, in a hushed voice, say “piano.”
“There’s a special word for loud, too: ‘Forte.’” I flex my arms like a bodybuilder and say “forte” loudly. The children repeat the word with me. "These words are in Italian, the language of music!"

We sing the song again, then I show everyone how the puppet works. “When you push the stick up, the body comes out of the cone. When the stick is twisted, the body turns one way or the other. Next week, everyone will get a chance to make the puppet jump up.” This works because I have a small collection of cone puppets that I can bring to class and pass around – some are handmade, some commercial, and some are from the Museum of Theatre Puppets in L├╝beck, Germany.

"Let’s pretend we’re Jack in the Box puppets. Get on your feet like a frog, and watch me.
When I pop up, you pop up – not before. I’m going to try to trick you.” Of course I try to trick them, and usually succeed – much to their delight. We sing the song again, settling down on our ankles, and this time, I ask the kiddos to watch their teacher or another student – and jump up when they jump up.

As promised, the cone puppets visit the following week and magically engage my kiddos. We sing and act out the song a few times, before introducing the cone puppets. I review how they work then tell the children they will have the chance to play with ONE puppet. I stress that the puppets must be treated gently.
Depending on class size, and how the children are configured (at the perimeter of the rug, or sitting in rows, etc.) I distribute the puppets to every 5th or 6th child, and ask the children to pass the puppets to their neighbors after they’re done. Having multiple puppets ensures thing go smoothly. All are assured they will have a turn, and no one is left waiting an overlong time. I hear the children sing to the puppets in”here comes the bride” perfect fourth intervals, “Yes, I will!” They are delighted with the puppets. I am delighted with them.

Books – Hush Little Baby
“Does anyone know what a lullaby is?” I usually get an answer that is fairly close. This is a demographic, after all, where there are lots of younger siblings! We discuss what the job is for a lullaby, who a lullaby is sung to – and whether it is sung piano or forte?  We try both ways and (usually) come to a consensus that a lullaby should be sung piano.

Hush Little Baby is a well-known lullaby in the United States. Of the many book editions available, my preference is Marla Frazee’s version. I tell the children, “This is how Illinois looked 100 years ago when Ms. Brigid was  little. There were no paved streets, no cars, no street lights, television or computers,” etc. The narrative illustrations draw them in, so they can start to imagine what it must have been like to live in that long-ago and very different time. Text is clearly printed at the bottom of the page – which is perfect for my emergent readers.

A recent conversation with my friend Irica has prompted me to present another version illustrated by Sylvia Long. Irica made the point that the traditional song promotes materialism - buying a succession of things  (that cleverly rhyme) to get the baby to stop crying. The song never affected me like this, but over the years, other parents have commented on this aspect as well. The implied materialism prompted Long to create her own, very lovely version, which intimately focuses on relationships and the wonders of the world as night falls. It’s important to present comparatives, and this is a charming way to do so. The words are lyrical, the illustrations dreamy and the book’s ending circular.

...When their songs drift from afar,                                        Momma's going to show you a shooting star.

When that star has dropped from view,             
Momma's going to read a book with you.

…Momma's going to show you the harvest moon.

As that moon drifts through the sky,
Momma's going to sing you a lullaby.

The title says it all! This beautifully conceived book by Deborah Underwood explores the many kinds of quiet that exist in the word. Renata Liwska’s illustrations perfectly encapsulate the delicate essence of Best friends don’t need to talk quiet or making a wish quiet.

There are so many types of quiet in this book – which I reveal by slowly turning pages, speaking in a hushed voice. We act out what is shown on the page where possible. The subjects range from wondrous to happy, from unexpected to sad. Full disclosure – I skip some of the sad “quiets.” Last one to get picked up from school quiet, with the accompanying picture of a completely undone, forlorn moose, would be too much for some of my tender-hearted kiddos, who are struggling with separation issues. Other quiets are more adult oriented, e.g. Surprise from Aunt Tillie quiet. The book works equally well in a large group read along, a small group exploration or as a bedtime book. The book ends with Tucking in Teddy quiet, Bedtime kiss quiet. “What flashlight?” quiet, and, finally, Sound asleep quiet. SSssssshhhhhhhh! Sweet dreams quiet.

The LOUD Book!
Companion book to The Quiet Book, this book encourages repetition and dramatization of text. Last slurp loud, Applause loud, Thunderstorm loud, Parade in the park loud, Fireworks loud are invitations to spectacular and hilarious interpretations of forte. The content is smaller in scope and less open to post-book discussions about feelings, but still manages to get the idea across of paying attention to the sonic world we inhabit and the soundtrack of our lives. Though I skip a few pages, my Pre-K and K kiddos are able to relate to most everything in the book, even a “loud” which is quiet: Deafening silence loud - where a mom-like bunny towers over two miscreants guiltily eating cookies out of a cookie jar. Gulp!
Thank you for joining me. Next month, April showers bring – Crescendo!
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, March 16, 2015

FAST FUN with RHYTHM - on the GO!

    I’ve always said we should have a song, fingerplay or chant “in our pocket” for that moment we need to fill when kids are squirrelly, waiting or at loose ends. Ta-dah!  Here are 4 sure-fire hits to fit the bill!
    Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here in Chicago where the bulbs are popping up, the snow is almost gone and I just went outside without a down coat! Whoo-hoo!  I’m sharing these quick musical tidbits that you may find handy in a pinch! The children I work with love them – and you will, too!
You can hear them all on my “Polka Dots!” cd – available for listening HERE!

GROWING!  (spoken - picture above!)

A flower grows like this    (cup hands around face)
A tree grows like this       (shoot hands straight up)
A carrot grows like this    (put fingertips together                                                        and dive to floor)
And I grow like this: Ta-dah!    (strike a pose!)

   I’ve created a picture board for the children to “read” – left to right, then down to the next line and left to right.  See it above in front of me.  I’m not an artist, but they recognize the drawings!  
   Time elapsed – 10 seconds!  Do it AGAIN!
   You can hear it HERE.
SLOWLY/QUICKLY  (spoken tickle/fingerplay)

Slowly, slowly, very slowly, creeps the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, VERY slowly, up the garden rail.
Quickly quickly, very quickly runs the little mouse!
Quickly quickly, VERY quickly all around the house!

   Again – having a visual helps identify what a snail and a mouse are to start.  I made the two animals out of felt (got clip-art patterns and transferred to felt) for my flannelboard (beside me in the picture above.)  
   Then demonstrate on a child by creeping your fingers up their outstretched arm as the snail, then a quick all-over tickle for the mouse.  Then ask the children to do it to themselves.  THEN they can pair up and do it on each other.  
    Hear it HERE!   Time elapsed:  15 seconds!  Do it again!
    Please emphasize appropriate touch – this should be fun and feel good, not be about poking or hitting.

             a name-game fingerplay  -->

Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny
Whoops Johnny, Whoops Johnny!
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.

   Admittedly a preschool and younger favorite!  Demonstrate with one child – use their name.  Starting with the pinky finger, tap each finger as you move toward the thumb as you say the child’s name.  The “whoops” comes as you slide down the pointer and up the thumb, tap the thumb and “whoops” back up to the pointer and tap your way back to the pinky. 
 SOOO much fun!  You can do each child while everyone says it with you, or you can pair children to do it with each other.  I like to have the class do my name at the end – so that I don’t find myself half-way through the year and still being called “teacha!”
   Hear it HERE! Time elapsed - you decide!

HANNAH BANANA!    (need room to move with this chant!)
Hannah banana plays the pian-na
Do the banana split, 1-2!

   That’s it!  Start standing, with feet together.  Sway with hands in piano-playing position until you get to “1-2”.  With each repetition, move feet a little further apart on the count!  When the kids are starting to lose their balance because they’re practically doing straddle splits, do it one last time and hop those feet back together!  I usually get 4-5 repetitions out of it!
   Hear it HERE!  Time elapsed - maybe 30 seconds!

Now you’ve got ammo “in your pocket” – have FUN!  
Yes, learning should be FUN!!!

Hey all - I'll be on tour in Ohio and Upstate NY - yes, coming to Greece and Rome - in late April/early May, and Cedar Rapids, IA in early April!  Want me to visit your school?  Contact me at 847-384-1404 or email me at
   A big thanks to Rindy Powell for the pictures of the cuties at St David's Nursery School in Glenview, IL. ... And to the Hannah Banana boys of my BIG MUSIC class!

Yours for a Fast Fun Song!
Miss Carole
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Montessori-Inspired Rainbow Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now  

Rainbows are such a fun theme for St. Patrick's Day and any time in the spring! I was excited to find so many great free rainbow printables for this post. I had a hard time choosing which printables to use when there were so many fun hands-on activities that could be created. 

Free Rainbow Printables and Montessori-Inspired Rainbow Activities 

I shared a long list of free rainbow printables in my post today at Living Montessori Now. Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired rainbow 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. 

Rainbow Floor Numbers (perfect for large-motor fun and learning on a rainy day) Rainbow Floor Numbers For this activity, I used the free Rainbow Floor Numbers from PreK Letter R Printables at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  The tray for this activity (and each activity in my post today) is a Montessori Services large plastic tray

This activity is VERY easy to prepare. I simply printed out and laminated the rainbow floor numbers. They could be placed on the floor where you call out numbers for your child or students to jump to. They could also be used for a traditional hopscotch game played indoors with stones or glass gems for markers. They would make a fun giant-size number line, too.  

Rainbow Letter Rr Puzzle Letter Rr Rainbow Puzzle 
This activity uses the free Rainbow Letter Rr Puzzle from Romping and Roaring R Pack (part 6) at 3 Dinosaurs. The Romping and Roaring R Pack is filled with rainbow activities. This one is a simple letter puzzle that can be printed twice for younger children as shown with a control chart and the puzzle pieces to be placed on top. 

Older children would only need the individual puzzle pieces. For any letter activities, I always emphasize the phonetic sound (/r/ for rainbow) rather than the letter name. 

 Rr is for Rainbow Magnet Activity and Chalkboard Writing Rr is for Rainbow Magnet Activity and Chalkboard Writing 

This activity uses the Rainbow Do-a-Dot (Bingo Dauber) Printable from DLTK’s Crafts for Kids. I used the Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chalk Dry Erase Board and Power Magnets

You can use a baking sheet for magnet activities, although I like that this is more attractive and has the option of writing the words on the chalkboard. The child can also trace over the words on the laminated page with an erasable marker. 
Rainbow Ride CVC Phonics Game 

Rainbow Ride CVC Phonics Game

This activity is simple to prepare but is a great way to reinforce introductory reading work. It uses the free Rainbow Ride CVC Game by Sara Edgar at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Rainbow Hair Emergent Reader

Rainbow Hair Emergent Reader

For this book-making tray, I used the free Rainbow Hair Emergent Reader by Deanna Jump at Teachers Pay Teachers. The book is based on the fun poem "Rainbow Hair." 

Directions are given in the printable for using paper scraps to make rainbow hair for the cover. Or, children can create a simple reader using crayons and a stapler. I have crayons in the pictured soap box.

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

More Free Rainbow Printables and Montessori-Inspired Rainbow Activities

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

If 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 St. Patrick's Day ... and happy soon-to-be spring! 

 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 before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school. 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.

Living Montessori Now Button

Friday, March 13, 2015

Four Steps for Becoming a Happier Parent (and Teacher)

Do you consider yourself to be a happy parent? Have you ever asked another adult in your life if they think you are? It might be interesting to see how others perceive you. What about your children, would they say that you’re a happy parent?

Many parents are not happy, just look around you at the grocery store or at the playground. You may even have noticed parents in your own extended family, snapping at their children or speaking to them in a demanding tone. And many may have good reason to act this way, with heavier demands from their jobs, difficulty paying bills, or additional pressures taking care of other family members.

Unhappy parents end up raising unhappy children, so there is an impact to others from your own unhappiness. If you feel that you could use a HAPPINESS TUNEUP as a parent, here are 4 things you can begin doing immediately to bring on a more positive change.

STOP CONTROLLING THE OUTCOME. It can become too easy to over extend your reach
in ensuring that everything about your child turns out perfect, such as homework, school work, attire, friendships, play activities, how they eat their meal, arrangement of their bedroom, and more. Resist the urge to create perfect outcomes every time and believe in the LAW OF ALLOWING others be who they are and do what they want.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. When was the last time you went to a movie by yourself in the middle of the afternoon, just because? Or how long ago did you buy yourself a brand new set of sheets for your bed? In my parenting class, I sometimes offer my parents a handout that lists 100 nontraditional ways of taking care of yourself. Author Cheryl Richardson often writes about the ART OF SELF-CARE and how we sometimes avoid doing it because it would make someone else unhappy.

LISTEN MORE THAN SPEAK. One of the most powerful methods for living a more peaceful life and creating stronger relationships is to speak less and listen more. Let’s face it; unhappy parents talk too much. They are too quick to answer their children’s questions, tell loved ones what to do, and bark orders to get things done quickly or efficiently. When one takes the time to pause before responding, magic happens: we actually get to hear what the other person says, the other person feels loved and heard, and the energy in the space at that moment subsides.

DON’T TAKE ON SOMEONE ELSE’S BURDENS. Every problem that arises has one owner. When a problem appears, ask yourself, “Who REALLY owns this problem?” If your child owns it, be ready to listen and help them problem solve. If you own the problem, be ready to act. We were created to solve our own problems. Taking on someone else’s problem overburdens us and weakens them.

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 a professional speaker and trainer, and will deliver the keynote at a national conference in Holland in September 2015. Bill 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, March 7, 2015

Leprechauns are on the Loose in Pre-K!

Hello again, it's Ayn from little illuminations! My favorite holiday, St. Patrick's Day,  is fast approaching and I'm ready to let the fun begin and share with you here on PreK+K Sharing! 

***This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Little Illuminations is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.***

Art Center

In our art center, I have shamrock shapes available and cardboard shamrock shapes for tracing. They are great for making Shamrock people or leprechauns!

We also fasten a few toilet paper rolls together to dip in paint. They make cute shamrocks! 

Leprechaun Shenanigans

The leprechauns in our area are notorious troublemakers and tricksters! They come in at night (and sometimes at recess) and take out toys and leave little messes. Occasionally, they will leave us a little treat like Shamrock pudding or green milk. One even dropped his hat in his haste to get away! 

Leprechaun Traps

The kids love to make leprechaun traps to try to catch the leprechauns! They get together and make them out of anything we can find or recycle. Some are fancy and elaborate, 

and some are plain looking, 

but they are a great way for kids to work together and problem solve. My favorite part is having them explain how they have made the trap and why!

 "That leprechaun is gonna fall right in there. Then he's gonna be trapped. We put lots of green stuff in there because we know he likes green stuff!" 

"The leprechaun is going to fly into there. He will look at all the green and we will close the lid and trap him!"

"The leprechaun will go in to play with all the green stuff. There is a bridge and if the leprechaun tries to cross the bridge, he will just fall right in there."

"We put a lot of green fish in ours. After we trap the little guy, we'll push him in and close it. That's how it works!"

The Great Leprechaun Hunt

On St. Patrick's Day, we have "The Great Leprechaun Hunt". We follow clues around the school to see if we can catch him. 

We haven't been successful yet, but he's a good sport and often leaves a little treat at the last clue. Usually, a little bag of skittles with a rhyme about the Skittles being a rainbow.

One of our classes got this neat little treat! It is a canning jar layered with marshmallow clouds, Skittles or M&M's and Hershey's Pot of Gold candy or gold coin candy on the bottom!

Reading About Leprechauns

We love to read! Here is a selection of some of our favorite books about leprechauns.

Looking for more St. Patrick's Day ideas? Click this link for lots more ideas on my blog, little illuminations.

Follow me on Pinterest and check out my St. Patrick's Day board! 

May the luck o' the Irish be with you!

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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