Posts tagged Writing
Making Music: Tips for Circle Time Success

No one wants to sing a song with a group of squirmy, inattentive, interrupting children. It’s just plain frustrating! Good teachers set the bar high for good behavior, but excellent teachers engage the restless like Mary Poppins with her magic bag.

While there’s no movie magic in real life, effective music strategies and an enthusiastic attitude can work like magic to command the attention of even the wiggliest child. Check out the article “Circle Time Singing Is More Important Than You Think” to learn more about the research behind the magic.

Here are six tips and strategies to get you going. 

1. Embrace the Fun

To nurture a love of music in kids, we need to demonstrate our love. Pick a fun song and embrace the silliness. For example, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is nearly a surefire hit (See Printable). In the song, an old lady swallows a fly, of course, and then goes about swallowing ever larger creatures to catch whatever she ate last. As the creatures grow more and more absurd, so, too, does the hilarity.

The song's simple fun has two hidden teaching objectives – ordering by size from smallest to largest and sequencing backwards. Plus, because it's a cumulative song it has a simple, repeatable structure that makes it great for playing with the lyrics. More on that in #6!

2. Be Expressive

To make the song more interesting, don’t forget to lead with dramatic facial expressions. Make sure to start out smiling and then raise your eyebrows, subtly shifting your face into greater expressions of surprise as the song moves from verse to verse. Peter, Paul, and Mary give a great example.

3. Get Children Into the Action

Adding body movements may strengthen memory and recall the order of the animals. It also calms the spirit. Instead of asking children to sit still while we sing, we should be asking them to sing with their whole bodies. You might make up your own movements (fluttering your hands for “fly” and wiggling your fingers for “spider”) or you might consider using sign language.

4. Make It a Game

If you are singing this as a group, consider choosing several children to represent each creature in the song. At the end of each verse, invite the child representing that verse’s creature to sit with the others in the middle of the circle.

If you are a parent singing at home, consider playing the role of the lady gobbling up the creatures. Your child might squeal with joy as you capture the fly (your child) and, with a little tickle, pretend that it is now in your belly. Depending on the age of the children, you might feel more comfortable with changing the last line to “Perhaps she’ll cry” instead of “die.”

5. Put It Out for Repetition

Singing in a group can be inspiring, and some children may want to repeat the experience later on their own. Put pictures of the different creatures (See Printable) in a basket on the classroom shelf or, if you are a parent at home, in a spot of your child’s choosing.

6. Write a Book

Emergent writers often love scaffolded writing experiences where they are responsible for illustrating on paper and writing a simple word or phrase. Because it’s a cumulative song, “The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” is a perfect compliment.

Using the template (See Printable), have children either write the original song or make up their own lyrics (“There was an old lady who swallowed a…porcupine!” (Cue laughter.) If children cannot yet write, encourage the illustrations and do the writing yourself to model.

After everyone who wants to has contributed (or if a child wants to make several pages), staple it into a book and sing it out loud. Because it’s a modified version, it won’t sound like the original, but don’t worry. Just make sure to giggle at each surprising ending.

If you are creating a book with only one child, start with just a few pages and then offer more. Some children will want to create many pages of silly verses.

Click here to download the printable kit.

A Beginner's Research Project

When we walked into the rainforest exhibit building at our local zoo, we were hit by a wave of warm, moist air. A soft fluttering of leaves drew our eyes up into the foliage, and a small, black monkey scampered into view. We stood still and watched that monkey for a very long time as it hopped from branch to branch, and when we came home, the impact of the experience was evident in the children's playful behavior. The oooh-ooohs and aaah-aaahs rang through the house.

What's a grown-up to do? Join them, of course! When the children have an experience that really impacts them, use it as the teachable moment. Here are a few tips to guide this process.

1. Choose a time when the children are relatively calm and ready to learn. A great way to get kids to calm down is to rev them up first! Trust me on this. A good romp gets the blood going and brain cells firing.

One monkey song I adore (who doesn't?) is Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed. It's even better if you are actually jumping on a bed, but even if you aren't, I recommend that you join in with them and act the part of the doctor, examining their heads and shaking your finger gently at them. Another funny monkey song I love is Aba Daba Honeymoon, an oldie but goodie written 1914 and famously recorded by Debbie Reynolds in 1950. We usually use rhythm sticks to tap the beat, and during the musical interludes, we twirl and jump.

2. Model brainstorming out loud. When the kids seem exhausted from the jumping, hold up a picture of a monkey and comment to yourself out loud something like this: "This is a monkey. I like monkeys! This one has a loooooong tail. I wish I had a long tail like that! I bet it would be fun. Hey, I wonder why monkeys have tails...."

3. Write your ideas down. If your child has the patience to brainstorm a million ideas about monkeys with you while you write them down, enjoy this learning time together. If your child is not the patient sort and is ready to move on, just scribble this this one idea down on a scrap of paper or on a dry erase board.

4. Research to find the answers. Use whatever resources are available to you. The next time you are at a public library, check out a few nonfiction monkey books to read at home. Look for nature-oriented monkey clips on YouTube. Type your questions into Google. Check out the Enchanted Learning Monkey webpage for inspiration and child-friendly information. Don't worry if your children are not coming up with their own questions and answers about monkeys. Remember that you are modeling this mode of learning, and it will pay off big time. Your children will surprise you someday with their own entire research project.

5. Make a hands-on impression. Choose a hands-on activity to go with your research study. If you are learning about monkeys, you might be interested in this crayon-rubbing activity. It would work for any jungle-related theme.

Here's an example of an activity I created using some basic leafy and viney designs cut out of a cereal box.

We placed the cardboard designs on a tray and put a white piece of paper on top. Rub, rub, rub in various colors. Ta-da! Jungle! We added our monkeys into the trees. My youngest did the rubbing himself and asked me to draw the monkey. (No problem, babe, I'm modeling this, too.) My oldest finished his jungle monkey and then used the cardboard piece that looks like a palm tree to create a beach scene on his next piece of paper. That kind of spontaneous creativity is the kind of thing I love, and it only happens if you model the process on a regular basis.