Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fall Songs for Early Childhood

As promised, here my favorite songs for fall. A reader also shared one! Videos (where I could find them) again are approximate to the words I provided (the way I do these songs). Enjoy, use, comment, and share!

Gray Squirrel-

Gray Squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail
Wrinkle up your little nose, hide a nut between your toes
Gray Squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail

Leaves are Falling- (from Music Together)

Leaves are falling softly floating tumbling to the ground
Leaves are falling softly floating tumbling to the ground
Orange, red, brown, yellow, orange, tumbling to the ground
Orange, red, brown, yellow, orange, tumbling to the ground

Way Up High in the Apple Tree-

Way up high in the apple tree
Two little apples were smiling at me
I shook that tree as hard as I could
Down cam the apples- mmmm they were good

5 Little Apples- (shared by Nancy Hershatter)- a fall fingerplay

5 little apples, juicy to the core, 1 tumbled down and then there were 4.
4 little apples, swaying on the tree, 1 tumbled down and then there were 3.
3 little apples, shiny and new, 1 tumbled down and then there were 2.
2 little apples, shining in the sun, 1 tumbled down and then there was 1.
1 little apple ready to roll, let's reach and knock it down with our apple picking pole!

Pumpkin Patch- (solfeggi syllables provided)- can be played as a circle game

Pumpkin patch, the pumpkin patch (sol-sol-mi-la-sol-sol-mi)
I'm looking for a pumpkin in the pumpkin patch (fa-sol-sol-sol-sol-la-la-la-sol-sol-mi)
And I'll find one, that's nice and fat (mi-fa-fa-re-mi-fa-fa-re)
To turn into a jack-o-lantern just like that (re-sol-sol-sol-sol-la-la-la-la-sol-sol-mi)

H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N- (a song from when I was little- I'm not sure who wrote it)!

(Sung to the tune from Dance Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens)

H, A, double L, O, W, double E, N spells Halloween
H, A, double L, O, W, double E, N spells Halloween

verse: (these words are made up by me)
Halloween mean ghosts and goblins
Witches and vampires and spooky bats
Trick or treating, candy eating
Pumpkins with faces and big black cats

Pumpkin BOO!- (I'm also not sure who wrote this one, but the kids LOVE it)!

To scare someone on Halloween
I'll tell you what I'll do
I'll hide behind this pumpkin mask and
Then I'll holler, "BOO!"

Not sure what I'll write about next week- I just attended the Children's Music Network Annual Conference though, so a few ideas are swirling--- stay tuned!!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Counting- V

The leaves are starting to change color here in Maryland- creating a beautiful context in which children can learn. Seasons are a wonderful way to draw from children's awareness of their surroundings to make learning abstract concepts like numbers more relevant. Here are a couple of autumn number songs- one you'll probably know- "5 Little Pumpkins," and one maybe not- "5 Little Leaves."

"5 Little Pumpkins"
5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate
The first one said, "Oh my it's getting late!"
The second one said, "There are witches in the air!"
The third one said, "But I don't care!"
The fourth one said, "Let's run! Let's run!"
The fifth one said, "It's just Halloween fun!"
Then, "OOOooooooo," went the wind, and out went the light
And 5 little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

"5 Little Leaves"
5 little leaves, dancing in the tree
5 little leaves, happy as can be!
Along came the wind-
1 leaf came tumbling down.
4 little leaves, dancing in the tree...
(Repeat until you get to- "No little leaves," - I usually do that verse in a whisper).

In these videos, you'll find slight variations on the words above- the way I do these songs. I also do both songs as a chant, except for "'OOoooooooo!' 1 leaf came tumbling down," for which I sing a little minor-sounding melody. I like the way the videos demonstrate movements to do with the songs. I also use a felt board with 5 pumpkins and leaves so children can have a visual way to keep track of the quantity. Stay tuned for next time- I'll have more autumn songs for you- making this the last number song article (for now). Happy autumn!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Counting- IV

Well, I just got back from a music trip out west, (flew there and back in one day!) and I'm feeling fine (relatively)!! So, today I'm going to write about a number song called Dr. Knickerbocker. Here is the way I've done this song with kids:

Dr. Knickerbocker, Knickerbocker, number nine
I just got back and I'm feeling fine.
Let's put the rhythm in our ________.*
*Repeat until you "put the rhythm" in your hands (clap), shoulders (alternate shoulders up and down),  feet (walk in place to the beat), head (nod), and hips (shift hips right and left).

I've always said the words as a rhythmic chant, and kept the movement going until it changes to a different body part. The words were fun to say and made pretty much no sense at all- kids loved to move and say the words! Sometimes children asked- who is Dr. Knickerbocker? I had no clear answer.

After some searching I found out that Knickerbockers are a type of colonial style pants worn just over the knee, and a man wearing this style of pants (Mr. Knickerbocker) was a symbol of New York- (a la the New York Knicks baseball team). And apparently there were nine original New York Knickerbockers (later shortened to Knicks).

Maybe "getting back" means getting back to home plate? I'm still unsure how "Mr. Knickerbocker" got changed to "Dr. Knickerbocker," but the point is- this is a fun song with lots of movement AND there's more!!!

I just discovered that you can practice counting to the number nine with this song, and that is extra exciting because that makes it a great activity for getting those kids with a lot of energy to focus and count with you. To do this, you "put the rhythm" in the "number nine" itself. Here are two examples of this- one from the Wiggles and one from Alina Celeste.

Here is also a new one by Liz Buchanan that is a counting backwards from 9 song.

More fun with number songs next week!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Counting- III

This week I'm ahead of the game time-wise (yay!), and I'd like to share my favorite number song for children with you. It's called "Bye-m, Bye." I learned about it from a compilation called "American Folk Songs for Children," by Ruth Crawford Seeger.

As a music composition student at Oberlin Conservatory, being a "woman" composer was still a "thing." While I surely hope it isn't a "thing" anymore, I bring it up now because Ruth Crawford Seeger was a visionary composer- not just as a woman but in general. I learned about her there, and I admired her. You see, the question was, "Why are there so few women composers (that we know about)?" An answer was, (I kid you not) "Men have more time to focus on music because childcare is less of a concern/expectation for them."

Missing from that conversation was the importance of music for a young child's development, and the role woman have played as innovators and conveyors of that music over time. I think Ruth Crawford Seeger recognized this, and although the way to be "established" as a composer at the time was to produce avant-garde orchestral music (which she also did), she produced her truly one of a kind collections of folk songs for children anyway- all the while raising her own family and most definitely singing the songs from her books to her own children (one of whom was Pete Seeger).

If you are reading this article, you are probably someone who might sing for children- whether as a parent, grandparent, caretaker or teacher. If you are someone who does this, you might know what it feels like when you find a song that just "works." It feels great to sing- it "speaks to you." "Bye-m, Bye" is one of those songs for me, and while I sing it differently than the recording below (as appropriate to the folk tradition), when I sing it, I know I pass that feeling on to young children, comfortably nestling those numbers into their minds and fingers. (One of these days I'll record my version)!

Play the video below to hear what the song sounds like, and stay tuned next week for more number song fun!

Learn more about Ruth Crawford Seeger!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Counting- II

I’m a little late posting today- I had a busy weekend. We all struggle with time sometimes- moments when time is just not on our side. We get “out of sync,” cranky, and a little bit mixed up until we can regain our “rhythm” once again. As adults, this could be a struggle to accomplish all that we set out to do at work- as well as at home. As little ones, this could be our sleep cycle, our need for sustenance- and even those young minds have goals they’d like to accomplish, getting a little out of sorts when/if they run out of time. 

As busy people, this is our lot, but there are ways to cope with this for sure. I believe this begins with establishing natural rhythms- day/night, meal times, etc- and with experiencing music as a reflection of those rhythms. If we feel “out of sync,” a way to quickly get back “in sync,” is surely with music, a reflection of balanced time. 

This is kind of a philosophical way to start this blog about counting songs, but it really makes sense to me at times like this how much music can help us hold on to balance and stay anchored within time, instead of feeling set adrift in our more chaotic moments. Here are some simple counting songs you can try with your little one (shown as videos because that it probably the best way to learn them). What is interesting about the first two of these songs is that they also involve a bit of a problem- the birds and ducks go away, but then they come back- and all is right again. Who knows, maybe songs like this will be a foundation for your little one's future ability to regain order in their lives- as well as knowing how to count to 5?

2 Little Blackbirds-

5 Little Ducks-

5 Green and Speckled Frogs-

These are just three of these types of songs. There are many, many more- not all of which you can find online (as of now). Like I said last week, number/time songs are a big topic, and I will be writing more about them over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Learning Numbers- I

Anyone else feel a little tired after the first week of school? This is understandable- it's a big transition with a lot to consider. As a teacher, I learned about my new students, learned how to best meet their needs. As a parent, I talked with my son to see how his day was, and tried to assess if he was transitioning well- and this process will continue. For early childhood education, the goal is often to meet the child where they are developmentally and to help them acquire skills in a way they can manage. This requires knowing each child and how to best help them- I believe this is a goal to which all who are involved in education can aspire.

This week I said I would talk a bit about numbers. If you are familiar with my children's music, you know I enjoy a bit of word play involving numbers. From my first album- "If one and one is two, I'll be there with you- If one and two is three, you'll be there with me." From my second album- "I am 1-2-3, going on a million, I'm a million moments going by- I am 4, 5, 6, 7 and a billion, I'm just working out the reason why."

Learning numbers as a young child is an important skill- fortunately there are a lot of ways to approach the skill in ways that are both hands on and a bit more conceptual. Here are some ways to help your child learn to count and use numerical concepts such as time.

Hands on learning-literally!- Using our fingers to count is a powerful way for young minds to associate numbers with quantities- 2 hands, 5 fingers on each hand, and 10 fingers. However, one of the best counting activities I have seen for young children is a Montessori style matching the number to the same amount of small objects (see below). Picking up small objects and counting them develops a one-to-one correspondence of numbers to objects. Ask children to "touch one, count one," and your child will soon learn to be intentional and concrete when counting.

Time concepts- Learning about time can be tricky for youngsters. We can't really see time, even if we use clocks and calendars. Birthdays definitely help with learning that we measure time in years- I would suggest that music can also help demonstrate how time can be measured. Rhythmic patterns demonstrate ratios and mathematical patterns long before children will study fractions and sequences, however, being exposed to music at a young age is much like being exposed to language. Children will be able to speak this "language" their whole lives. In addition, using music to learn about time makes it hands on learning- just think about counting to 4 as you hit a drum to the beat. This can often make the concept of time more easily acquired for little ones.

There are a lot of good songs for little ones to help memorize time concepts like days of the week, etc. So much in fact they will be the subjects of  future blogs. We'll start with finger plays that use five fingers when I post next week. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Learning to Read

Well, it’s back to school for me and my son tomorrow. Last week, I said I would write about creative ways to help your little one learn to read. I will keep that promise, although make an shorter post so I can get back to making sure all my ducks are in a row for tomorrow. Here are some tips on how to have a language rich environment to encourage early literacy.

Letters everywhere- Letter magnets, letters for the bathtub, letters on blocks, letters on puzzles- there are lots of ways to include letters in your child’s play area. I remember my son had a gizmo that sang a song and said the sound the the letter made. You can also use the letters when you play with your child and sing the song yourself. (The sound will be more clear that way).

Read every day- Find a time- bedtime, after school- to read with your child. Interact with your child, and talk about the book your are reading as well. Get a little silly- find books in which your child is interested. The more fun you have, the more your child will want to read.

Expose your child to media that celebrates reading- For my generation, it was Reading Rainbow. Nowadays it might be Super Why or Word World. There are plentiful choices here- do a little digging and you’ll be sure to find something you both enjoy.

Beginner readers- I highly recommend Bob Books for those little ones who are making some headway in recognizing letter sounds. There are different sets, and if you use them in order, careful to only move to the next book once your child has mastered the book they are on, your child will learn how to read.

I haven’t done this much up until now, but I’m going to go ahead and plug my own work. (This makes two weeks in a row of doing this). Here’s my new video about learning to read and the joy of reading- aptly based on my experience teaching my son to read. Hope you like it! Tune in next week for more tips on teaching early childhood skills- how about numbers?