Sunday, October 31, 2010

Music Tip #56 Using books to teach music, reading and math

This week I have to teach a group of Montessori teachers how they can use music to help them teach reading and math. Then next week I’ll be teaching the same class to parents. So I’ll give you some of my ideas and they might be something you can use too.

I love to use books to teach music, reading and math skills. After reading a book, choose characters or objects from the story and discuss how many syllables they have. Create new words that have one or two syllables. Tap your hands on your legs to feel the syllables. String 4 of the words together and chant them over and over again. Clap and feel the rhythm. Choose 4 different words and string them together and chant them. Hear the difference.

The book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr.Eric Carle) is a great way to introduce adjectives. This is a fun book to sing on sol mi pitches. Have students/your child think up new adjectives like different colors, sizes, moods of animals, etc. The companion book Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? is a good book to learn about verbs. Each animal growls or yelps or roars. Have your students/child think of new verbs and sing them.

Of course there’s the well known song “Apples and Bananas( Each verse is sung with a different vowel sound. The kids love it because it sounds so silly.
You can do the same thing with Miss Mary Mack—using only the first verse and changing the vowel sound.(

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag is a great book to teach the order of higher numbers. It has a cute chant that goes “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats!” Then teach your child how to write those numbers.

Read books to your children, think what you can pull out of it (syllables, verbs, adjectives, nouns, compound words, rhyming, numbers, past tense, present tense, etc), then put it to a chant, rhythm, little song and have fun!

Parenting Tip #56 Older siblings helping younger ones

I know of a family with seven children, four of whom I give piano lessons to. The oldest daughter, is in college, and the youngest child is almost 2 year old. The Mom homeschools her children, the boys are active in scouts, some of the children play two instruments, and well, they live a busy life—especially the mom!

As I was talking to the mom this week, she mentioned something she has started doing that I wished I would have done when I was raising my children. She has paired up two of the older children to help her teach their younger siblings. For example, the 12 year son, who plays the piano very well, is helping his 8 year old brother practice the piano and the 10 year old son is helping his 6 year old sister with her reading. She is finding that not only does the younger sibling benefit, but the two older ones do too. As they teach, they are reinforcing skills and knowledge of things they already know, but are now really internalizing that knowledge for themselves. She said she had to be careful who she paired up, because, as we all know, some age groups and children don’t work well with each other. If she paired up her 10 and 8 year old sons together—sparks would fly.

This is an example of one of the benefits of having a large family. The older children can help their younger brothers and sisters and relieve the mom of some heavy stress.

So let’s brainstorm some other ways parents can pair up children to help each other. What about cleaning? If you asked your 6 year old to help the 3 year old put away the dishes from the dishwasher, you are helping your 6 year old learn leadership skills, giving her bonding time with her brother and getting a chore done all in one. Now if you asked them to clean the bathroom---you may end up with a bigger mess than you want. So you might need to think through what job you want done and who to pair up.

Okay, now let’s think about getting ready for bed. I don’t like competition, but what if you paired up two sets of your children to get dressed for bed (with teeth brushed and whatever else you add), and the set who got ready first could pick which story to read and the set who finished second could pick the song to sing.

Wow, I’m really getting into this. It almost makes me want to go back and parent my children again when they were younger. Almost.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music Tip #55 Rounds, Partner Songs, Melody Mergers

I’ve been singing rounds, partner songs and melody mergers at school with the 3rd and 4th graders. What’s the difference between those three type of songs? Well, as you know, a round is where one group starts singing the song, then the 2nd group starts singing it a little later and a 3rd group starts in a little after that. Rounds usually have 2 or 3 different groups that sing the same song.

Partner songs are two different songs that are sung at the same time. You divide the class into 2 groups and assign them each a different song. When sung together, one group needs to be a little louder and the other group sings softer. It sounds very nice. We have been singing Michael Finnigan and This Old Man.

Other partner songs you can try are: Good Night Ladies with Pickalittle, Talkalittle (Music Man), The Farmer in the Dell with Here We Go Looby Loo, Hey Ho, Nobody Home with When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Three Blind Mice with London Bridge.

A melody merge is several partner songs sung at the same time, BUT you don’t sing the words—then you have melody mash crash! You just sing the melody on loo or la. We sang Three Blind Mice, Are You Sleeping and Row, Row Row Your Boat. It sounded great! Well, I have to admit, with two classes it sounded great, the other classes with not as many good singers in it sounded more like the melody mash crash.

These six songs can be sung together (remember without the words): Are You Sleeping, Down by the Station, White Coral Bells, R,R,Row Your Boat, 3 Blind Mice, Merrily we Roll Along.
Another set of six songs are these: Swing Low Sweet Chariot, When the Saints, Good Night Ladies, Amazing Grace, She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain and Crawdad Song.

I’m anxious to try these melody mergers with recorders and Orff instruments. Try them at home, at your next family reunion, cub scout meeting or with friends. Good luck, I hope you don’t crash.

Parenting Tip #55 All it takes is Patience

Patience: A coveted character trait longed for by parents toward their offspring.
When needed: daily, every minute
Why needed: because of ---two year olds, six year olds, ten year olds, teenagers….
How do you acquire it: Now there’s the $64,000.00 question!

How many times a day does a parent need patience? When your baby is crying but you just need to finish fixing dinner, when your two year old is throwing a temper tantrum at Target, when your six year old refuses to hurry and get dressed for school, when your teenager has a sullen expression and refuses to talk to you, when your ten year old hits his sister---again, when your husband leaves his clothes on the floor…..okay, I’ll stop.

But here is a twist. How do you teach your children to have patience? An interesting study was done on children and patience “suggesting that the ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life.”,5232,23-1-1207-20,00.html (to see video illustrating this research: If that is true, wouldn’t patience be a number one thing parents would want to teach their children?

So how do you teach your children to have patience? Here are some thoughts:
babies: none-their job is to teach YOU patience!
1. play games where they have to wait for their turn
2. teach them to take turns at home
3. don’t let them always be the first to get whatever they want
4. make a calendar so they can mark off days until…vacation, holiday, birthday, etc
5. distract them or focus them to think of something else (like when you’re waiting in a llloooonnnnggggg line
School age/Teens:
1. help them visualize the end result/goal
2. outline steps to reach the goal (such as buying something they want, doing a hard homework assignment, etc)
3. Count to 10-helping them to control their anger
4. Think from the other person’s perspective – when fighting with their sibling, mean school teacher, rules they don’t like
5. Teach about banking, savings, and interest
6. Help direct focus—like during Church, writing assignments, negative thinking
7. Focus on the positive things in life—when they didn’t make a team, during illnesses, trials

But remember, it will take patience on your part before you will see the results on your children’s part.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Music Tip #54 Music magic with preschoolers

I was doing a music activity with 3 and 4 year olds in a preschool setting. I set the stage by briefly telling the story of a baby bird in his nest. His mother would bring him worms and bugs to eat each day until he got big enough that one day his father said it was time to learn to fly. So the baby bird perched on the edge of the nest and gave a little jump and took off flying. His dad soared with him, over the farm and country side, up to the mountaintop. They rested in a branch of a tree and then flew home again. As I told the story I had the children do the movements with their hands.

Then I put on the music, Forgotten Dreams by Leroy Anderson. I whispered the story of the baby bird as the children and I again acted it out with our hands. We cupped one hand to be the nest and with our index finger and thumb of the other hand acting as the beak, we hungrily ate the worms and bugs our mother fed to us. We spread our wings and practiced flying, and as the music got faster we flew faster, pausing to catch our breath while we rested in the branch of the tree on the mountaintop. Then we flew home, tired but happy. As the music became softer and slower the baby bird sank into his nest and closed his eyes and went to sleep. And as I whispered, “good night, baby bird”, I looked around, and without me saying one word, all the children had closed their eyes and lain down on the floor pretending to sleep. It was magical.

I whispered to the teachers, “and that is why I love to teach preschoolers. You couldn’t do that with sixth graders!”

Parenting Tip #54 How to not yell at your teenager

I remember my mother saying that the most fun of her mothering years were when her four oldest children were all in their teen age years at the same time. I agree. I also had four teenagers at the same time. So how can that be fun? Don’t teenagers rebel and cause you to constantly fight and yell with them?

It depends. If you are constantly yelling and fighting with your six and nine and eleven year old, then you’ll continue fighting and yelling with your teenager. But if you are disciplining with love and teaching and talking/listening to your pre teen child, then you’ll continue that parenting strategy with your teenager.

Teenagers are people. They deserve to be treated with respect. They are developing their autonomy, independence and individuality. They are trying to figure out who they are. It’s a tough time for them. So when conflicts arise as to when to do homework, when to socialize, when to do chores and when curfew should be, talk to your teenager like you would talk to your friend. Listen to their point of view. Think back to your teenage days and empathize with them. Then tell them your thoughts. Ask your teenager how you can both come to an agreement that works for both of you. Problem solve, give and take, think out of the box.

I remember talking to a mother of 6 sons and asking her for advice. She said “pick your fights”. In other words, if your teen wants to do something that you’re not totally against,let him do it-within your limits. But if your teen wants to go somewhere or do something you are dead set against, state your reasons why and ask him to trust you on this issue.

My fight was that my children had to practice the piano until they could play 10 hymns, at which time they could quit. All through their growing up years I would discuss options of how to make it more pleasant for them, offer incentives, etc. but the goal was 10 hymns and nothing less.

Another issue I would not back down on was sleepovers. One time my daughter wanted to go to her friend’s sleepover. Everyone was going and it was going to be so much fun. I was totally against sleepovers, though and she knew it. So instead of fighting we problem solved the issue and worked out a give and take. She could stay until 11pm, and then she had to come home. But I took her back the next morning so she could eat breakfast with her friends.

Don’t get in a power struggle with your teenager. If you have a conflict, remain calm (well try to). State your family’s rule about the issue. Be sincere.

Use natural consequences. If your teen stays out past curfew, she comes home early the next time. No yelling, no fighting, just calmly remind her of the rules (oh yeah, let your teenagers help you establish your rules and guidelines—very important! Then they will respect the rules because they helped establish them.)

And last, but this should definitely be first. Pray. Pray to your Father in Heaven that he will guide you as you raise your teenager who you have loved and enjoyed since he/she was a baby and which you will continue to love and cherish—even through teenagehood.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parenting Tip #53 I will not yell, I will not yell...

New goal: I will not yell at my kids. 10 minutes later...I’m yelling.

Do you have a problem with yelling at your kids? Actually yelling is a symptom, not the problem. To figure out what the problem is, you need to figure out why you’re yelling at your children. Is it because they won’t obey you, or they’re too slow doing what you asked them to do, or they’re totally just ignoring you? The next thing you need to do is analyze when you yell. Is it when you’re late and trying to get out the door, or getting your children to do their chores or do their homework or stop fighting with their siblings, or go to bed? You’re probably shaking your head and saying “yes, and yes, and yes and yes!”

After you’ve analyzed why and when you yell, figure out some strategies that will help in these situations. Here are some ideas:
Whisper or sing your instructions-“hey, Mom’s not acting normal-I’d better listen up”
Give your children advanced warning when you have to get in the car or do homework, or go to bed-“five more minutes and …….”
Occasionally give positive reinforcement for children who obey quickly (like a piece of gum or staying up late 10 extra minutes)
Assign a “good dooby” for the day. This child gets to make the choices during the day, like who gets to sit by the window in the car, decide what to eat for lunch or whatever your kids fight about. Maybe they can be Mom’s helper throughout the day and choose what book to read and even get to stay up 5 minutes later at night. Each day rotate which child gets this privilege.

Use natural consequences. Calmly grab your child’s clothes (plus him)-no yelling. He gets dressed in the car. Your daughter doesn’t do her homework-she gets a bad grade or misses out on playing with her friend the next day after school.
Create a chart for working on a specific problem your children are having.
Bite your tongue and silently put your children in different rooms and give them an activity to do to keep them busy instead of fighting with their siblings (like coloring, doing a workbook, building with legos).
Compliment your children or child on quickly obeying.
Understand childhood characteristics

Many years ago I read about Dr. Suzuki, the creator of the Suzuki Method. He was in a situation where someone had taken advantage of him. An associate asked him why he wasn’t angry. He replied that many years ago he had decided he would never get mad and angry again. He understood that he was in control of his emotions and he could chose to react to events in a positive way. For over 10 years he had never been angry. That really impressed me.

Choose to not yell. Choose to look at the situation, problem solve and react in a different way. Choose to be calm….uummmmm….good luck!

Next week we'll discuss "How to raise teenagers without yelling".

Music Tip #53 Reach out and touch someone

My daughter is in the Civic Orchestra, a training orchestra affiliated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. As part of the CSO’s outreach program, the Symphony works with a local girls juvenile detention center. Currently they are providing the pit orchestra for a musical that the detention facility is putting on.

The musical is a collaboration of songs and stories written by the girls in the facility to give voice and meaning to the experiences that have led them to their present situations. My daughter said the music is very profound, emotional and inspiring—one of the songs, which was written by an inmate in a prison facility in another state, tells how for 20 years he has not seen the stars due to the bright lighting outside the prison. One of the first things he will do when he is released is to sing this song to the stars.

Yo-Yo Ma, creative consultant for CSO, came to visit the detention center and work with the girls putting on the musical production. My daughter was invited to go and was very impressed with Yo-Yo Ma and his dedication and efforts to help others find solace through music.

My daughter related that as they were waiting to start the dress rehearsal, Yo-Yo Ma was visiting with the girls in the choir and offered to let one of the girls play his cello. She was too scared to, but another girl was willing to play it. He helped her play each open string and then asked her which string was her favorite. He did the same thing with two other people and each of them chose a different string as their favorite sound. Then he said how amazing it was that three people had the same experience, but they had each chosen a different string. It shows that the same music can speak to each of us differently.

What a great world this is when talented busy people make time to touch the lives of someone else. It makes me wonder what I can do to touch someone’s life and make a difference for them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Music Tip #52 "Pinky, I need to talk to you"

When I teach piano lessons, you’ll often hear me say things like, “Great job right hand! Now left hand it’s your turn,” or “pinky, I need to talk to you for just a minute” or “3 finger you’re getting really bossy. Would you stop playing that note and let 2 finger play it?” Sometimes I even ask to see a particular finger and then whisper instructions to it.

When I make comments like those above, especially corrective comments, I’m addressing the fingers or hand and not criticizing the student himself. I’m taking a third person approach so that the student’s self esteem remains intact and he doesn’t feel like I’m attacking him. He is not wrong or right, he is just fine--it’s his hand or finger that needs adjustment.

This may sound like I’m overly sensitive and afraid of destroying a child’s ego. What I’m trying to do is preserve the child’s dignity and self esteem in a situation where correction and advice is often given.

I do the same with praise because there are actually right and wrong ways of giving praise to children - I like to say things like: “Pinky, you did a great job of keeping curved” or “Nice job left hand. You remembered to play all the B flats.”

As parents helping your children practice an instrument, you can say the same things. “Wow, look at your curved fingers. Nice job fingers!” or “You might want to talk to your wrist and tell her to stop being so lazy.”

It may take a while to get used to talking this way, but it’s really fun and helps your child focus on something definite that his hands or fingers need to do. There is nothing wrong with him, he is just fine. It’s those pesky fingers that need the practice!


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