Monday, May 25, 2015

It's a Stretchy Band Jam!

It's A Stretchy Band Jam
Summer Programs are beginning.  Sometimes, it changes our program slightly - maybe it's a little more low 'key' (Get it?  Music term)  Anyway, there are a lot of suggestions of manipulatives out there for use with children.  To name a few :
                 Bean Bags
                                         Jump Ropes
                                                  And ~ ~ STRETCHY BANDS
What works with Music?   Most music teachers would answer - anything!   Classroom teachers!  Parents!  I want you to think the same way.  Get out this summer and play with your children.  Join organized programs together AND do things on your own.
You can have fun with any of these items.  Take 15 minutes each day, choose one, put on some music and have some fun.  That's it - 15 mins.

Brain Fact - Giving children 15 minutes of undivided attention reduces negative behavior by 50%
This blog is focusing on how to have fun with a STRETCHY BAND and why.
First, what is a Stretchy Band? The answer is below.  Call Janet at Bear Paw Creek. She makes these right here in the USA!

I learned about Stretchy Bands from my friend, Miss Carole - Macaroni Soup.  Here is a picture of her playing with some families using the Stretchy Band.  You can click on her name to get to her website.  (If you read this blog regularly, you know who Carole is - and, probably already love her!)
Teachers - after Carole's workshop at NAEYC - were coming to our table asking for Stretchy Bands.  I needed to find out more.

I researched with OTs and found out they've been using these for years.   The benefits are many.  For the last six months, I've used the stretchy band with children varying in age from 18months to 6 years old.  Some things I tried - JUST TO SEE.
Here is what I've learned :
  *Two year olds can only use the band IF a parent is guiding them OR it is a one-on-one      using the smaller Connect-a-band.
  *When using the band with mixed ages, it is better to be seated
  *When using the band with mixed ages and standing, it is best for the adult to stand        behind the child and guide the child's movement.

Stretchy Bands-----
     Teach vocabulary
     How to follow directions
     How to work together
     Teach the concepts of push, pull  and resistance
     Strengthen muscle areas
     Allow for personal and group development
     Foster creativity
     Create confidence and a sense of accomplishment

This inspired me to set to writing two songs using the stretchy bands.  The CD they are on has not been released yet; however, the songs are available as downloads.
                      Click here - Stretchy Band Songs - Music with Mar.

Who Can Pull the Stretchy Band?  is a fun song that can be done with adults and children together - all standing up.  Just follow along.
Stretchy Band Jam - adults should stand behind children and help them to move their arms at the different levels.

Both of these songs were written with the input of an OT and a PT.  Videos will follow soon.  For now, the Bear Paw Creek website has some videos of the stretchy bands being used.  I will be uploading my songs - soon.   Until then, there is a lot here to work with.

Begin your Summer with some 
movement, music and fun with your family.

For more information, please contact
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Monday, May 18, 2015

CRESCENDO II! Chants & Games for Music Foundation

Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. This month’s post offers chants and games to further develop young children’s understanding of crescendo, as well as an update on a new recycled prop I introduced in the classroom – yogurt cups! Find last month’s post on crescendo instrument and book ideas here.

CHANTS – Crescendo Circles
Loud and soft are “comparatives” that children love to explore. The space between these two
dynamic extremes are what build a crescendo  (piano<forte) or a decrescendo  (forte > piano).
For my K+ kiddos, we make “V’s” with our pointer and middle finger, the turn our hand sideways, palms out, when talking about these dynamic levels. Please notice that these symbols used in music are the same as  “less than” (<) and “greater than” (>) in visual math language.

Rain on the Green Grass
My kiddos learn the traditional verse, Rain on the Green Grass, with feet to the beat, then clap the rhythm with their hands. Oftentimes, the big gathering drum comes out so the children can play the rhythm or beat (depending on their ages and abilities) while chanting the poem.  When the words are secure, we’re ready for a crescendo circle. Review piano and forte. Define crescendo – starting at piano and getting gradually louder until forte – loud!  is achieved. Label it: Crescendo!

Rain on the green grass,
Rain on the trees,
Rain on the housetop
But not on me!

Gather all your kiddos into a tight circle, and mark the beat with your feet (Note: The words in green mark a medium beat that works well with this activity.). Chant the poem softly

Take a small step backwards, making the circle wider. Chant again – a little louder.

Repeat several times, the circle getting wider upon each repetition and voices getting louder. Do not shout.

After the final repetition, throw hands in the air, over your head, and exclaim, Crescendo!

NOTE: Crescendo is pronounced Creh- shen- doh.  The “sh” sound of the 2nd syllable can be challenging for my pre-K kiddos, so before saying the word, I put my finger to my lips and say “shhhh!” I invite the children to join me. THEN we say “crescendo”  - a helpful intervention.

Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder
This is a fun and silly rhyme to share – but it will only work if the kiddos know what “overalls” are! I ask for ideas before showing them photos. “Chowder” is another word that may need explanation.  Ask kiddos to echo, using “rhythm hands” while chanting, for best results. When words are secure, repeat crescendo circle activity using the instructions for Rain.

Who put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?
Nobody answered, so she spoke a little louder!
These two lines came from a song written over a century ago by George L. Giefer. I was able to find an “Edison” recording from 1901(!), sung by Edward M. Favor, for your listening pleasure.

There Was A Man…
I’ve also had success with the following nursery rhyme, which I learned from my friend, Carole Peterson Stephens (Carole writes for this collaborative blog on the 16th of every month). The chant, called “A Windy Day,” is on H.U.M. -  All Year Long!, one of her many fine CDs for the young set. H.U.M. stands for “Highy Usable Music” – and it is!

There was a man in our town
Who went on a walk one day.
The wind it blew so very hard,
It turned him the other way!

Hold hands and walk, feet to the beat, in a circle. On “way,” turn the other direction.  Voices get louder on each repetition. For K+ kiddos, I write the words and musical shorthand on the board – in Italian, the language of music).
pp           pianissimo
p             piano
mp           mezzo piano
mf           mezzo forte
f             forte
ff             fortissimo

Of course, I have been known to slip in a pianissimo and fortissimo when speaking to my younger students. Why not? They are equal opportunity learners!  Why limit Italian vocabulary only to “pizza,” “lasagna,’” “venti,” and “cappuccino?”

Lucy Locket  - Crescendo Game
Lucy Locket, sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle,  works well as a “duck-duck-goose” game, but is even more fun as a crescendo game. Sometimes this group of games go by the name “hot potato.”
NOTE: I use a small organza bag (that a piece of jewelry came in) for this game, but anything the size of a small envelope will do – even a colorful baggage tag.

Choose a “hider “and a “seeker.” Explain the rules of the game: After the “locket” is hidden, the seeker tries to find it, guided by the volume of the childrens’ voices. The louder the singing, the closer the seeker is to the locket.  Emphasize that this is for fun!

Ask the seeker to stand in the corner, with eyes averted or covered. For older kiddos, the seeker can stand outside the door of the classroom – something too scary for many of my younger kiddles. The hider places the locket where she/he chooses. The locket must be partially visible, even if it’s only a corner that’s showing. We’re planning for success, here! I check in with the rest of the students – did they see where the hider put the “locket?” If they say “yes,” we’re ready for the seeker.

The seeker leaves the corner (or returns to the room), and guided by the voices of the children, looks for the locket. The louder the singing, the closer the object. The singing starts pianissimo
and becomes fortissimo as the seeker discovers the locket. Choose two more children by whatever means is best for your classroom and repeat! Often I’ll let children chose their successors, with a boy choosing a girl or a girl choosing a boy so that one gender isn’t frozen out. It’s up to you!


This year, small, sterilized 6 ounce Chobani brand containers (thank you, Costco, and college-going daughter with exquiste taste) came to my 3-5 year old classrooms. Each child received two cups - one for each hand - and were encouraged to find out how many different noises could be made with them. The cups were slid on the rug, rubbed, clapped together front to front and back to back, drummed on, and more! Finally we made a long and satisfying class crescendo combining our favorite methods. I will definitely continue to experiment with their use. There is great potential for beat and rhythm exploration, and I’m looking forward to ideas for use from my students!

Thank you for joining me. Tune in next month for more musical ideas, but in the meantime, if you’re searching for seasonal songs, please revisit my post from May 2014 – one year ago! – for Spring! Songs, Chants & Apps to Welcome the Season. There’s lots of happy, seasonal treasures with signing! Happy singing and happy Spring!!

Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane
Call Me For Your Professional Development!
I’d love to help your school or community blossom musically!  My specialty is music and literacy teacher training (with a dose of technology), singing games and dances from around the world, and more! If you’re local (Chicago), I’m Gateways registered and IAC approved – at least for the next three years! See my contact info below.  Please look for my workshops through Illinois Children’s Home and Aid.

For Those in the Chicago Area
…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
Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions – the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer & me. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with instrument exploration and family networking.  Breaking news: Storytime will continue through the summer months, so come on down!

And in the End
My posts are historically archived below. Click a link to read about Chinese New Year, Pete Seeger, Music and Literacy, Listening Locally to Musicians from the Midwest, Great Lakes and Ontario! Then Pass It On!

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 *
Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dissecting "STICKY BUBBLE GUM": The Elements of a Great Song!

Sticky Sticky Sticky Bubble Gum!
   It’s Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup – better known to many children as “the STICKY BUBBLE GUM LADY!”  Yes, my very first recording shared the title “Sticky Bubble Gum…and Other Tasty Tunes” with the song for which I’m best-known all across the US – and internationally!  
   For my May musings, I’d like to take the song apart to think about why children and those who care for them love it so. Does it have the qualities I associate with a Great Song? You decide for yourself if you’d put it in that category. For more detailed presentation instructions, go to my website's Song of the Month page.
   When considering what songs to share with my audiences – concert-goers, students, early childhood educators, librarians or a combination of groups - I listen for 4 things.

A great song:
1. Is sing-able!
2. Invites participation
3. Increases knowledge or skill 
4. Is developmentally appropriate for my audience?
   First, for those who don’t know “Sticky Bubble Gum” – here’s my version:

Sticky Bubble Gum     c.Carole Stephens 2001  
      Hear it here (with interactive introduction.)

Sticky sticky sticky bubble gum
Bubble gum, Bubble gum
Sticky sticky sticky bubble gum
Sticking your hands to your shoes!  UN-STICK!


 (Stick backs to backs, elbows to knees, toe to nose, head to the floor – add your own verses!)

1.  The simple tune is within a small range. It can be accompanied with 2 chords (C & G – add a G7 if you want to get fancy) should you be so inclined. And it has an obvious stop – "Un-stick!" Is it singable? Heck yes!

2.  We call this kind of song a “zipper song” – sing the same verse over and over, just zip in new body parts! (“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” is a favorite zipper song, just zip in a new animal and the appropriate animal sound and sing it again!) Zipper songs are especially useful when singing with young children – they can learn them quickly and join in! Participation factor? Check!
Sticking your toe to your nose! Awesome kids!

3.  Can a child actually learn something with this song?  It sounds like it's "just fun!"  Whoa there, pardner! Fun is essential in early learning! 
  • In order to learn, children must be engaged
  • In order to be engaged, you must get their attention
  • In order to get their attention, you may have make it fun.

Here’s the short list of what can be accomplished during “Sticky Bubble Gum”:  
   Cross-lateral movement. By modelling side-to-side clapping during the first 3+ lines of the song, you are encouraging children whose brains are ready to cross the midline. Those who are not ready will clap in front of their bodies.
   Children are expected to listen and do – valuable information processing steps for following directions.
   Body-part identification.
   Appropriate social interaction – sticking hands to hands, backs to backs, etc – all part of my campaign to teach children to use gentle hands, make eye-contact and smile at each other.
   Increasing knowledge AND skills - right on!
Sticking your head to the floor!
4.  It’s been my experience that children of all abilities enjoy this song. I have sung it with Toddlers to 7 year olds, in inclusion classrooms, and with families. Everyone sings – and there are a lot of smiles, too! 
   Try it, you'll like it!

   BONUS! I love adding a good book to this song.  Here are two of my favorite Book Buddies:
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler  (for 3-5’s)
The Bubble Gum Kid by Stu Smith   (for 5-6’s)
    No time for “fun”?  Music and Movement are not “extras” – you can teach and reach kids while singing! And yes - I touch MY toe to my nose!

   Tell me about your favorite “Great Song!”

Click here to order your own copy of
 "Sticky Bubble Gum".

Yours for a Great Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens

Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now  

I miss the numbers of butterflies that were around when I was a girl. Still, I love celebrating spring and summer with a variety of butterfly activities. Today, I'm sharing Montessori-inspired ideas for preparing butterfly activities using free printables.

 Free Butterfly Printables and Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Activities 

I shared a list of Free Butterfly Printables and Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Activities in my post today at Living Montessori Now. Here, I'm sharing some Montessori-inspired butterfly 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. 

Safari Ltd. Butterflies TOOB Key Matching Activity

Safari Ltd Butterflies TOOB Key Matching Activity Free Printable: Safari Ltd. Butterflies TOOB Key hosted at Living Montessori Now. 

The tray for this activity is a Multicraft tray with a Montessori Services clear acrylic tray. I love the Safari Ltd. Butterflies TOOB. I used a small work rug from Montessori Services for the layout. This activity is super easy to prepare, yet it helps with a number of important skills.  

Safari Ltd Butterflies TOOB Key Matching Layout

Butterfly Matching or Memory Activity

Butterfly Matching Activity

Free Printable: Butterfly Match-Up Cards by Montessori Nature at Teachers Pay Teachers

I used a Montessori Services basket for this activity ... very simple to prepare. It's great as a simple matching activity or as a concentration-style memory game. 

Butterfly Hundred Chart Art 

Butterfly Hundred Chart Art

Free Printable: Butterfly Hundreds Chart Mystery Picture by Mrs. Thompson’s Treasures at Teachers Pay Teachers. 

I'm a real fan of hundred chart art. It's a wonderful extension to the Montessori hundred board. Here, I'm using a fun printable for children to prepare a hands-on activity. I used small glass gems in the needed colors to create the butterfly.

Decorate the Bb's Butterfly Letter Craft

Decorate the Bb's Butterfly Craft

Free Printable: Decorate the B’s from 3 Dinosaurs (Romping & Roaring B Pack, Part 1)

This activity uses a large plastic tray from Montessori Services and a Martha Stewart Classic Butterfly Crafts Punch. The butterfly punch creates a great fine-motor activity as well as a craft. 

The child can punch butterflies out of colored cardstock or construction paper and then glue the butterflies on the letter Bb's. For the "Bb" is for butterfly part, I always emphasize the phonetic sound (/b/ for butterfly) rather than the letter name.

Butterfly Inspectors - CVC Pictures Spelling Activities

Butterfly Inspectors - CVC Pictures Spelling Activity 

Free Printable: Butterfly Inspectors – A Differentiated CVC Picture I-Spy Freebie from A Differentiated Kindergarten 

I had a lot of fun with this activity. I love the I-Spy part of the miniature pictures. The movable alphabet is perfect for spelling the words for the pictures. I have a roundup post at Living Montessori Now with inexpensive and DIY movable alphabets

Butterfly Inspectors - Movable Alphabet CVC Pictures Spelling

Butterfly Garden Life Cycle Game

Butterfly Inspectors - Movable Alphabet CVC Pictures Spelling

Free Printable: Butterfly Garden Life Cycle Game from Life Over C’s

This is a fun way to reinforce the butterfly life cycle as well as the concept of butterfly migration. There are even directions for creating a large floor version of the game!

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

More Free Butterfly Printables and Montessori-Inspired Butterfly Activities

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

You'll find lots of Montessori-inspired butterfly activities and ideas in these Living Montessori Now posts:
Montessori-Inspired Caterpillar-Butterfly Unit
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.

Happy end of the school year!
Deb - SigantureLiving Montessori Now Button 
Deb ChitwoodDeb 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.
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