Monday, November 11, 2013

Turkey Tango!

It's time for The Turkey Tango!!  You and your students will LOVE dancing to this very silly song!!

Monday, September 9, 2013


We all know this song:

This is a good song to introduce American Sign Language to young children.  You don't want to sign every single word, but rather just a few words so that the children can get a feel for what it's like to have to speak with your hands instead of your voice.

When I sing this song with preschoolers, I sign the words more, together, happy, and sing.

Here are some links from that let you see how the signs look:

To complement a lesson about hearing loss, let me recommend a couple of good books appropriate for the preschool classroom.

Can You Hear a Rainbow?  by Jamee Riggio Heelan

Dina the Deaf Dinosaur by Carole Addabbo

Monday, August 26, 2013

Salut For August Bourneville in the Preschool Classroom


Hans Christian Lumbye (1810 - 1874) is a little known Danish composer of the Romantic period.  He wrote a lot of smaller works: polkas, mazurkas, waltzes and galops.  Many of this works are perfect to use in the preschool music class because they are short, catchy songs.

Lumbye's Salut to August Bourneville is a great song to use with preschoolers.  It evokes the feel of a train ride and it's clear quiet (piano) and loud (forte) passages make teaching about dynamics in music an easy task.

Here are some suggestions for using this song in a preschool music class:

1.  While listening to the song, tap your fingers gently on the floor or on your lap during the quiet passages and raise your hands over your head during the loud passages.  Quietly say, "piano, piano, piano" during the quiet passages and "forte, forte, forte" during the loud passages.

2.  Let the children move like a train while playing the song.

3.  Explain to the children that sometimes music is forte and sometimes it is piano.  Demonstrate these dynamics by speaking a nursery rhyme in both a loud voice and a quiet voice.  Make sure you emphasize that forte does not equal a yelling voice - it's more like a voice you would use to speak to someone across the room from you.

4.  Using a Mouse Puppet to represent piano and a Lion Puppet to represent forte, sing a simple song, such as London Bridge.  When you hold up the Mouse Puppet, the children sing quietly and when you hold up the Lion Puppet, the children sing in a big voice.  Again, emphasize that forte does not equal yelling!  Let the children take turns playing "conductor" and having them decide when the class sings forte and piano.

5.  Pair this lesson with some train songs, such as Down By the Station and This Train

Monday, August 12, 2013


At the end of each of my classes I award one student a Super Star Sticker.  At the beginning of each class, I acknowledge the previous week's winner by saying,

"Last week, Matthew was our Super Star.  Matthew, what do you have to do to earn a Super Star?"
"Participate and listen", is always the reply. (It's always cute to hear 4 and 5 year olds try to pronounce 'participate'!)
"That's right", I say, "You have to participate and listen.  So I will be looking for a Super Star today!".

I started doing this when I first started teaching preschool music classes.  It was a classroom management tool initially.  As my classroom management skills have grown, the Super Star has become a way for me to teach some very valuable social and character skills in my preschoolers.

It is hard for self-centered preschoolers to sit back and let someone else get all the attention.  Don't believe me?  Tell a 4 year old that you like her new shoes.  Suddenly every kid in the area is asking, "Do you like MY shoes too?".  We are born self-centered and have to learn to consider other people and to work together as a team; there is nothing wrong with preschoolers being self-centered, it's just the way it is.  So, as I hand out more Super Star stickers this week, here is what I am teaching:

1.  Let someone else get the attention for a little while. Sometimes a student will cry when their name is not announced at the end of class, and I have to take a moment to remind him that this is their friend's time to be Super Star and we are happy for them.  I have had to ban several things that kids say during the Super Star announcement.  Here are a few example:

  • I never get Super Star.
  • I want to be Super Star
  • Super Star [insert name], you're my best friend
Now some of you may look at that last line and think that's a cute thing to say.  But really, what it implies is 'I want to be close to someone who is getting all the attention so that maybe I can get a little attention also'.  It's akin to suddenly gaining a dozen new friends after winning the lottery - you know that the new friends are only there for their own interest.

2.  Be supportive when good things happen to a friend.  After I announce who the 'winner' is, the child comes to the front of the and while I am placing the sticker on the child's shirt, the whole class says, "Good job Matthew!".  We encourage and support one person together.  This is a hard life lesson for us as adults sometimes, so imagine how hard it can be for preschoolers!

3.  Sometimes we have to wait for good things to happen to us.  Another tough lesson, even for adults to learn!  Eventually everyone in my class will be Super Star, even those rowdy kids who spend too much time in time out!  In a class of 10 or 12, each child will be Super Star several times over the course of a year. However, in a class of 25 or 30, a child may only get one chance to earn the Super Star in a year's time.
For preschoolers, it's hard for them to remember that they got to be Super Star in February and here it is August and isn't it about time for them to get another?  I keep meticulous notes about who the winners are, so that I can be equitable and  fair is awarding the Super Star.

Let me add, that I only use the Super Stars in classes of 4 and 5 year olds.  I tried doing this with 3 year olds and learned the hard way that 3 is just too young to have one child get special attention; they just aren't developmentally prepared to deal with it.  

Let me end by telling you about one of the Super Stars from last week:  When I announced who the Super Star was and awarded him his sticker, the little boy went back to his place in the circle, then stood up and announced very loudly, "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!".  Who knew that a little sticker could instill so much pride in a preschooler?  And that, perhaps, is one of the best reasons to have a Super Star in the classroom; because the winner will gain a sense of pride and will be empowered to know that sometimes, when we do the right thing, good things happen to us.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Even if you have no musical ability, you can still teach your preschoolers some basic music skills.  One easy skill to teach preschoolers is that music is written on a staff and a staff is made up of 5 lines and 4 spaces.  Use some floor space to make a giant staff - this is an easy project and provides students a tool for hands on learning.

Tools Needed:

Wide Masking Tape
Yard Stick

What To Do:

Measure off a straight line with the yard stick.  Keep the stick in place while you stretch off the tape onto the floor.
Repeat 4 more times.
Connect the ends together with the tape.

You will want to make sure that there is plenty of room in between the lines for a preschooler to stand on - 6" or so is a good distance between lines.

You can add a clef sign or not.  Personally, I would leave it out so that you can use it for whichever clef you fancy.

A floor staff is a great teaching tool!  You can make bean bags and ask the students to put the bags on all the Line Notes or on all the Space Notes.  Students can also be the "notes" themselves and walk on all the Line Notes or the Space Notes.  If you are able to read notes yourself, start teaching the students the names of the notes on the staff.  If you can't read music, don't worry, learning the difference between line notes and space notes is a very important skill for young musicians - you can take pride in knowing that you are helping to instill foundational music skills in your preschoolers!

Monday, July 22, 2013


One elephant went out to play
Upon a spider's web one day
He found it such enormous fun
That he called for another elephant to come

Elephants, elephants, elephants, elephants

Two elephants went out to play
Upon a spider's web one day
They found it such enormous fun
That they called for another elephant to come

Preschoolers LOVE this song.  The rendition by the C.R.S. Players is especially catchy and uses a low, male voice to sing the "elephants, elephants...".  (Young boys need to hear the lower range of a male voice being sung).  There are several ways that this song can be utilized in the preschool classroom.  Here are a couple of suggestions:

1.  Simply sing it.  Hold up the correct number of fingers to correspond with the number of elephants.  This helps young children develop fine motor skills.

2.  Make  popsicle stick puppets out of elephant pictures.  Hold up one puppet when you sing 'one elephant', two puppets for 'two elephants', etc.

3.  Let one student start off as the elephant.  When you 'call for another elephant to come', he gets to pick a friend who holds on to the first child by the waist and they walk around the room until you 'call for another elephant to come'.  Continue adding 'elephants' until every child is part of the elephant chain.

Monday, July 15, 2013


As a music specialist, I do not sing songs to teach academic skills.  No counting songs, no color songs, no songs about the names of the US presidents.  These are valid uses of music and can provide a fun way for teachers to engage students in the learning process.  But my job as I see it, is not to teach about food groups, presidents or the ABC's. My job is to teach music skills to preschoolers.  And I think I do that in a fun, engaging and developmentally appropriate manner.  If an outside source is going to be utilized to teach music, or even if a full-time music teacher is on staff, the educational goals should be different from what the classroom teacher's goals are.  Here are what I consider the most important aims for a preschool music class:

1.  Preschoolers should learn to keep a steady beat.  Tapping, clapping, walking, swaying, simply moving in time with the beat will help young children internalize the pulse of music.  Even if my overall focus for a class is another skill, I almost always model beat-keeping in one or two songs every class.  Feeling the pulse of the music should become natural to students.  Remember, that many preschoolers do not have the ability to keep a steady beat - it's a progressive skill.  Sometimes this skill is not fully developed until age 7 or 8.  Don't demand that preschoolers get this skill right.  Simply model it for them and eventually the skill will come.

2.  Preschoolers should learn basic musical terminology.  Do not go overboard with this skill, but definitely include it in lesson plans.  Piano, Forte, Fine, Composer, Allegro, Adagio, Names of Instruments; these are all terms that preschoolers can learn.

3.  Preschoolers should understand the singing voice.  Sometimes when my students get excited about a song I have to remind them to use their singing voice.  Most 4 and 5 year olds understand the difference between singing and talking, a singing voice and a yelling voice (though this is not necessarily true for younger children).

4.  Preschoolers should be able to listen for different elements in music.  For example, loud vs. quiet passages, when the trumpet takes the melody as opposed to the flute, when music changes from a major key to a minor key, etc.  Help students recognize the sound of different instruments.  Preschoolers can identify the sound of a piano, guitar, violin, cello, etc, if we help them hear those differences.

5.  Preschoolers should understand simple rhythmic notation.  Every class I teach has a simple rhythmic notation game.  We spend less than 2 minutes engaged in the activity, but the sheer repetition of exposure to the skill has paid off.  Several parents have told me that when their child went off the kindergarten that the school's music teacher was surprised at how much the child knew about rhythmic dictation.  Again, simplicity is the name of the game.  I use quarter notes, barred eighth notes, half notes, quarter rests and for the 5 year old, I introduce triplets.

Preschoolers are capable of learning more than we give them credit for.  Approach a music class like you would a reading, science or math class.  Have a goal for learning, a definite skill you want to focus on and then have fun!