We've had a fairly dry winter so far - which I'm thankful about after last year's snowy mess! But, I did look out the window just a few minutes ago to see a few big beautiful flakes beginning to fall and it reminded me of an winter song that I used to sing and dance to with my younger kiddos. It's called "Dance Like Snowflakes" and the author is unknown. It's sung to the tune of Frere Jacques and it's fun to sing, dance around in a circle and pretend to be snowflakes!
I purchased the Kidsplay 8 Note Hand Bell Set with a case many years ago and have gotten countless hours of use during my sessions with them. I'm going to post more activities that can be done using handbells after the holidays, but for now I'd like to share a Christmas song that can be played on the handbells.
Begin by encouraging the child to choose the bells with the colors on the page below (red, green, orange, light blue, yellow, and dark blue) If the child is able to play all bells notated, place all bells on the table or floor in front of them. If all bells are too challenging, place 1 or 2 in front of the child to begin with. You may play the other bells if you wish.
Practice pointing to the words and encourging the child to ring the correctly colored bell when you speak the word (ie: ring the red bell when you speak "wish"). Once they have mastered the ringing while speaking the words, slowly sing the words while pointing to them and encourage the child to ring the appropriate bell.
If your child finds this activity easy, you might consider playing a duet with the piano, guitar or Q-chord and bells! (Make sure the piano and guitar are in tune with the bells!)
Another song that I have used to stimulate interaction with my children is "I Am Thankful". The tune is familiar and I added very easy words. This activity can easily be used with one child or in a group. In a group setting, you might sit in a circle, sing the song and go around the circle letting each child take a turn filling in the blank with what they are thankful for! Give a verbal or singing prompt (ie: my mother, my father, my teacher, my dog, etc.) if a child has difficulty thinking of what to say.
It's always nice to have a song or two for each season to use with your kids and this is one that I've had fun using for Thanksgiving. As your child becomes familiar with the melody, it's fun to sing it faster and faster! Singing gobble, gobble, gobble rapidly can be a fun exercise in language skills!
In choosing an instrument for the Rhythm Bag, I thought how seasonally appropriate the Turkey Gobbler would be! It's really a pretty silly instrument, but is one of the most popular in my Rhythm Bag. Why? Well, when you hold and firmly shake the Turkey Gobbler, it makes a sound quite similar to a turkey and my kids loved it! I frequently hide it when I want my client to find an instrument to use when interacting through music, but find it motivating and useful as a reward for another task well done.
I also find it useful for children with auditory sensitivities. The sound is a bit obnoxious, yet many of my children will still want to shake it and to explore the sound as it is really quite different!
I purchased a set from West Music a few years ago and unfortunately I don't find it in their catalog anymore. They do however have the Basic Beat Canary Stick and the Basic Beat Quack stick which should yield similar results!
A guiro is a rhythm instrument typically fashioned from a gourd or wood. It is hollow and has a series of ribs across the body. It's played by scraping a wooden stick across the ribs or ridges in long or short sweeps. It provides a unique ratchety sound and an interesting tactile sensation in both the hand holding the instrument and the hand scraping the ridges.
Play a copycat game using two guiros. The leader plays a rhythm pattern on his guiro such as short, short long and encourages the child to copy the same rhythm on his guiro. Make the pattern more challenging by lengthening it or adding rests or pauses to the pattern.
Also check out this video of this 9 year child with a wonderful voice. She is blind, autistic and has spastic movement in her arms. That does not get in the way of Kari expressing her music on the QChord.
Yeah! I Fed Ex'd the manuscript for my book "Music for Special Kids: Musical Activities, Songs, Instruments and Resources" to Jessica Kingsley Publishers yesterday! The book should be printed and ready in early 2011. JKP has some wonderful books about children with special needs. Here is the link to their website if you want to check them out!
Are your students back at school? Could you use a movement song to help them get rid of all the summer wiggles? The Up Down Boogie is a movement song I wrote to work on directional concepts while rockin' out. Boogie on over to this link to download your FREE mp3 with lyrics today only!! Leave me a comment to let me know how your kiddos enjoy it!
Rainsticks come in many different shapes and sizes. I have 3 different ones that are different in length, sound and weight. Many rainsticks are made from cactus. Nails, cactus spines or pegs are affixed to the insideof the rainstick, then pebbles, beans, seeds or other small items are added. When the rainsticks is gently tilted, the pebbles or other small items fall past the pegs and create a rushing sound like rain.
Rainsticks are a terrific instruments to use when you would like to work on objectives such as motor coordination, and motor control. The smaller the rainstick, the easier it is to control and to create a consistent "rain" sound. Longer rainsticks are heavier and harder to control, but can provide a longer "rain" sound with good control.
The triangle is a popular percussion instrument that can be a good addition to your Rhythm Bag. The triangle provides the opportunity to work on several objectives such as developing fine motor skills, increasing motor coordination and decreasing auditory sensitivities.
To play the triangle, one holds a bar or loop that is attached to the top of the triangle with one hand and strikes the triangle with the beater held in the other hand. The triangle can also be suspended from a music stand.
The sound of a triangle can be described as sharp or tinny and can cause overstimulation in children with auditory sensitivities. Don't ever force a child to play the triangle if it causes obvious distress, instead, show them how to make a soft sound and see if they would like to hold and explore it.
Be sure to check out Chynna's blog while you're there. She provides wonderful tips, expert interviews, book and product reviews and insight for parents and families touched by someone with special needs.
"My Air Band" is a song I wrote many years ago but still use quite frequently. I use this song to try and increase interaction, to increase the recall of instruments I've introduced and how they are played, to stimulate the imagination and just to have fun together through music!
This song would work well with the instruments I've been highlighting in "My Rhythm Bag" as well as better known instruments such as the piano, guitar, drum and trumpet.
Once the child is comfortable with the song and the concept of playing an "air instrument" ask them to suggest an instrument to play!
Music Therapist Rachel Rambach has just released her first studio album of original songs entitled "Time to Sing Hello". The project was funded through fans, friends and family. The album download is free - but if you wish to make a donation, it will go towards recording her next studio album. My favorite song is "Move Your Body Along". Here is the link to listen or download her album!
As you collect instruments for your Rhythm Bag, take a picture of each one. Arrange them on a table or the floor in front of your child. Sit behind your child and briefly play or shake one of the rhythm instruments pictured without letting them see the instrument. Encourage your child to identify the instrument just played by pointing to or picking up the correct picture card.
As you add more instruments to your Rhythm Bag, add more picture cards to the game!
To make this game more difficult:
1. Add more instrument picture cards
2. Turn the cards over
To make this game easier:
1. Use less instrument picture cards
2. Show the child the instrument as you play it and have them match it with the picture card.
These simple wooden sticks with ribs provide both an auditory and tactile sensory experience. They can be played by rubbing them together or gently hitting them together. Monitor children around other instruments and people, as it can hurt to get hit by rhythm sticks! Here are a few suggestions for using rhythm sticks:
1. Encourage children to play the sticks to the beat of a song. Try a fast paced song - then a slower one.
2. Ask the child if they can play LOUD - then soft.
3. Ask the child to play high - then low.
4. To encourage interaction, hold your sticks in front of the child and ask them to play their sticks on yours. Move your sticks higher or lower and encourage them to follow.
5. Play your sticks fast - then ask the child to play the opposite! Repeat for loud - soft and high - low.
When teaching this song to kiddos that are just learning right and left, I usually speak the refrain and demonstrate the movements. For those that still have difficulty identifying the direction to move, I will have them pick a sticker and put it on their right hand. I can then give a verbal cue to help them identify the direction.
So - swing on over and download your free copy today!
The second instrument I would recommend for a rhythm bag is an ocean drum.
There are several different styles of ocean drums, but I like this Remo model because the the children I work with like the size and multitude of colors. If you gently rock the instrument from side to side, the beads provide a mesmerizing and pleasing sound somewhat like ocean waves. It also can be tapped with a finger or hand or tapped on a knee. This instrument provides a pleasant auditory and tactile experience.
Some of the children I work with are overly mesmerized by the colors, motion and sounds and have difficulty attending to activities encouraging the use of the ocean drum, so with them I tend to use the ocean drum as a reinforcement or reward for completion of a separate task.
For a limited time, Songs for Teaching is offering a free download of Maryann Harman's "Multiply and March By Two" song as well as the results of a trial combining multiplication drills with music and movement. It's a very catchy song - I may need to buy the rest of the CD! Be sure to follow the downloading instructions at the bottom of the page.
Whenever I work with children, whether in home or in my office, I bring along my "rhythm" bag. This is actually my "rhythm instrument" bag, but over the years it's been shortened to "rhythm bag". Apparently it's just a little easier for my clients (and me!) to say. Plus - the name fits! As I walk down the hall holding my "rhythm bag" it jingles and jangles, dings and tweets from such a combobulation of instruments knocking up against each other. The zipper doesn't work anymore and the bag hangs open when I set it on the floor, revealing some very used and loved instruments and enticing my little ones to work hard so they can pick something to play out of Ms. Pamela's "rhythm bag".
I've been asked by parents, teachers and therapists what instruments they should get to put together their own "rhythm bag". I thought it would be fun to add a new instrument recommendation for your bag with the next few posts.
The first instrument in my bag is a set of 4 colorful EGG SHAKERS.
Egg Shakers can be constructed of wood or plastic. I selected the Basic Beat Egg Shakers because I loved the colors, they are easy and comfortable to hold and they sound really nice! The sound is easily tolerated by most of my children with sound sensitivities and they provide a nice tactile sensation, yet are light and easy to hold. Egg Shakers can be held in the palm of your hand or between fingertips and thumbs.
I have 4 in my rhythm bag so I can give the child I am working with 2 of them and I can play two. Egg Shakers are relatively inexpensive and small. They work well in group activities, so if you work with a group you could easily keep 8 or more in your bag!
**As with anything that can be put in a child's mouth, monitor children carefully around Egg Shakers and other instruments.
Paddle drums come in a variety of sizes. The larger the head, the deeper the sound (and the heavier the instrument). I love the deep sound of the 14" drum, but find it can sometimes be too heavy for my children to hold for very long, so I usually use my 2 - 8" drums and 2 - 10" drums. The best thing about paddle drums is that they have a handle and can be used in ways that standard drums cannot.
One of the activities I like to do to stimulate coordination and motor skills is to march while playing the paddle drum. I encourage the child I am working with to hold the paddle drum with their non-dominant hand and the mallet with their dominant hand. Then, as I play a good recorded marching song (Yankee Doodle on my keyboard works quite well - good tempo and it's a familiar tune) and encourage the child the hit the drum with the mallet while marching in a circle around the room. If the child can accomplish this task on his own, I will play my own paddle drum and march along. Otherwise I will hold the drum while the child plays, or stand behind the child holding the drum and holding their wrist while assisting in playing the drum and moving along.
The music assists in the motor planning of marching and playing the drum.
The Remo paddle drums come in a variety of packages, include mallets and even include a ball that can be bounced on the head of the drum! Another favorite of my clients has been the Lollipop Paddle Drum. I use the Lollipop as a reward for participation in other activities as it can be visually distracting to some kiddos - as you can probably see!
I thought I'd occasionally input one of the "nonsense" or "silly" songs that I use with clients to stimulate communication skills. These songs have very catchy melodies and simple lyrics - or just syllables! I've found that many of these songs encourage vocal participation from several of my kiddos that have been reluctant to vocalize - maybe due to the simplicity of the lyrics, sounds or syllables.
The following traditional song called "Dum Dum Da Da" is one that many of you old Girl or Boy Scouts may remember!
I usually begin by singing the lyrics as written, then sing the melody in the following ways:
1. As a cat (meow, meow)
2. As a dog (ruff, ruff)
3. As a mouse (squeak, squeak)
4. As a lion (roar, roar)
Ask the child or children you are working with to suggest more animal sounds!
There are many Circle Time Songs that I have used over the years to promote interaction within a group of children or even to promote interaction between a student and teacher (or child/mother or client/therapist!).
I just ran across a website that lists several Circle Time Songs that might be something you can use with your child or class. Some have familiar tunes. If a tune isn't listed, try speaking the words in rhythm.
Are you tired of the same old songs? Or do you want to work on a particular objective and can't find the right song to do it?
Over the years, I have had a LOT of fun adding new words and verses to traditional or well known songs. One of my favorite children's fingerplay/rhyme songs is 5 Little Monkeys. Many of the kids I work with like this song, but frequently lose interest after the 2nd or 3rd monkey! Plus, I really wanted a song that I could do some sequencing activities with. So - I changed it around - added a familiar melody and verses to make it "3 Little Monkeys". Now there are hand motions to go with each of the verses and the old standard is new again!
Here are the words to my version of the "3 Little Monkeys". The music is available to download below the words!
3 Little Monkeys
(Adapted from 5 Little Monkeys - Additional words by Pamela Ott)
In my practice I have always begun my sessions with a hello song. This gets the attention of the individual I'm working with and provides structure - which is comforting to many of my kiddos. I'm sure this is true in preschool and kindergarten classes too - and it's a great way for children to transition into a "listening and learning mode"! Hello and other songs can also be used at home to get the attention of active and/or noisy little ones. Instead of calling their name, try singing softly and see if suddenly their attention is focused on you!
There are three songs I commonly use depending on who I am working with. The first is quite easy with very few words. After singing to my client, I then encourage them to sing it back to me. Many times I will sing with them, omitting the space for my name and encouraging the vocalization of my name.
The second hello is wordier and is quite appropriate in the classoom setting.
The third hello is a rap that I came up with for one of my pre-teen clients. His favorite type of music is rap and we play the bongo as we "rap" hello to help us stay on the beat.
Hello (to the tune of Goodnight Ladies)
Hello Suzie, Hello Suzie Hello Suzie, How are you today?
This is the Way We Start the Day! (to the tune of Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush) This is the way we start the day Start the day, start the day, This is the way we start the day, So early in the morning.
First we smile and shake a hand, Shake a hand, shake a hand, First we smile and shake a hand, So early in the morning. Then we sit down quietly, Quietly, quietly, Then we sit down quietly, So early in the morning. We listen very carefully, Carefully, carefully, We listen very carefully, So early in the morning.
Hello Rap My name is Anthony and I'm hear to say, It's time for music and I like to play! Today is Wednesday in the afternoon, I'm feeling ________, how 'bout you?
I talked a little bit about Sing and Read books in my post on 8/20/09 entitled "Books to Read and Sing!". Unfortunately, I am not aware of any particular studies that have measured the effectiveness of Sing and Read books (if you are aware of any - please let me know. I would love to read them!), but in my experience and with the common sense that rhythm and rhyme do assist in the acquisition of language skills, I have always used Sing and Read books with my clients. There are several qualities that I try to identify before purchasing a new Sing and Read book, and they are as follows:
1. It should be a melody that my children can readily learn
2. It should be repetitive
3. The pictures should give an idea of the meaning of the text
4. The font should be big enough that children can follow along with their fingers.
Two years ago, I decided to make a Sing and Read book of my own using one of my best selling songs entitled "Going On a Train". I worked with an artist and tried to follow my own rules (above). The result is a wonderful little book and cd combo (I'm not too biased!) that was extremely fun to put together. I'm planning on turning several more of my songs into Sing and Read Books - so stay tuned!
I made a short clip of "Going On a Train" this morning so that you can get a feel of what I'm talking about. If you would like to purchase the Going On a Train Book and CD set, click on the following link, which will take you to the CD's and Books section.
Going On a Train is also available as a song download below. The lyrics are included.
Well, now that we have the Days of the Week covered by familiar tunes, let's move on to Months of the Year! I still remember a song I learned in Kindergarten - just a few years ago! It was a song that listed the Months of the Year to a catchy marching tune - and we would march as we sang it! To physically experience the song and its rhythm and melody probably set it even firmer in my little mind! Wow - the power of music! I still find myself humming it on occasion. Here is a lead sheet with the words, melody and guitar chords in case you would like to try it!
I have two other versions of the Months of the Year set to familiar tunes that I have used over the years. They are:
Months of the Year to the Battle Hymn of the Republic
January, February, March, April and May,
June, July and August, then September's on its way.
October, then November, then December's at the end.
And we start all over again!
Months of the Year to Ten Little Indians
January, February, March and April,
May, June, July, August and September,
October, November and December
These are the months of the year
Two things I have learned when using familiar tunes to teach concepts.
1. It is probably best to pick one and stick to it. Several times I have tried to switch the tune and I end up getting confused and confusing my clients!
2. Some children may have difficulty using a familiar tune with different words. One of my clients, who has autistic tendencies, will now sing the new words, but has the need to talk about the common or "real" words to the tune each time. I beleive this has turned out to be a good experience for him because he has been able to "change the routine" just a little!
One more song that I an across a while ago can be found at this website called Education Oasis:
Want more easy Days of the Week songs? Here are two more!
Days of the Week sung to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star Sunday, Monday, Tuesday too. Wednesday, Thursday just for you. Friday, Saturday that's the end. Now let's sing those days again! Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday!
And here's my favorite - probably 'cause I grew up watching the Addams Family, taught to me by one of my clients who learned it in school!!
Days of the Week sung to the Addams Family tune Days of the week, (snap snap) Days of the week, (snap snap) Days of the week, Days of the week, Days of the week. (snap snap)
There's Sunday and there's Monday, There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday, There's Thursday and there's Friday, And then there's Saturday.
Days of the week, (snap snap) Days of the week, (snap snap) Days of the week, Days of the week, Days of the week. (snap snap)
Do you have other favorite Days of the Week songs?
As mentioned in a previous post (Music and Memory 4/1/10), music can certainly be used to aid in the retention of materials presented, but can it be used to help a child learn to sequence? One of the children I worked with had great difficulty in sequencing and both his parents and teacher thought that math and eading skills may be a struggle until he understood sequencing. In the following activity, I used melody and rhythm to help him anticipate the missing item. Once he grasped the idea of "what comes next", we were able to phase the music out and complete the activity using only visual skills.
During the activity, I would present a sequencing "strip" such as the one above. I have included the melody on this strip, however the "strips" I used with this child only had the pictures to prevent any additional visual distraction. In addition to the sequencing strip, I laid out additional pictures. (I started out using only 2 pics and worked up to 6 choices as he progressed)
I would sing the song for him while pointing to each picture in order. When I got to the blank box, I asked him to pick a picture and place it on the box. If it was difficult to choose the correct item, I asked him to sing along with me and many times he would automatically insert the name of the correct item! The melody and/or rhythm would assist him in determining the missing item.
I've given the example above using fruit. You can actually make strips using different groups such as colors, numbers, vegetables, animals, etc. I enjoy using pictures of musical instruments!
The sequences can be as easy or difficult as needed. By changing the number, order and placement of pictures, you can make a sequence that meets your childs needs!
If you would like musical sequences and picture cards, click on the Activity Download tab at the top of the page and them look for Sequencing Activity Download. The download includes pdf's of 5 sequences and pictures of instruments. I like to laminate each sequence and even the individual instrument cards to make them last longer!
Mother's Day is right around the corner and I wanted to share a song I wrote many years ago called "Love U So". Kelly from Aurora, CO wrote to tell me she used this song with her preschool class last year in a presentation to mom's on Mothers Day. I would have loved to hear her sweet 3 and 4 year olds sing it! The song is available for download here (the little girl singing is my daughter when she was 7 years old!) and the download includes the lyrics. This is also a great song to use when talking about emotions and feelings.
I should have the sheet music available to download in the next few days under the "Activity Download" section.
I'd like to wish all the mom's out there an early Happy Mother's Day!!
If you haven't been to Music for Special Kids in the last few days, you may have noticed a few changes! I've been working fervently to integrate my blog and website and thanks to some advise from Rachel Rambach (http://www.listenlearnmusic.com/) and the help of my wonderful techie daughter - I'm getting closer!
The biggest change is a page (well, a link for now) to listen to and download music from my Tunes for Activity, Tunes for Singing, Tunes for Movement and Tunes for Relaxation series. If you visit the site before April 18th (see link below), you can download a free quiet time song entitled "Cinnamon Bay" for yourself! Face it - we teachers, parents and therapists can always use a little more quiet time! Thanks for visiting!
I love my purple dot. I have had it for many years and used it with many of my clients. I got it while working with an adorable six year old boy with autism. You see, Andy could not sit still. He would fidget so much with his hands that it made it difficult to work on some activities. His fidgeting would start with his hands and eventually cause him to jump up and move or spin. He obviously had a sensory disorder and I wanted to help him.
I came across my purple dot in a sensory integration catalog. It was called a Disc-O-Sit and came in two sizes. I quickly ordered the larger size (15 inches) and waited to receive it in the mail. It came a couple of days before my weekly session with Andy and I could hardly wait to introduce it to him.
On Thursday, Andy came in for his session. We sang a hello song and then Ibrought out the puple dot. Andy took his index finger and touched one of the bumps. He then picked it up and threw it across the room! Not the reaction I had hoped for! We went on to another activity and I brought the purple dot closer again. After touching one of the bumps, he kicked it away - but not as far! By the end of the session, Andy allowed the dot to sit next to him and he would occasionally reach over and touch it.
To make a long story short, Andy grew to like the purple dot and would look for it as soon as he came to his session. He would sit on it during activities requiring the use of his hands and it really appeared to help him. The dot has some air in it and while sitting on it he was able to move and rock from his waist which then helped him focus on using his hands.
If your child has difficulty sitting still while working on activities, you might try getting a dot of your own!
If you work with children, then you are already aware of the power of music to enhance the recall of materials presented. Just look at the ABC song. How many of you learned your ABC's by singing them? How many of you still sing through the ABC song in your head when you are alphabetizing something?
As a child, I learned not only my ABC's with song, but also the months of the year, how many days are in each month, books of the Bible, days of the week, etc. When I begin to sing these songs in my head, I'm amazed at the amount of recall I have after many, many years!!
I frequently use music to enhance memory during my sessions and even compose little ditties when working on new objectives. One of the ditties that I've used for many years is the one I wrote to teach my own children when they were quite small, how to spell their first names. Both of my children have seven letters in their first name, so it fit with both. The ditty can be changed to accommodate longer or shorter names - as seen in the second song.
I've added guitar chords, in case you want to play along as you sing it!
Of course, the key to making these melodies and the associated content stick is to repeat it frequently. Fortunately, children love to sing familiar melodies over and over!
I resisted getting a Q-Chord when it first came out due to the price. After seeing a colleague use the Q-Chord during a session, I realized there were several features that would be quite helpful when working with many of my clients. This is what a Q-chord looks like:
The Q-Chord has a great sound and it's very easy to play. To play a song, you press the appropriate chord button and then strum a finger across the metal plate. These tasks can be shared - one person can press the chords while the other strums or visa versa. The Q-Chord has a variety of different voices and accompaniments and is tons of fun to explore.
I use the Q-Chord to stimulate interaction, increase coordination, stimulate gross and fine motor skills and increase self expression.
To find out more about the Q-Chord, go to this website:
I like to do Song Puzzles with my children who are early readers and those that can use some assistance with sequencing. Start with a song that is very familiar to the child. Print the song line by line preferably on a piece of construction paper. Take the lines of the song and mix them up on a table in front of the child.
Using musical prompts (humming part of the song or singing it if needed) encourage the child to identify the first line on down to the end of the song.
Try to use musical prompts and try to reserve physical prompts (pointing, moving lines or assisting them to move lines) for use if the musical prompts aren't working.
If the child gets really good at putting the puzzle together for one song, try printing lines for two familiar songs and mixing them together!
Choose (instrumental) music that will encourage steady movement, but will not compete with your spoken instructions. For this particular activity, I enjoy using Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G major with Yo Yo Ma. The song has just the right variances in dynamics and encourages graceful movement.
When doing this activity with a student for the first time, I allow them to pick 1 colored streamer of their choice requesting the color by name if possible.
Then, as we move to the music, I will give directions such as up, down, up, down matching the rhythm of the music and giving ample time to respond. I prefer using verbal and visual cues while doing this activity, but some children may need some gentle physical prompting if they are having difficulty understanding the movement. Other directions may include way up high, way down low, and 'round and 'round. You might even use fast and slow in the mix.
Adding another ribbon adds another movement dimension, but once they've mastered the concepts with one ribbon, I ask them if they'd like to use two!
Many of my students have responded well to being the leader during this activity. After following my instructions, I ask them if they would like to be the leader.
I always end this activity with some free movement as they may have had to use a lot of impulse control during the activity to stay on task. Verbal encouragement to stay on task is much easier with the promise that they will get to move any way they want at the end!