Thursday, June 25, 2015

Working with Toddlers -TODDally Different

Teachers have noticed it’s harder to get / hold younger children's attention.  "What do you do to hold their attention?" they ask.  The main point is the children being inquired about are much younger than the age teachers used to work with.  Parents put children (who haven’t learned how to sit still yet – and shouldn’t be expected to) into programs.  Often there are situations they aren’t ready for.  Teaching to this group is different than teaching to children who are 4.  And, teaching to a 5 yr old is different than teaching to a 4 yr old.   Each group has a different attention span and needs a different plan. 
A toddler has just learned to move and likes it.  Then, he’s in a situation where he’s expected to sit still.  How is that supposed to happen?  Use songs that help teach how to sit still and pay attention. Some won’t be doing exactly what you ask, but they’re listening.  Toddlers love fingerplays and songs where they move their fingers.  “My Fingers Are Startingto Wiggle” is a song by Carole Stephens - Macaroni Soup.  (She's fun!)  My song, "Shake it! Shake it!", is a song that teaches focus on body parts and control.  This age group also loves any kind of freeze dance because they get to work on that moving and stopping they love so much!   Here is a link to  infant/toddler CDs.

When I teach the Music with Mar. program in preschools, I only go to their classrooms for 15 minutes.  The ability of a 1, 2 or 3 year old to sit in circle time is minimal.  One or two songs is what they can be expected to sit for. Some will argue they work with 2-year-olds and it’s possible.  Yes.  It is, but it's a lot of work and not necessarily age appropriate. Rather than a special person appearing to teach 'music', the classroom teacher / caregiver should integrate music into what they are already doing.  My philosophy  is “You aren't teaching music; you are using music to teach.”

When you work with this age, be sure to mix up. Use a lot of props (books, puppets, instruments and their own bodies).  Move first, then sit.   Get them back up.  Sit them back down for a quiet song.  I love Miss Jackie’s “The Touch Game”. It's great for focusing them and settling them.  Click on her link for volumes of information about working with Infant/Toddlers.  

You may also like 
"Learn Every Day: Infant / Toddler Curriculum" by Kaplan.  (Oh, and, I did the music for this program.  Such fun!)

Those little sponges hear everything you say.  They’re just moving and processing.  Some leave the circle and walk off.  Yet, still sing what you are singing.  What’s important than them 'listening' to you is that you’re there, exposing them to activities that help them learn.  Let go of the music teacher you are with older children.  What you do here is just as meaningful, just on another level. They probably aren't going to do it the way you planned it anyway.  (That's why they’re called 'lesson plans'.)  What they know is, you’re there, paying attention. That's what’s important.  Remember, children spell love T I M E
Keep it simple. Watch their faces and sing, sing, sing!
Sometimes music is the only thing that brings a smile to a child’s lips. 
                                                                       Julie Pollman 

Please visit this page for daily brain facts about music.

Founder of Music with Mar., Inc.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Roll and Build

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

This activity is another "straight from the dumpster" activity - using something that would otherwise be trashed.

Newspaper Rolls (Brick by Brick)

Take newspapers. Roll a few sheets together. Tape closed. Build.

Build with Newspaper Rolls (Brick by Brick)

Encourage kids to experiment with different ways to build.

Newspaper Rolls Building (Brick by Brick)

Newspaper Rolls Stacked (Brick by Brick)

Suggest they solve any problems they encounter.

"What could we do to help the rolls stand up?"

Build with Newspaper (Brick by Brick)

"The ends are rolling out. What could we do to stop that?"

Newspaper Rolls and Blocks (Brick by Brick)

To make more stable and permanent structures, use tape to attach the rolls together.

Newspaper Rolls Piled Up (Brick by Brick)

You could use pages from a old atlas or magazines instead of newspaper pages.

Or roll the newspaper on a diagonal to make longer rolls with tapered edges.

We love to build and we love to reuse materials. This activity is perfect!

(Check out my Dollar Store and Dumpster Pinterest Board for more repurpose/reuse ideas!)

Thursday, June 18, 2015


c.2015. Elsa Sreenivasam. Detail
Songs, Resources and Apps

Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL sharing summer songs and a great resource for quintessential camp songs – Green Ghoulie. I stumbled upon this site several years ago, and was instantly charmed with both the collection and the endearingly goofy presentation by the two main perpetrators, Pete Vingeant and Bryan (with no last name). Check out Baby Shark to see a hilarious progression of song styling and and hairdos! I've included one of the two videos below. On the site, all videos appear above song lyrics.

Summer is a time for reflection, renewal and collaboration. Which songs were sure fire hits and worthy of carrying forward? How can connections to classroom themes or curriucula be deepened? What extensions can be put in place, e.g., movement, instruments, dramatizations, partnering with a story?, etc.  I’m grateful that several times a year our Merit EC and General Music teachers come together to discuss these issues. The following are a few of the songs from our end–of–the–year sharing.
Sally Go Round the Sun
Sally go round the sun,
Sally go round the moon,
Sally go round the chimney pot
Every afternoon. Boom!

Hold hands and walk in a circle. On “boom,” change direction of circle. Practice the “boom” change of direction separately before you start the dance – and walk lightly with feet to the beat. There’s nothing like plodding to make one feel they’re in music prison!

c.2013. Brigid Finucane

This song is also useful to reinforce days of the week. After the “boom,” we freeze as I rhythmically chant, “Sunday and Monday.” The kiddos echo, “Sunday and Monday.” We sing the song again, moving in a circle. After each “boom”, I pause again, adding another day: “Sunday, Monday, Tuesday,”  until we cycle through the days of the week. On the last repetition, we walk four steps in and out of the circle – on the beat - and jump in place on the “boom.” It’s fun to repeat it, getting softer until it’s barely heard….from mp to p to pp.

After children are confident with the succession, add two or more days at a time. Try learning the days of the week in another language.  Esperanto, anyone?
There are so many fun ways to approach Sally Go Round the Sun (of which there are MANY versions). Some prefer to sing chimney top(s) rather than chimney pot – an archaic term that has fallen out of use. Although I prefer the archaic in all things, sing what comes naturally to you!

This YouTube shows dancing in concentric circles and singing the song in a round. Though three part rounds are waaaaaaayyyy out of the realm of our K and Pre-K kiddos, two concentric circles are fun to try. I often use a double circle for space reasons – so that we can move rather than plod (the grownups plod a bit in this video – just sayin’).

BRIGIE TIP for making a double circle lickity split: Make a large circle. Drop hands. Count the children – aloud: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4,  1 – 2 – 3- 4, etc. Every fourth child goes into the center and makes a second, smaller circle. The ratio works.

Frogs in the Meadow
Sound Touch icon
Before singing the song, introduce your kiddos to the wonder and variety of frogs – and the sounds they make – through these  two marvelous iPad apps: Sound Touch and Video Touch Animals – made by the same developer. Frogs do not say “ribbit”!
Sound Touch Lite (FREE). 180 sounds and images great for auditory discrimination. 
SoundTouch ($4.99) offers 360 sounds and images. There are 6 high quality photos of different frog species in Sound Touch. Each is accompanied by the sound the frog makes.
Video Touch - Animals (1.99 – prices fluctuate) has48 fascinating video clips of animals, including four of different frog species My kiddos are mesmerized!

Frogs in the meadow.
Can’t get them out.                                    (Shake finger on beat)
Take a little stick                                         (Mime holding stick.
And stir them about.                                    Stir in wide circle with full body.)
Leap! Leap! Leap!                                      (Leap three times)

c.2015 Elsa Sreenivasam. Detail
·      Sing the song while class listens.  Pat the beat on knees while singing (I like to hold a beanie frog in my hand and bounce it on my knee). Jump your frog forward (on floor) while chanting “Leap! Leap! Leap!” Ask – “How many ‘leaps” did my frog take?” (three) Invite kiddos to sing, using their fists for frogs.

·      Stand up. Sing the song with suggested motions, or what you determine is best. Jump in place the first time, then model leaping into the circle the second time.
·      Line up kiddos, 4 at a time (mas o menos) and have a leaping contest.
o   Speed version: Stand on the perimeter of your classroom rug. Designate 4 sides of square and choose which side will leap first (one side at a time). Proceed to next side, until everyone has a turn.

·      With parachute. Place beanie frogs on parachute. Ask participants to sway side to side while singing song (move parachute side to side. On each “Leap” – bounce parachute so the frogs go flying up into the air. Retrieve frogs from the floor, and do again. Many options: Sitting, standing, children under parachute or not, etc. Using comparative voices and movements is also fun.
NOTE: There are many versions of this song, and many melodies. I even found a chase game – for lack of a better word – that I’ll try next year with older kiddos. For now, I’ll use this version that has been a sure-fire hit ever since I learned it from Ms. Stephanie at Ronald Knox Montessori School twenty years ago!

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll join me next month for more summer songs.
Until then, happy singing!
c. 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.

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 – 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!
The next session is June 22.

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 *


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

“Roll the Ball” – Deceptively Easy, Delightfully Fun!

   Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup here in Chicago.  By the time this post goes live, the Blackhawks will have either won the Stanley Cup or subjected me to a Game 7 – I am hoping for my sanity that it is cup-kissing time at The United Center!
Roll the ball to me!

   However, not to leave you in the lurch for a monthly musical activity for indoors or out, I am dusting off one of my student’s favorites: “Roll the Ball”.  I’m not sure where I learned it – anyone out there know who wrote it, or what 78 rpm record it was on during my childhood in Massachusetts?  Or did my mother make it up and play it with me?  Who knows?
   “Ball” was one of my daughter’s first words – and in 26 years of teaching I’ve yet to find a child who didn’t enjoy playing with one!

   “Roll the Ball” can be done with very young children – either playing with another child, or with an adult.  Partners sit facing each other, legs extended (V-seat.)  Toddlers and Preschoolers sit with feet touching their partner’s, while K’s can sit a little further apart if space allows.

Bounce the ball. Bounce the ball!

Roll the ball. Roll the ball. 
Roll the ball to me. 
Roll it, roll it. 
Roll the ball to me.

Bounce the ball. Bounce the ball.
Bounce the ball to me. 
Bounce it. Bounce it. 
Bounce the ball to me.

You lose it - go get it!

Toss the ball. Toss the ball.  Toss the ball to me. 
Toss it. Toss it. 
Toss the ball to me.
Hear it here.  
    Demonstrate what rolling (keeping the ball on the floor) looks like by sitting with a partner and pushing the ball gently back and forth while singing.  Note that the ball stays on the floor.  For the second verse, give the ball a gentle bounce toward your partner – keeping it a gentle bounce, not over your partner’s head!  If the ball scoots away, children must retrieve their own ball.
    Now you are ready for everyone to find a partner and sit facing them, legs extended.  
Give one ball to each couple.  I use tennis balls, but small beach balls work well, too.  Begin singing. With 3 year olds and younger, I then return to rolling to end the session.
With PreK 4’s and K’s, I add the third verse: “Toss the ball!”  Demonstrate that it is not a throw – it is an underhand toss into your partner’s waiting hands.  I encourage the catching child to make “cup hands” for a target.  Repeat the verse 3-4 times, as this is a skill that takes practice. As above, for your final verse return to rolling – get that ball down on the floor again to bring the excitement level down.
When we have done our final “roll the ball verse” I say, “FREEZE!  Whoever is has the ball right now may bring it to the ball bin.”  This makes it so that there isn’t a fight for who puts the ball away.
Great Big Ball!

   There you have it – simple, skill-based and fun!  Children work on gross motor coordination, cooperation, teamwork, communication, vocabulary and singing while moving …and they think it’s just an enjoyable game!

   For another excellent singing game with a ball, check out my September 2013 blog: Great Big Ball.  It’s another favorite!

Yours for a Ball Song!

"Miss Carole" Peterson Stephens

Monday, June 15, 2015

Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Math Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now  

Dinosaur activities are always fun for dinosaur lovers. And a dinosaur theme is one of my favorite summer units (especially fun this summer with the opening of Jurassic World)!

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

Count the Dinosaurs Count the Dinosaurs TrayFree Printable: Count the Dinosaurs from Dinosaur Pack (part 2) from 3 Dinosaurs. I also used the numbers from the same printable. For older children, there are Greater Than/Less Than, Add the Dinosaurs, and Subtract the Dinosaurs printables in the same printable pack. You could have more than one printable on the tray to accommodate different ages and ability levels. 

Free Printable: Safari Ltd. Dino Babies TOOB Key hosted at Living Montessori Now 

This activity uses a large plastic tray from Montessori Services and a smaller Montessori Services clear acrylic tray for 10 dinosaurs from the Safari Ltd. Dinos TOOB 

For the layout, I used a Montessori Services rug. I used the Safari Ltd. TOOB key as a separate matching activity for children and as a way for you to identify each of the dinosaurs on the tray. 

Count the Dinosaurs Layout

Palentologist Skip Counting Puzzles 

Paleontologist Skip Counting Puzzles 

Free Printable: Palentologist Puzzles from Dinosaur Update (Dinosaur Pack part 4) from 3 Dinosaurs 

I simply printed out, laminated, and cut out the puzzle pieces. I like that there's a male paleontologist and a female paleontologist. They look the same except for their hair. 

Each puzzle has skip counting by 2's to 20. To make it more challenging, you could put both puzzles in the same container. I used a Really Useful Pencil Box

Palentologist Skip Counting Puzzles Activity Bag

I love activity bags for trips and waiting rooms, so I also put together a paleontologist skip counting puzzles activity bag. This sort of activity would be easy to prepare with any printable puzzle. I used a zippered pencil pouch for the bag. 

Dinosaur Number Mazes

Dinosaur Number Mazes

Free Printable: Dinosaur Roar PreK-K Pages from Homeschool Encouragement   

This was super simple to prepare. I used two dinosaurs from the Safari Ltd. Dinos TOOB. The child simply flies the pterodactyl through the maze or walks the dinosaur through the maze. 

There are two mazes ... one with numbers from 1-10 and one with skip counting by 10's to 100. 

Dinosaur Number Line Addition and Subtraction/Hatching Dinosaurs

Dinosaur Number Line Addition and Subtraction - Hatching Dinosaurs

Free Printable: Dinosaur Number Line Addition and Subtraction Within 10 by The Teaching Treehouse at Teachers Pay Teachers 

Free Printable: Safari Ltd. Dino Babies TOOB Key hosted at Living Montessori Now 

For this activity, I used the 10 dino babies from the Safari Ltd. Dino Babies TOOB. You could use regular dinosaurs rather than dino babies, but I think the dino babies are a cute touch. 

The tray is a Multicraft tray, and the small basket is a Montessori Services basket. Montessori Services carries baskets in sizes that are often difficult to find. You could have an erasable marker for children to write the answers on the number line card, although it would be fine for the child to simply find the correct answer on the number line. 

The answer could be checked by adding or subtracting the eggs with the dinosaur babies. I placed the dinosaurs in jumbo plastic Easter eggs. (Note: You'll find a fun subtraction activity using "dinosaur eggs" at Every Star Is Different.)

If you have younger children, you could use dinosaur count and clip cards or dinosaur number cards to match to the correct number of eggs. The child could place the numbers upside down and draw the number to match with the correct number of "dinosaur eggs." 

Again, the Safari Ltd. TOOB key is for the child to match the dinosaurs at the end and to make it easier for you to identify each of the dinosaur babies. 

Dinosaur Number Line Addition Layout

Measuring Dinosaurs

Measuring Dinosaurs

Free Printable: Dinosaur Unit Science and Culture Printable Pack from Every Star Is Different 

Every Star is Different has an amazing number of free dinosaur cards. I printed out and cut out some of the dinosaurs found in the Safari Ltd. Dino TOOB. Then I glued the dinosaur image on one side with the skeleton and dinosaur length on the other side. 

I used a simple bamboo paper plate holder to hold the cards and a tape measure. This activity would be fun for two children or a group of children (or one child and parent or teacher). This would definitely be a good activity to take outdoors!

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

More Free Dinosaur Printables and Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Activities

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to dinosaur freebies from around the blogosphere: Free Dinosaur Printables and Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Math 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.

Happy summer!

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 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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