Friday, November 25, 2016

hOppy Holidaze! Some Songs with a Modern Twist

Thanksgiving was just 24 hours ago and already the Christmas songs are playing.  (Some began playing before Thanksgiving!)

Passing along traditions and creating new ones is an important part of the holiday season. As an elementary classroom music teacher, my students always loved the "12 Days of Christmas".  It is a great song to teach memory, recall and sequencing.  
However, many of the gifts held no connection for the children.
For a historical lesson, one could get into that with the older children.  For the younger ones, I've composed a version that I believe connects better with the children of today.  Here is a link to the song :
                               Twelve Days of Christmas (Modernized)
On the first day of Christmas my family decorated our Christmas Tree.
On the Second day of Chritmas my family sent 2 dozen cards
3rd Day - Said three "Ho Ho Hos"
4th Day - Hung 4 stockings
5th Day - Shopped at 5 different Malls!
6th Day - Watched 6 Christmas Movies
7th Day - Hung 7 strings of lights
8th Day - Celebrated the 8th Day of Hanukkah
9th Day - Baked 9 batches of cookies
10th Day - Wrapped 10 presents
11th Day - Saw 11 decorated houses
12th Day - Sang 12 Christmas Carols

Make cards for each of the 12 days; or, you can download them for free at :
                Twelve Days of Christmas (Modernized)  Cards

1. Have the children hold the cards and talk about what they see.  This will lead into lively discussion;
2. Ask children what number they are from 1 to 12.
3. Put the song on and instruct children to hold up the card when it is their day.
4. After song, invite more discussion; and
5.  You may want to let your class make their own 12 Days of Christmas.

Keep in mind that the general focus of this song is not on the religious holiday of Christmas but instead on the secural celebration of the holiday which is almost world wide.  I've adapted a Nigerian song which celebrates that.
                      Everybody Loves Everybody Loves Christmas Time

If you'd like to purchase "MARry Christmas" it is on Sale until 12/15.  Click the link.

hOppy Holidaze to all.
Contact me at :
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Instant Songs for Your Classroom

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

Today let's think of a different type of repurposing - repurposing or recycling tunes.

Early in my teaching journey, I learned that I could take a song or tune that I knew, adjust the words to fit what was happening, and I had an instant song that was relevant (and that I could probably remember). I knew lots of children's songs and traditional songs: "The Farmer in the Dell," "Happy Birthday," "London Bridge," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and so forth. 

Repurpose the tune with new words and a new song was born. And remember, no need to create lots of words; just repeat ones that fit. Kids love repetition and they will learn your "new" songs more quickly, too.

Since it's Thanksgiving week, let's create an instant thank-you song.

Thank You Song
Tune: "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
"Thank you for my family, Mommy, Daddy, and there's me,
We work and we play each day, We work and we play each day,
Thank you for my family, I love them and they love me."

Adjust the words as you choose. Ask the children to name things they do in their families and work those ideas into your song. Or change family to other things that children are grateful for (friends, teacher, food, whatever.) Repurposed songs can be versatile!

And Christmas is coming, so here's an instant song about Christmas.

A Happy Time
Tune: "Mary Had a Little Lamb"
"Christmas is a happy time, Happy time, happy time,
Christmas is a happy time, We decorate our tree."

Add other things that children do at Christmas time. Or change the song to reflect whatever holiday or celebration that your children celebrate.

A few tips:
  • Choose songs/tunes that are familiar to you. Songs that have simple, repetitive melodies are best. They can be familiar to your children or not. The kids will pick up the tunes quickly.
  • If you have a song that you use regularly in your classroom, change up the words. It makes the song new and uses something already familiar to connect with new ideas or content.
  • Make sure the words you choose fit the rhythms and notes. Sometimes I try to use too many words for the tune. While some of these tunes will adjust a little more easily, I often just reword or find a new tune to make the blend easier.
  • Don't worry about rhymes. If your new lyrics rhyme, that's fine. If they don't, that's fine too. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Don't force it. Just sing the words you need, even if they do not rhyme.
  • Have fun with your new songs and don't sweat it! 
  • Sing, even if you don't think you are a singer. Kids love music and will enjoy one of their favorite adults singing with them.

So...go make some music this holiday season. Music that you have repurposed and recreated yourself!

(What songs or tunes have you repurposed or recycled? Share them with us in the comments.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Dance Activity: I Am Thankful For . . .


Here is a short dance activity that I often use as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.  

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because it is very simply about giving thanks for our blessings, being together with family, and of course, sharing a delicious meal.  It is the time in northern climates when winter is making its presence known, so cool nights and warm fires are often a part of the Thanksgiving holiday.

When I present this activity, I usually start with the children sitting in a circle.  We discuss different aspects of the holiday, such as the weather, different foods the children like, etc. Then I pass out crayons or markers, along with a prepared sheet of paper (see template below), to each child.  I read the poem at the top, then I ask them to draw something they are thankful for, either something they talked about in the circle, or anything else about Thanksgiving. I give them some time to work on their drawings.  

I collect the children's drawings, then I turn on some music (see suggestions below).   I ask the children to dance about their drawings, or any other aspect of the holiday.

Musical Selections:  

1.  Thanksgiving Day, by Tom Chapin, from the album Mother Earth

2.  Winter, from the Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi

3.  Over the River and Through the Woods (several versions are available)

Here is a template of the handout for the lesson:



        The year has turned its circle,                                    Orchards have shared their treasures,
        The seasons come and go.                                           The fields, their yellow grain,
        The harvest all is gathered in                                     So open wide the doorway –
        And chilly north winds blow.                                     Thanksgiving comes again!
                          I AM THANKFUL FOR . . .

                     (Child draws picture here)




I wish everyone a warm and happy holiday!

Keep on dancin',

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

JUMP JIM JOE - a perfect partner dance!

...and tap your toe!
Now that cooler/wetter weather is moving in to stay, it’s a good time to get movement and dance options going to keep those little brains and bodies tuned up and ready to learn!  Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup here, and I’m sharing a terrific partner dance that my older 3’s through 7’s love: “Jump Jim Joe!”  This dance is very popular at my Family Concerts, as it’s fun for ALL ages!

Usually I introduce dancing in this order:

1. Dancing as an individual in a group
2. Dancing in a circle
3. Partner dancing
4. Dancing with props/manipulatives

Hopefully you’ve done some dancing that is in the first two styles** so that your students have a sense of group dynamic, cooperation and personal space.  Now let’s up the ante on cooperation – to do a partner dance you must work together with another person, touch them appropriately and stay in time with the music.  It also means that the teacher must learn the dance so that he/she can teach and demonstrate it to the students effectively.

listen, echo!
Jump, jump, jump Jim Joe
Nod your head and shake your head
And tap your toe!
‘Round and ‘round and ‘round you’ll go
Then you find another partner
And you jump Jim Joe!

I use the echo technique to teach the song – I sing a line, students sing it back to me.  Then I demonstrate with a student as my partner what the song looks like.  Hear a clip HERE!

I picked a great volunteer - he could JUMP!

Line 1: Face your partner and hold hands. Jump 5 times (on the beat).
Line 2: Partners nod, then shake their heads
Line 3: Tap toe to the side.
Line 4: 2-hand circle around
Line 5: Leave your partner and go find a new partner!
Line 6: Hold hands with your new partner.

Once you have demonstrated the dance, invite your students to stand and pick a partner.  Some classes struggle to pick partners quickly – help them out.  I explain that “you’re not going to keep that partner, so don’t worry about who you start with – you’ll be moving on quickly!  Walk through the dance slowly, singing enthusiastically and clearly.

When your students understand the pattern of the dance, and that the pattern just keeps repeating to make a sequence, you can pick up the tempo a smidgen.  When they’re really secure, maybe add the recording – but it’s lively, so don’t rush into it!  It’s on my “Dancing Feet!” cd – check it out HERE!

Here’s a video at a library show in Colorado – kids of all ages and adults really enjoying themselves!  You can do it, too!  Let me know how it goes!  And remember – this one’s great outdoors, too!

** If you haven't done dancing in the first two styles, check out my blog from MARCH 2016 for "Singing in the Rain" (Style #1) and FEBRUARY 2016 for "Looby Loo" (style #2)

BIG NEWS!  My new recording, “WELCOME!” will be released shortly!  There are 29 songs, dances, poems and fingerplays to engage and invite your children to sing and move!  It will be available for purchase soon at  Keep checking back – definitely by December 1!

Need a workshop or keynote for a conference? Want educational content that also accesses early literacy skills, physical control and is FUN?  Contact me – I’m now booking for 2017-18!

Yours for a Partner Dance!
“Miss Carole” Stephens

Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Bell Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Two things I love are Christmas and music. Today, I've combined them with musical bell activities and Christmas bell activities. Some of these activities can be used year-round while others are designed for Christmas. 

I have a post at Living Montessori Now with free bell printables - both general bells and Christmas bells. 

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. 

Handbells and Musical Notes Handbells and Musical Notes Free Printable: Preschool Handbells: New-Sew Felt Musical Notes and Printables from Imagine Our Life 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray and set of 8 handbells.

Handbells and Musical Notes Layout 

I would just lay out the musical note cards and have the child match the bells to the cards. You could have children who are able place the notes and bells in order from lowest to highest. (Note: I use a Montessori Services rug on the floor for the layout, although you could use a long piece of felt on a table.) 

Jingle Bells Song Tray Jingle Bells Song Tray  

Free Printable: Jingle Bells Music Color Coded by MontessoriSoul 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, a small tabletop easel, and the 5 lowest bells from the handbell set. 

My 3-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, and I played "Jingle Bells" together with each of us using more than one bell. We had a great time with it! 

Jingle Bell Counting and Transfer Activity 
Bell Counting and Transferring Activity

Free Printable: Jingle Bell Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For this activity, I used a a Montessori Services medium-size tray, sugar tong, and exact number of bells to match a number card. I purchased a set of 144 ½" gold bells to use for a number of activities. You could choose any number from 1-10, whether it's to reinforce the number symbol or concept of counting. 

The sugar tong (or whatever tool you use) adds fine-motor work to the counting activity. 

Counting and Transferring Jingle Bells
Zoey loved using the sugar tong to place the bells in a line.

DIY Jingle Bell Cards and Counters DIY Bell Cards and Counters

Free Printable: Jingle Bell Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

I used a Montessori Services medium-size tray, the number cards for 1-10, and 55 of the ½" gold bells.

I like to lay out my numbers and counters in the traditional Montessori way of rows of two counters with a left-over counter centered below the bottom row. This gives a visual impression of odd and even. For more about creating DIY numbers and counters and a link on how to present the lesson, check out my DIY Cards and Counters post. 

Bell Cards and Counters Layout

Bell Multiplication Board Activity 

Bell Multiplication Tray Free Printable: Multiplication with Bells Printable from Carol of the Bells Pack at Every Star Is Different 

Free Printable: Math Facts Board Multiplication from Livable Learning 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, 27 of the bells for multiplication facts through 9x3, a small red bell for the top of the multiplication "board", Bambu large condiment cup for the bells, small Bambu condiment cup for other pieces, and a miniature clothespin. I prepared the activity to solve one multiplication problem at a time with the materials.

I had fun preparing this activity to add interest and hands-on learning to multiplication!

Multiplication Board with Bells Layout  

To see how to use a multiplication board, check out the post at Montessori Print Shop on how to use the Montessori multiplication bead board. For this, we're just using bells instead of beads! You could even use a bath mat as suggested if you use small enough bells! 

Or use the free printable I used from Livable Learning. It also has directions to help you prepare the activity. 

Jingle Bell Lane Game for Short E or Long A Words Jingle Bells Lane Game for Short E or Long A WordsFree Printable: Jingle Bell Lane Game by JK Curriculum Connection at Teachers Pay Teachers 

I used a Montessori Services large plastic tray, dice, and gold and silver bells for place holders. This is simply a fun way to reinforce phonics for beginning readers.

More Free Bell Printables

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free bell printables from around the blogosphere: Free Bell Printables and Montessori-Inspired Bell Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.

December Holiday Posts at Living Montessori Now + December Pinterest Boards

You'll find all my December posts here: Hundreds of December Holiday Activities for Kids

Pinterest Boards:
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. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
I hope you have a great time focusing on music and/or Christmas! :) 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 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 41 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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

THE CYCLE OF CREATIVITY - How to create anything from nothing


Whether we have the desire to create something ourselves...

Whether we are guiding young children and helping them understand that they can create anything...

Whether you are leading an organization and you want to empower those whom you guide to be more creative...

Enrique Feldman delivering a keynote address at the First Things First  Conference in Phoenix, AZ, August, 2015

We live in an increasingly visual environment. So, what does the creative process look like?

For children, it can be a moment in the kitchen with mom and/or dad and being part of the creation of a meal. Key to any moment would be the quality of the questions we ask while engaged. Open ended questions lead to a much more profound sense of creativity and begin to build a comfort level with the unknown with any age learner.

Mixing Paints and Pixels! Handmade Art mixed with Digital Art
Using different forms of Art can be a wonderful approach to opening up the creative process, as can collaboration. Assuming it is authentic collaboration, it can lead to synergy.  By authentic, I mean an environment where everyone feels safe enough to bring their ideas to the conversation.

Creativity can most easily be stirred in us when we connect to a passion we have.  When we begin to connect our sense of passion with others, creativity typically takes a leap forward in terms of the presence it has in our daily lives.

As children, we create everyday in most happy childhood situations. As adults, we quite often see creativity as a bonus, something we can sometimes engage... a luxury.

However, when we remember what it is to be a fully present human being, we are reminded of how much we have to learn from children. When we can find ways to create on a daily basis as adults, & live again like children, we find ourselves truly present in our daily lives and the cycle of creativity can become a way of life.

Early Childhood Educators experiencing iBG, Intellectual Brainwave Games, Original cognition and perspective games which remind us how it feels to learn something new!

Certainly, curiosity is connected to creativity...

There is a sequence of thought that, once engaged, will help you engage your inner sense of creativity and the feeling is like few others in life.  It is with great pleasure and authentic joy that I share this sequence with you. I call it the...

 Cycle of Creativity  

What inspires you?

There are many ways to ask this question. For a young child it may start with "What do you like?" "What makes you excited?" I've decided to guide you through this cycle from both an adult and child perspective. Here we go!


Upon asking some adult friends of mine, many responded with one word... Chocolate! I wonder where the inspiration of chocolate will take us?


Upon asking some children what they loved and what excited them, some responded with... Ants! Hmmmm.... so many places this inspiration could take us, and actually took my daughter and me on a learning journey that has lasted for many years.

POV (Point of View)
What point of view do you choose and why do you choose this point of view? 


So in this example, chocolate was the inspiration. I asked one of my friends who said chocolate and they wanted to explore chocolate from the perspective of chicken wings... wow... I would not have thought of that. I asked this individual why, and they responded with, "I love chicken wings and I love chocolate and I wonder if the two could work together."


In asking the child who said "Ants!" I asked, from what point of view?  They didn't know what that meant, so we got down on the ground to see what things might look like from the eyes of an Ant and the young learner said, "Everything looks bigger!" The chosen point of view was how things look from an ant's eyes!

A tree from the point of view of an ant!

London from the perspective of an ant!
The above image of London is from a real website that looks at London from the perspective of an ant... I thought that was so inventive I just HAD to share it!

What message do you choose to share from the perspective of your POV?


So far, from the adult response we have:
Inspiration: Chocolate
POV: Chicken Wings

So what message did my friend choose? Health benefits of chocolate is what they chose. Why I asked? They responded without hesitation, "I'd like to justify the eating of chocolate."  Brilliant...


So far, from the child response we have:
Inspiration: Ants
POV: How things look from the Ant's eyes

In continuing my conversation with the young learner, I asked, "what is something important you want to share with others about the ants?" Their response was priceless... 

"Pretend you're an ant and see everything"

I interpreted this as "Go on an adventure!" Perhaps it would become "explore the world!" 

Sam the Ant - a new children's book series

What concept do you choose to focus on that best shares your message?


So far, from the adult response we have:
Inspiration: Chocolate
POV: Chicken Wings
Message: Health Benefits of Chocolate

The conversation with my friend was picking up as they were showing a great deal of curiosity as to where this could lead.  For their concept related to what they might create, they chose, "Healthy treat ideas!" They were all in, in part because they were creating the framework of creation.


So far, from the child response we have:
Inspiration: Ants
POV: How things look from the Ant's eye
Message: Explore the world!

In continuing the conversation with this child, the idea of what should the big idea be?  What is a concept we could create and this particular child said, "I want to make my own story... my own book!" I'm so glad I paid attention :)

What is the specific content which will best share your concept?


So far, from the adult response we have:
Inspiration: Chocolate
POV: Chicken Wings

Message: Health Benefits of Chocolate
Concept: Healthy Treat Ideas!

The conversation turned from concept to content, as in, ok... now that we have identified a lot of key details.... what do you want to create?!  The response was so cool.... "I want to create a chocolate based BBQ sauce that can be used with all sorts of cooking!"  I asked, "What about the healthy treat ideas?"  The response was so adorable.... "I'd like to change the concept to... healthier treat ideas."  Hahaaaaaahaa.... so, the cycle of creativity, like most cycles, is not always linear!


So far, from the child response we have:
Inspiration: Ants
POV: How things look from the Ant's eye

Message: Explore the world!
Concept: I want to make my own story... my own book!

Some of you know where this is headed and that it is based on the real life story of my daughter. When it came to the content, the actual stuff of the story, she wanted to create an Ant story where the Ant was always able to figure out what to do when there were challenges. Today, we describe this as "embracing adversity as opportunity." She is in fact the little girl who wanted to create her own book, and guess what.... yep, we did it and we're creating 27 of them.  The first one, Sam the Ant - The Flood came out in July of 2016 and the second one, Sam the Ant - Glow in the Dark, comes out this month! Barnes & Noble even picked it up for in-store purchase in 4 locations thus far.

A page from the new children's book series, Sam the Ant at

What is the product that speaks to content, concept, message, POV, and how is it inspiring?


So far, from the adult response we have:
Inspiration: Chocolate
POV: Chicken Wings
Message: Health Benefits of Chocolate
Concept: Healthier Treat Ideas!
Content: Chocolate Based BBQ Sauce
Product: Dark Chocolate BBQ Sauce

Ahhhhh.... the product.... so often, people begin with the product in mind, and sometimes you get lucky and it works. However, it is far more productive to begin with inspiration first. In this case, the product this person wanted to come up with was a Dark Chocolate BBQ sauce, so that the it wasn't overly sweet and could be matched with spices that pick up the earthiness of the chocolate!  Yum!!!!


So far, from the child response we have:
Inspiration: Ants
POV: How things look from the Ant's eye
Message: Explore the world!
Concept: I want to make my own story... my own book!
Content: An Ant who always knows what do do when there is a challenge (embracing adversity as opportunity)
Product: Sam the Ant Children's Book Series

Today, this series continues to unfold and evolve and the response has been tremendous and heart warming, in large part from the initial inspiration of Ants!


Follow your curiosity with books, brain games and music
Kaleidoscope Children's Album on the Grammy Ballot!
My good friend Dr. Danny Brassell's Public Speaking who is the king of perspective in the educational world

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