Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September: Leaves, Crayons, Apples. Beginning of Potential + Promise

Every year while we are still in northern WI, I go on a search for the "FIRST" tree that I spot that has done the dance-with-color. I am always amazed to spot one tree that is by FAR more colorful than all of the neighboring trees. Our last day up north was two days back, August 30th and there she stood towering in splendor -- while every other tree on the peninsula is still 99.9% summer green. 

I marvel over that one gifted and talented "early adopter" who leads the way. Right there on Old Stage Road. In front of the ye ol' Moravian church. In all her glory. What's that all about? How is that possible? What starts the charge to seasonal change? 

Fall Arts + Crafts Projects for Children (Fall RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)
Fall Leaves RoundUP of Art Projects over at RainbowsWithinReach {click pic for link} 

Some of our school friends have already been back and have their routines established by now. Others follow the traditional agrarian rhythm and begin next week after Labor Day. Early adopters. Other hemispheres on the planet are on their own plan. 

Back to School "Crayon" Decorated Classroom Doors via RainbowsWithinReach

Where ever you fall in your back-to-school process, I know the excitement and preparation required to launch a brand new year. Congratulations on all that you have done to get the year underway with greatest promise. There is so much potential in all those new boxes of crayons! 

I grabbed those two decorated classroom doors from this UBBER popular "Back-to-School Bulletin Boards" Roundup on my personal blog. Over 200 bulletin board ideas and a few decorated doors thrown in for good measure! 

THE Collection of over 200 Back-to-School Bulletin Boards at RainbowsWithinReach

When I think of launching the new year, I think of the recent conversation I had with a Colorado Kindergarten teacher, already at the helm for the last couple weeks. As we were discussing the details for my upcoming school visit, she shared that in all of her decades of teaching, this year's incoming Kinder class is by far the LEAST developed in Fine Motor Skills that she has ever seen. 

We talked at length about the skills missing as children become more and more adept at manipulating the world through a screen and less and less capable of maneuvering a pencil.

This seems like the perfect time to share this RoundUP of FIFTY articles detailing the connection between 
Fine Motor and Fine Arts! 

50 Editions of Fine Motor Meets Fine Arts at RainbowsWithinReach

Even more specific for Fine Motor Development is to start with a 'sign in' process. 
Here are 9 different styles that I have documented in my classroom school visits. 

9 Examples of Fine Motor "Sign-in Systems" in Kindergarten and Preschool at RainbowsWithinReach

I do have two YouTube videos for supporting Fine Motor. 
They were commissioned by Zaner-Bloser and are housed over at YouTube. 

This may be as close as I get to being "Sesame Street" quality. 
LUV LUV LUV them and I know that you will, too! 
The first is "Top to Bottom" and is all about print directionality. 
Needs to be on your daily September play list! 

The second is entitled "Sky Writing" and is all about using your imagination to 'see' shapes and letters before writing them on your paper. 

Did you see Carolyn's article last month on name writing and her FREEBIE? It was the most read article of the entire month! Check it out if you missed it. 
Do you always start the year off with a great unit on APPLES? 
How's this for a piggy-back song?
Get the tune for "B-I-N-G-O" into your head.  

APPLE RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach: Piggyback Song for Back-to-School

I have DOZENS of ideas and inspiration for Apples over in this article. 

There's a great portion dedicated to non-standard estimation! 
Apples in Estimation and Charts via RainbowsWithinReach


Let me gather some other perfect for LAUNCHING RoundUPs. 
Just click the picture. 

185 Ideas to Organize your Classroom NOW! {RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach}

71 Examples of Classroom Rules: RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

EPIC {Painted} Hands & Feet RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

Graph & Diagram RoundUP: 125 Ideas from REAL Classrooms at RainbowsWithinReach

Anchor Charts on Hangers! Organization and Collection of Anchor Charts: RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

Did you get all of your continuing education accomplished during your summer break? My webinar for Frog Street Press has now been archived and you can receive an 'hour' for your files by watching the broadcast version and taking a four question quiz. 

And the very best part? IT IS FREEEEEE!

FREE Webinar! "Making Monday Matter" by Debbie Clement with Frog Street Press EARN CONTINUING ED CREDIT!

All you have to do is register to become a member of the Early Childhood Community and voila! You're in and earning credit. Mary Jo Huff, my long time friend and supporter just gave her SECOND webinar. Once you get into the archives, you'll find that Dr. Jean, Dr. Pam Schiller and Dr. Becky Bailey each have segments as well! Thank you Frog Street for such an amazing support of our ECE community! 


TODAY IS TUESDAY! That means Twitter Chat with your #TeacherFriends! 

Tonight's topic is one that every reader here will especially appreciate: 
"Music in the Classroom." 

To support your Twitter experience, 
we are now using an "open-chat" format and sharing our Questions ahead of time. 

This allows your thoughtful consideration and ease in participation. 
You're even welcome to schedule your answers! 


My goal for last month was to get a little 'movie' together of these incredible, amazing Wobble Seats that we distribute. The interest continues to increase as we have added the ability for schools to order using their Purchase Order forms. My sweet husband processes those and keeps track of all of the specifics. Pop over to YouTube to see these beauties at 'work' in the classroom {and family room} setting. 

Why yes. I did write and record a "Wobble Song" for the Wobble Seat company. 

We have also been approved as a "Special Request" vendor over at Donors Choose. 
We've supplied several completed projects now! 

Again, my husband Allen takes care of all of those details. 
If you have questions, by all means #AskAllen! 

WobbleSeat.com The Answer Man: AskAllen for quotes and PO support

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

 Oh, Bunny Foo Foo!   There are so many different rabbits around.
Why do you persist? 
Little Bunny Foo Foo is so well known because of his bopping the mouse on the head.  For years, children have sung this song and laughed.  When my job as a music teacher got me working with children younger and younger, I noticed it had different significance and provoked different reactions from younger children.  So, I changed the words.  In this version, BFF sits by himself to think of better choices and decides to hug the mouse.  Here's the video:
When we teach about bullying, we must teach not just to the child who must defend themselves, but to the bully, too.  Peter Alsop a child’s psychologist and award-winning children’s musician, has some good songs (and advice) on this topic. We can get everyone to learn how not to be bullied; yet, if we don't teach the bully how to change, they'll just keep bullying.  
       Using this perspective, I took the traditional tale and inserted some child friendly advice on how to handle this type situation.
       When a child is hit, we first go to that child and help to calm them, thus stopping the flow of all that cortisol and letting the child know they are safe.  THEN, we go to the aggressive child and tell the child "You hit.  Hitting hurts.  You may not hit.  Let's go use words and talk to Squeak".        The child must then apologize.  Saying "I'm sorry" is a quick fix so they can get on to hit the next kid.  It is important to learn to say "I'm sorry" and that has to be attached to what "I'm sorry" means.  A big last step is the person accepting the apology doesn't have to immediately play with that person again.  We can teach children to say "Thank you for apologizing.  I don't feel safe with you yet.  I need some space."  When we teach that when someone says "I'm sorry" we must play with them again, we teach people to stay in abusive relationships.  


Letting children act out a lesson helps them process it better therefore gaining a deeper understanding

I'd like to state that we can go overboard about an anti-bullying stance.  Children need to learn, through uninterrupted interactions, how to handle things on their own.  Adults do not need to jump in at the first sign (or possibly second) of a child being 'pushy' or 'bossy'.  There's a good chance the other children will stop him (or her) naturally.    
   In an episode of "Modern Family" Lily's dad imposed himself into the children's game.  There were so many other actions he could have taken.  The episode showed exactly what adults shouldn't do.  It was a good lesson in stepping back and letting kids work it out.

        Before closing on this statement, I’d like to share a bulletin board designed by children in a NYC Head Start Program.  I had worked with them on the story of Little Bunny Foo Foo.  The techniques from the book were used for conflict resolution and the children remember the lesson well.  As a matter of fact, I saw it in action.  
     A little girl had been poking the boy in front of her.  He kept moving his body as children will but saying nothing.  The director said to me, “Watch this.  You will be so proud.”  She walked over and asked “Is she bothering you?” to which the boy replied, “Yes.” 
“What would you like to say to her?” the director asked.  The little boy turned and said, “I don’t like it when you poke.  Stop it.” 
“I’m sorry” was the reply. And, she put out her arms for a hug.  
The little boy said, as was taught by the Bunny Foo Foo lesson, “I don’t feel safe but thank you for the apology.”
The director saw the little girl’s hurt fact and asked the boy, “Will you feel safe tomorrow?”
“Yes” he said and the little girl said, with a smile, “See ya tomorrow!” 
What a joy to watch two children work it out!  
 It's important that a child feels uncomfortable when they make a bad choice.   
Madelyn SwiftMadelyn Swift , author of “Teach Your Children Well”,  has stated that if children are not made to feel uncomfortable for a bad choice, they will repeat that bad choice.  

We must remember that children need us to:
   Take the time and explain what they've done and what that action has caused.  
   Be mindful that the action is hurtful, not the child.  
   Give the child a way out to fix what they've done.   

Dr. Becky Bailey has very helpful information and tools through Loving Guidance materials.  A visit to her website by clicking on that link would be time well spent.

 If you must have Little Bunny Foo, please let it be the new, improved version, which is available at many outlets including The Mar. Mall

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Homemade Board Game

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

homemade DIY trail game (Brick by Brick)

In last month's post, I mentioned that I loved to find teaching items at the office supply store. I made a game for my kids to use -- and all the items are from the office supply store (or the office section of a discount store).


homemade board game (Brick by Brick)

  • File folder
  • Color Coding Labels (colored circle stickers)
  • File folder labels (white rectangle stickers)
  • Index cards
  • Small binder clips
  • Envelope
You'll also need a black marker and a pair of scissors.

Making the Game

Open the folder. Place a white rectangle label on one side of the folder; print Start on the label. Place another white rectangle label on the other side of the folder; print Finish on this label.

Use the colored circles to make a trail from the Start label to the Finish label. Make a straighter trail for a shorter game (for younger kids). Or make a winding trail for a longer game. Alternate the colors as you choose.

homemade board game cards (Brick by Brick)

For the game cards, cut index cards in half. Place a colored circle sticker on each card half. 

Playing the Game

Stack the cards, face down, on or near the board. Guide kids to choose binder clips for game pieces. I bought colored binder clips to use. If you buy black binder clips, attach a colored sticker to each one to make game pieces. Or clip a card with colored sticker in the binder clip.

homemade board game (Brick by Brick)

Kids take turns choose a card and moving the game piece to a matching colored space. Play until all kids' game pieces reach the finish space.

Alternate Ideas

homemade board game word cards (Brick by Brick)

  • Make cards with color words. (You can add colored stickers or not.) Kids should read the words to move to the appropriate colored space.
  • Make cards with sight words. Add a color sticker to each card. Kids read the sight word before moving to the colored space.
  • Make cards with letters and color stickers. Kids can say the letter (and make the sound).
  • Make cards with numbers and color stickers. Kids can say the number or count to the number.
  • Make cards with quantities of dots and color stickers. Kids can name the quantity or count the dots.
  • Make cards with questions to recall a story or other information. Kids can answer questions or talk about the information before moving to the colored space.
  • Use a cube instead of cards. Place a colored sticker on each side of the cube. Kids roll the cube and move along the trail.
  • Use a numbered cube. Kids roll the cube and count along the trail instead of using colors to move.
homemade board game (Brick by Brick)

Store the cards (and game pieces if you choose) in an envelope. Place the envelope inside the folder and file the game. Or tape the envelope on the back of the folder for storage. Tape along the two sides and the bottom, leaving the flap open so cards can be inserted and removed.

This game board can be used in lots of different ways. It is adaptable to different age groups or different areas. It can be easily stored.

homemade board game (Brick by Brick)

And it's all made from the office supply store. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


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

Drum roll, please for two announcements:
1. For those in the Chicago area, the Children’s Music Network (CMN) is hosting a Regional Gathering at the Evanston Library this Saturday, August 22, at 1:30pm. Sanna Longden, internationally renowned folk dance expert and teacher, is the keynote, and both Susan Salidor (a Chicago treasure) and I are doing a brief presentation. We’ll end with a song-swap – always a treasure trove of delightful ideas, songs, books and movement activities to learn then share with your kiddos. Please come!

2. The annual Children’s Music Network Conference, is being held in Zion, Illinois, from October 16-18. This year’s theme is Open the Circle. Musicians, teachers, songwriters, librarians, families, and friends from all over the U.S. and Canada will come together to raise their voices in song, share resources, celebrate the life of Pete Seeger, and attend engaging and relevant workshops on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lots of special events are going to be offered, including nature walks, yoga, a barn dance, and more. If you’re new to CMN, we’ll even match you up with a “buddy” for instant connection! Come for the music – and stay for the laugher and fellowship. Connect on Facebook for more information. 

Sing, Sing a Song….
The summer is hurtling toward its end, and teachers everywhere are either back teaching already (!) or preparing their classrooms for the start of the new academic year. This week, I am attending the Teacher Institute for an early childhood center I teach at – a true pleasure. The visionary leadership and Reggio approach have touched my heart in profound ways, and the association with this special community has greatly contributed to my joy of teaching.


Today’s session touched upon mindfulness, and how the simple practice of purposefully identifying something to look forward to the next day can positively improve wellbeing. We were encouraged to close our eyes and think of a future event that would give us pleasure. When I closed my eyes, I “saw" a group of children singing together. I felt my whole body soften. My thoughts skipped to a recent William James quote, tweeted by the Children’s Music Network social media goddess, Alina Celeste. To wit: “I don’t sing because I’m happy. I’m happy because I sing. Truth encapsulated in 11 words.

Music, especially singing, contributes to the delicate alchemy required to create a positive and engaging classroom environment – but where to start? With a hello song, of course! In this and next month’s post I’ll be sharing favorite songs to start your year off  happily and musically. All are classroom tested, kiddo approved – and two examples use words piggybacked onto melodies you already know!

Mary Wore Her Red Dress
I initially found Mary Wore Her Red Dress in Ruth Crawford Seeger’s American Folk Songs for Children. If you do not own a copy, run, do not walk, to your preferred bookseller and get one! In print continuously since 1948, the scope, sequence and developmental whys and hows are as fresh pertinent as any current early childhood research. I feel so strongly about the book that I requested my music school purchase a copy for every one of our early childhood and general music teachers – and they did! Thank you, Merit!

The melody of Mary Wore Her Red Dress is simple, but not simplistic. The lyrics are open-ended, and can be adapted to a host of purposes beyond singing hello. The end use is only limited by the imagination of the singers. Here’s the inimitable Pete Seeger singing the song. Here’s another version, with an unexpected twist:

The original lyrics:
Mary wore her red dress,
Red dress, red dress.
Mary wore her red dress,
All day long.

To turn the lyrics into a hello song, rock gently side to side on the beat while singing:
Hello to the children,
Children, children.
Hello to the children
This fine day.

Details: The first several times I meet with the children, we sing hello to everything in the room, the sun or trees or rain outside, and whatever body parts we want to acknowledge. The repetition makes it easy to introduce new vocabulary.

Once the kiddos are comfortable with the song, I introduce other languages, e.g., Hola to the children, Bonjour to the children, Shalom to the children, etc. I recommend that you sing the new greeting two or three sessions before moving on to another language.

Bonus: Mary Wore Her Red Dress is a great vehicle for gathering children for Storytime (Time for a story, story, story…). It’s even been made into a book!

Time to Say Hello! / Down By the Bay

Down By the Bay is a fun and engaging echo song – with lots of rhyming opportunities. I highly recommend the whimsical “Raffi Songs to Read” version.
At some point, years into singing the song, it occurred to me that the melody was the perfect vehicle for using different languages to say hello. Making language substitutions is easy, and the echoing makes the song immediately successful. Eventually your kiddos may sing both parts – with or without you, as has happened in some of my kindergarten classes…and isn’t that what we want, for our kiddos to delight in and take ownership of what we share with them?

Time to say ni hao* (kiddos echo)
Time to say joon san,
and guten tag,
Jambo and hola,
Hi and hello,
It’s time to sing –
And so let’s go!

*Bonjour (French), Dia dhuit (Irish), Pree viet (Russian), Bom dia (Portugese), Shalom (Hebrew), Merhaba (Turkish), Jambo (Swahili), Namaste (Hindi), O’siyo (Cherokee).

Pat the beat while singing the song. When the children are comfortable, sing the song while clapping the rhythm. Ask the children to echo. I use the term “rhythm hands.”

Thank you for reading. Next month will bring more songs – with movement elements. Until then, keep on singing, because as Ella Fitgerald says,...

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 instrument exploration and family networking. The next session is August 24. Starting in September, Storytime is going to be offered once a month on the 2nd Monday.

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 * gardengoddess1@comcast.net

Blog History
June 2015. Summer Songs

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back To School with Excitement - and MUSIC!

Miss Carole's back to school - in the 60's!
   “Back to school” – what do you think of first?  Miss Carole here, of Macaroni Soup!  I think of the new outfit my mom always sewed for the big day – in my end of Massachusetts it was the first Wednesday after Labor Day.  I was so excited to find out who my teacher would be for the year – we didn’t know until we lined up to go into the school building!  Would it be that “old, tough” lady?  Would it be someone new?  It was almost as exciting as Christmas morning!  Then it became less about the teacher, and more about seeing kids I hadn’t seen for three months, wondering if anyone would still like me, and seeing if there were “new kids” (read new cute boys!)  A new school year equaled excitement about the unknown.

    Can we still create that for the children we work with?  In many towns school begins in mid-August, or never ends in year-round schools.  I've seen children become a bit jaded about school at younger and younger ages .  I talked with a 2nd grader recently who was not looking forward to returning to school.  Eight years old, and the thrill was gone!  She said she wasn’t looking forward to all the work (learning should be fun, right?) and homework (at least 90 minutes per night) and no time to play until next summer. (Really?  Yup!  Her school has done away with recess!)

STOP THE MADNESS!  At least WE can bring the excitement back to the Early Childhood classroom. Here's a few gentle reminders before I turn on the tunes:
     If you teach K – remember that for at least the first 2 months your students are still in a Pre-K brain.  Getting self-organized, planning, finishing tasks independently and following what seems like a zillion instructions takes time and practice.  Their bodies are still begging for movement, freedom to explore their new environment and action! 

    If you teach PreK - remember that those 3’s are still in the Toddler brain (touch it, taste it, throw it – figure it out through exploration), and the 4’s are still in the 3-year old brain (watch, imitate, and explore through trial and error.)  They ALL need time and tasks to make the transition to preschoolers who can be independent AND dependent at the same time!

Bring on the MUSIC!  Singing and dancing can be a wonderful distraction from the stress of back-to-school.  Just yesterday I did a concert at a daycare where there was a toddler struggling with her second day there.  As soon as I started to sing she peeked from her caregiver’s lap.  By the third song she was nodding and smiling.  By the time we were up and dancing her hands were in the air and her feet were prancing!  Now I know that music will not solve all the problems of humanity, but in my little world, it’s magic sometimes!
    Here are a few of the songs I’ll be singing with the bright, shiny faces in front of me this September!

Pointing to selves, "I May Be Little"

I May Be Little   (by me!)                  For PRESCHOOLERS             
     Hear it HERE, or on my Parents’ Choice GOLD Award-winning cd “Polka Dots!”  It’s a scale song- going down from Do to Do.

I may be little but I can do lots of things, you can, too!
Clap my hands, one-two-three
Clap your hands along with me!
Turn around, turn around, 
Don’t be late!

"Stretch my hands way up high!"

(Additional verses:  stamp my feet, stretch my hands way up high, sit back down and tap my knee – or add you favorite motion)

"Sit and tap my knee"

Everybody Clap Your Hands!    
(learned from Ella Jenkins, author unknown)
     Hear it HERE, or on my “Stinky Cake!” recording.  PRESCHOOL 4’s and K - and younger children with help.

Everybody Clap Your Hands!
This great little zipper song will get everyone moving and giggling!  Just zip in the next activity and sing it again!

Everybody clap your hands!
Everybody clap your hands!
Everybody, come on and clap your hands!
v.2  Stamp your feet
v.3  Jump up high
v.4  Turn real slow
v.5  Wiggle around
v.6  Clap and stamp
v.7  Clap, stamp and turn
v.8  Everybody sing along (with tongue sticking out - see picture below!)

Dancing Scarf Blues  (by me)    KINDERGARTEN and PRESCHOOL 4’s

 Hear it HERE in it's entirety, or on my “Dancing Feet” cd.  You will need scarves – I use these colorful, durable scarves from BearPawCreek. A 13-pack is only $22 and comes in a great mesh bag - be sure to put MacSoup in the coupon code box for a special discount!

V.1:      Put your scarf to the side, then back the other way
            Keep your scarf a-movin’ now you can sway!
You’ve got the blues – you’ve got the dancing scarf blues, Yeah!
Just keep your scarf a-movin’, you’ve got the dancing scarf blues.

V.2       Put your scarf to the front, and then to the back
            Careful, keep it movin’, don’t you give me no flack!

Chorus, Bridge:
Turn your scarf around, your head around, your hips around, too.
Then FREEZE!  It’s called the Dancing Scarf Blues!
Then jump up’n’down and up’n’down and up’n’down, FREEZE!
Don’t move a muscle, I’m watching you!

V.3       Shake your scarf way up high, then shake it down low.
            Shake up’n’down and up’n’down – look at you go!


DIRECTIONS:  Follow the directions built into the song!  Put some “attitude” into the “Yeah” each time.  Encourage children to stand with enough space between them that no one gets hit – although that’s why scarves are one of my favorite manipulatives – they’re soft!  As a "big finish", toss your scarf high into the air and say "YEAH!"
Everybody Sing Along - with your tongue sticking out!

     Now, get the serotonin and adrenaline flowing in your students’ brains and bodies to start the school year off with smiles and laughter.  Let me know if it works!

      One more thing - need inspiration to go back to school and be awesome - watch this video.  This kid says it all!

Yours for a Back-To-School Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners!
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