Monday, February 29, 2016

Music : Not Just For Transitions Anymore

Went to a fabulous inservice today! I saw a program called Dandelion Seeds created by Amoriza Gunnink. She is the founder of Arts for the Very Young International and Dandelion Seeds is a music program for children from ages 2-7. If you click on her name, or HERE you will be linked to her website.

Click HERE for a quick introduction to the Dandelion Seeds program.

I have to agree that preschool and kindergarten programs would benefit greatly from the implementation of music programs for more than just transitions. Music is highly accessible for all children and can be specifically helpful to children with special needs and/or learning delays. Children may not be able to sing the lyrics in a song, but may be able to use a sound or a group of sounds. They can hit two sticks together, shake some jingle bells, or make rhythms and keep a beat on a drum. The Dandelion Seeds program develops children over time giving them confidence to express themselves within the group. Music allows for whole body learning. Amoriza says, "Instrumental play allows children to express and represent their feelings, ideas and thoughts."

The use of a simple sound, group of sounds, or a familiar children's song with progressive movement and beat within a circle setting is very engaging. The children are learning volume control, tempo, pitch, how to work together as a group, how to listen and focus, and all while having fun. We had a welcome song from Ghana, West Africa: Funga Alafia which has some hand gestures. It is very easy to learn. Welcome songs are a very important part of a music program. It helps children to know that something is beginning. If you click on the name of the song above, you will be directed to a video which explains and demonstrates the song. By the same token, implementing a goodbye song will help children to understand that the session is finishing.

We used not only our hands, but also our bodies, the floor and the space around our bodies with our instruments. We learned that using songs with animals could help children visualize how to play an instrument. Using the song Hop Old Squirrel, children can illustrate how an animal's tail might swish across a drum, or its feet might tap while jumping on the drum. You can change the animal adding to the song and visualization for the children. For example: leap old frog, fly old bird, swim old fish etc.

The following video I found on YouTube. It utilizes one of the traditional songs listed on Amoriza's list. This is not Amoriza, but I really feel this Music Specialist illustrates what I saw today in Amoriza's demonstration. Nicola is teaching some students how to use music in an elementary school setting. She goes a little beyond what we may do with preschoolers, but her process is so close to Amoriza's it is worth showing.

If you don't see the video embedded below, click HERE to go to the YouTube video.

You can see that with simple musical phrasing, a beat, and some movement, an entire class can be engaged in a cohesive, safe learning environment.

Another intriguing activity we did today was through the use of a stretchy band. This is what it looks like:


UPDATE: Discovered smaller version can be purchased HERE at Empire Music!

It can be purchased at Wintergreen. However, it is very expensive. One colleague of mine felt a parachute would work to a degree, since many preschools have those. Another colleague is thinking of making one: To get all the colours like the band, purchase several second-hand t-shirts. Then, cut off the arms, sew them together and add an elastic to the inside to give it the elasticity desired for the activity. Another idea mentioned was to use an infinity scarf, sew in an elastic all the way around, then sew up the edges of the infinity scarf to enclose the elastic. BRILLIANT! If you work 1:1 with children, a smaller version would be very useful.

Click HERE to view a group of children enjoying a musical activity with the stretchy band.

Now Amoriza had participants move the stretchy band along with a simple musical sound like, "Ba-ba-ba-ba, baba-ba" so any child could follow along verbally as well as rhythmically.

Instrumental music play in a preschool classroom introduces children to the world of music. Music is a valuable mode of expression. It develops the mind and the body. It helps the children to develop individually and as a group.

Please consider adding more music to your classroom. You will be glad you did.

Thanks for stopping by where Play Has Meaning

Ms. Bev

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Helping them succeed

My post today is about managing behaviours in the classroom. Sometimes all the little transition tricks, games, songs you've tried just don't seem to resonate with certain children.

I ran across an interesting idea called "2x10 strategy". Basically if there's a child you aren't reaching, try giving him/her undivided attention for two minutes for at least 10 days in a row. Allow them to talk to you about whatever they want. I think it works because you are modeling respect and showing the child you really do care. Apparently teachers have found that not only does this child improve, but the dynamics of the whole class improve. You can read the whole article HERE.

Also this article is very good. Ask Doctor Sears is specifically speaking about children with ADD or ADHD, but some of the methods he discusses can be related to any child who is having some difficulty with attention in a classroom.

A teacher I work with showed me an apple tree chart she used for a child who had some issues with outbursts in her classroom. I liked her idea so much I recreated it using my PrintMasterGold program. What I like about this chart is you can easily see over time what part of the day the child struggles with the most. You may discover, for example, that invariably it is circle time when the child acts out. Then, you can take a closer look at that time in your day to see what the issue is. It may be the circle time is too long, or not interactive enough. It may be the child craves constant 1:1 attention. It may be that sitting down on the carpet is too hard on his/her body. But at the very least, the child may start improving just to get that smiley face on the apple tree.

It's important to speak with the child about the apple tree chart. It helps for the child to take ownership for actions. You can take a moment during each transition to discuss how the last scheduled time went and place the appropriate expression on the apple.

I've included two apple tree pictures below. Feel free to use both of them if you like. One has daily schedule names on it and the other does not. The faces at the bottom can be used to provide an overall assessment of the day to the child and his/her parent.



Thanks for stopping by where Play Has Meaning

Ms. Bev

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Flannel Stories

I remember as a child spending many blissful hours creating stories with some felt pieces I received as a present. There is nothing more satisfying than feeling like you have created an imaginary universe that is under your control. This is the essence of play.  I think I should strive to ignite imagination in these little folks I am privileged to work with.

A few years ago at an educational session, I had the pleasure to meet Mary Hays. She is a local storyteller who uses flannel stories, songs, props, books, and her own dramatic flare to keep the spirit of folktales alive and well for this generation's children. Click HERE to go to her website. I have been thinking I would like children to know the stories I've learned. Many children these days do not know fairy tales, nursery rhymes, fables and simple folk songs.

 It's taken me a little while, but I am in the process of compiling some resources and am about to try some flannel stories on the little ones I assist.

If you would like to try this, here is what you need:

First you need a flannel board. Now don't think if you don't have one then that's, that! You can make one very easily.  Here is a link to Deborah's site (click on her name). She made flannel boards with canvas frames. And Alison made one out of a magnetic board -- dual purpose! And Jen made one from a picture frame -- so cool!

I made one using a foam board. I wanted to have a lot of room to tell a story, but I also need to be able to put it into Ms. Bev's Big Black Bag.  The entire surface is 20" x 16". I took an X-Acto knife and made a cut all the way down the middle WITHOUT going completely through the board. In this way it can be folded for transport. I bought a large piece of light blue flannel and attached it to the board with glue, then added some masking tape to the edges on the back.

Here is a photo of the front:


And here is how it looks at the back:



UPDATE: I decided to add two full 8-1/2" x 11" magnetic sheets to the back. I then replaced the masking tape with that fabulous patterned duck tape you can buy to border each magnetic sheet. I made sure not to go over the fold area. Now I can do some magnet-based stories too. Instead of adding velcro or felt to the back of the story images, just add magnetic strips!

There are lots of ways to make the story pieces, if you can't afford to purchase pre-made felt stories. What I am doing is looking on the internet and also creating some of my own packages using my Printmaster Gold program.

The first project I will share with you is an Aesop's Fable called The Lion and the Mouse. I have retold the fable in my own words and created the images from my Printmaster Gold program. You may use this version for personal use with the children you love.



Here is the next step: Print the pages off, cut out each image, and glue them to pieces of cardstock (heavier weight paper of any kind). If you don't have a colour printer, then you can print the black & white images and colour them.  For the net, I used the X-Acto knife to cut out squares between the rope. In this way when the net is over the lion, you can see the lion behind it. Next, you can laminate each piece so they last longer. Then on the back use some felt or or a piece of velcro. In this way they will stick to your board. That's it!

If you have any questions, please let me know. This site is very new and I hope it will become a super resource for you as well as me.

Thanks for stopping by where Play Has Meaning.

Ms. Bev



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Using the Magic Loom Bracelets

Have you seen those fabulous loom bracelets yet? There are several designs. The fishtail design is just about the easiest one. I discovered instead of getting a big loom, there are these marvelous finger looms. They remind me of the tiny knitting looms people used years ago to make crocheted ropes. When the length was long enough, you wrap it around and around in a circle and attach sides together with thread to make little rugs.

Anyway, Stacey, a colleague of mine, showed me how to make a loom bracelet into a fine motor tool. Having another idea for helping a child with a tripod grip is always good.


After making the bracelet (about 45-48 elastics long), attach an animal charm. When you notice a young child is having difficulty holding a pencil, simply bring out the "Magic Turtle", or "Magic Dolphin". Tell the child to hold this magic creature in place with the pinkie and ring finger. That leaves the other digits to hold the pencil. GENIUS!


Making a loom bracelet on a finger loom does not require you to use a crochet hook. Click HERE to see a video on how to make the basic bracelet, if you don't see it embedded below:




I am not affiliated with any companies which manufacture any of the products shown above. This is for your personal information and usage. It's all about helping those wonderful kids with learning.

Thanks for stopping by where Play Has Meaning!

Ms. Bev