Friday, December 18, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2015 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Blog History

June 2015. Summer Songs


  1. you do such great work. Thank you for sharing it with us., Makes a lot of people's jobs easier. Happy...

  2. Stuart, Your support is so appreciated...and your kind comment makes me smile from ear to ear! Thank you, my friend.


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