Thursday, November 15, 2012

Subtraction and Counting Songs

How many subtraction and counting games can you think of for kindergarten and first grade? Here are a few. Maybe you can name more.

Five Little Ducks
Five in a Bed and the Little One Said
Five Little Monkeys

Counting Song from Sesame Street (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
One, Two Buckle My Shoe
The Ants Go Marching

What Shall We Do with a Grumpy Sailor

A Music and Language Arts (and Social Studies) Lesson for Grades 1-4

Here's another activity I taught in my daughter's third grade. Her teacher had chosen a pirate theme for the year, so I thought What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor would be perfect. However, the teacher was not comfortable with the drunken part (and that's okay, I understand), so we changed it to grumpy. Then, it just so happened that they were learning about adjectives and, hey, grumpy is an adjective! So, we learned the song and dance and changed out the adjectives. Here's a recording of the game played with a group of students at Northwest Missouri State University:

Here's an outline:

Students will learn learn an authentic sea shanty and adapt it to explore adjectives.

Music (sea shanty, singing and dancing)
Language Arts (adjectives and creative writing)


  • Teach the song (see the 10 Ways to Repeat a Song or simply watch the video and figure it out)
  • Replace "Drunken" with other adjectives
  • Write new verses to answer the question "What shall we do . . .?"
  • Make up new ways to do the dance during the verse. I usually keep the same actions on the chorus "Way, hey, and up she rises." The children especially love the final action going over and under ("wringing the dishrag"). 
It's pretty simple, yet VERY effective musically, etc. . . .

Head and Shoulders Baby

A Music and Language Arts Lesson for Grades 1-4

I taught my daughter's third grade class Head and Shoulder's Baby and then we played the singing game to explore verbs and nouns. Here's a copy of the singing game played by my methods class back in Missouri followed by a lesson outline:

Participants will learn Head and Shoulders Baby and sing it in new ways to explore nouns and verbs.

Music (singing, non-locomotor movement, coordination)
Language Arts (nouns and verbs, creating lyrics)


Teach the Song

  • "While I sing the song, clap every time you hear 'baby'." Sing the song or watch the video.
  • "Close. Let's try again." Sing the song again or watch the video again.
  • Try one more time.
  • Touch head and shoulders at the appropriate time.
  • Try again.
  • Change head and shoulders to knees and ankles and sing the song again.
  • Try again.
  • Learn the clapping pattern (with imaginary partners) slowly (baby, one-clap, two-clap, three) as in the video
  • Add the hand clapping pattern (with imaginary partners) to entire song, head and shoulders and then knees and ankles
  • Try it with real partners. Demonstrate first and then give students five or so minutes to practice it and then try it all together. 
  • Teach the chorus (Ain't Been to Frisco) by singing sections of the song and having students repeat
On a subsequent day adapt the song as follows:
  • Instead of head and shoulders, sing throw the ball and milk the cow (or some other action with a verb followed by a noun)
  • Write the new lyrics on the board under the headings "verbs" and "nouns"
  • Have the students choose new verbs and nouns to put in the song. Sing the song with the new lyrics.
By the way, Sophie's class absolutely loved this song and even chose to play it on the playground during recess. 

Classroom Management

Today I would like to share some thoughts about classroom management. The nice thing about arts activities in the classroom is that motivation is not usually an issue. Kids generally love to make music and art. Creative arts experiences, however, can easily get out-of-hand if they are not set up in a deliberate, organized manner. For art activities it is important that all instructions are given, understood, and listed on the board before any materials are distributed. The same applies to creative movement activities. Let the students know exactly what they will be doing before they leave their seats. For example, let's say that they are going to do mirror movement with a partner. The students will need to move to some place in the room and choose a partner. So, first, think of the steps: stand up, find a partner, and find a space in the room. I would explain to the students that we are going to do a movement activity with partners and that, when I give them a signal, they will stand up, find a partner, and find a space in the room where they can reach out to all sides without touching other partnerships, furniture, or walls. At that point they will sit down quietly on the floor and listen for the next instructions. To give an added challenge, I will ask them to see if they can complete these steps without talking (they have to make a silent agreement with someone to partner) or running and to do it in under 30 seconds. Before giving the signal, I will anticipate at least one problem: What if there is an odd number of students? I will instruct the students that if there is someone left out, they can join two other students to make a group of three. I will review the steps, making sure everyone is attentive, and then give the signal. By being thorough with the instructions, in this way, we generally can avoid chaos and confusion. It is important that they know exactly what to do when they get there as well. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is worth a pound of cure (or however that goes). Now they are seated on the floor with a partner and I can give the next instructions. I'm going to have them mirror the slow movements of their partners. I will first choose a student to demonstrate with me. Then I will have them decide who in each partnership will be the leader. Then, when the music starts, they can begin moving and mirroring. I will have them do this first sitting down. Then, I'll stop the music and have them switch leaders. Start the music again. Stop the music and have them switch again and stand up. Remind them to move ever so slowly so that the follower can follow. Stop the music. Then explain that they will switch on a signal from the triangle. Remind them that they can turn, but to not move around the room or do something too fast. If at any point they are not understanding or following instructions I will have them sit back down on the floor. At some point I will have them sit down and watch one or two partnerships. I find that kids are generally well-behaved when they are watching their peers perform. I think that maybe they think of themselves as potentially or eventually in the position of performer. Usually they all want a chance to share, so I also use that as an incentive to be a good audience member; I call only on students who are behaving appropriately. Anyway, those are my thoughts about classroom management today . . .

Starry Night

A Visual Art and Writing Lesson for Grades 3-6

The children will discuss/explore elements of art (shape, form, color, space) in van Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night and create original stories using this painting as a writing prompt.

Starry Night (readily available on internet), writing and drawing materials

Visual Art (perceive and analyze)
Writing (compose imaginative narratives)

  • Show the students a copy of the painting
  • Invite students to answer questions about the image: What basic shapes are used (circles, triangles, squares, etc.)? What colors are used (primary, secondary)? How would you describe the textures (rough, smooth)? How is the space organized and divided? What items are repeated? What items stand out or blend in?
  • Ask the students to make a rough sketch of the painting showing the general shapes, textures, and use of space (optional).
  • Prepare to use the painting as a writing prompt: Discuss how the painting makes the students feel. Invite students to share experiences that come to mind relative to this painting. Ask the students to imagine that this painting represents what they are really seeing; they are actually there seeing this particular landscape. How do they feel? Why are they there? How did they get there? What are they going to do? What happens next? Who are they with? 
  • Write stories based on the foregoing discussions.
  • Tell or read the original stories to each other (pairs, small groups, entire class--depending on time)

Wet on Wet Watercolor Washes

An Art and Science Lesson for Grades 1-3

Experiment with colors to discover what happens when two primary colors are combined.

Watercolor trays & brushes (Crayola for low price and vibrant color)
White poster board cut into 3-4 inch squares (3 per student)
Plastic under working spaces
Water cups for rinsing brushes
Large poster board for the secondary color "quilt"

Visual Art (creativity, color)
Science (scientific process, color)


  • Demonstrate wet-on-wet watercolor technique: Wet the front and back of a poster board square by painting it with water or dipping it briefly in a water basin. Make a design with a primary color, leaving some spaces blank. Add another secondary color filling in the spaces and overlapping some. Be sure to rinse brushes thoroughly when changing colors.
  • Give instructions and post the instructions in the classroom for student reference during the project: In the first square start with yellow and add blue. In the second square start with yellow and add red. In the third square start with either red or blue and add the other one. If large pools of water/paint form on the painting, they can be removed (soaked up) with a dry piece of tissue paper. 
  • Discuss what happened as the colors ran together. Point out and explain the concept of primary and secondary colors. 
  • Clean up
  • After the watercolor squares have dried, glue or tape them to a large piece of poster board (like a quilt) or use them borders, etc. 
  • Lead the students in a discussion about how their paintings made them feel. 


A Music, Reading, and Science Lesson for Grades 3-6

The class will sing the Habitat Song by Jim Oliver, from lyric sheets, and add verses and hand jives.

Materials: Youtube video, Lyric sheets, Writing materials

Music (singing and body percussion)
Reading-Informational Text (comprehension)
Reading-Foundational Skills (fluency)
Science (habitats)

  • Have students listen to Amy Carlson’s youtube video with her version of Jim Oliver’s song
  • Ask the students to list the habitats in the song and what is in each habitat.
  • Listen to the song again in order to add to the lists.
  • Ask the students questions about the lyrics to check for understanding
  • Hand out lyric sheets
  • Invite the students to sing along while tracking (two or three times)
  • Lightly drum the beat of the song on desks while singing
  • Add a hand jive while singing (pat legs twice, clap twice, right-hand-over-left twice, left-hand-over-right twice)
  • Invite students to create their own 8-count hand jives while singing
  • Sing the ocean verse without accompaniment
  • Discuss other possible habits as a class
  • Divide into groups and research habitats (from handouts, encyclopedias, internet, textbooks). List characteristics of each specific habitat.
  • Have each group create a new verse for the habitat song following the general pattern of the other verses. 
  • Invite groups to share their verse with the rest of the class (with hand jives)
By Jim Oliver (with added farm verse)
Performed by Amy Carleson

Habitat, Habitat, Have to Have a Habitat
Habitat, Habitat, Have to Have a Habitat
Habitat, Habitat, Have to Have a Habitat
You have to have a Habitat to carry on!

The forest is a habitat, a very special habitat
It's where the tallest trees are at
It's where a bear can scratch her back
It keeps the ground from rolling back
Renews the oxygen, in fact
The forest is a habitat we depend on! (Chorus)

The farm is a habitat, a very special habitat.
It’s where the freshest food is at
It’s where the richest soil’s at
Farmers create habitats for owls, snakes, and brown bats
The farm is a habitat that we depend on! (Chorus)

The river is a habitat, a very special habitat
It's where the freshest water's at
For people, fish, and muskrat
But when people dump their trash
Rivers take the biggest rap
The river is a habitat we depend on! (Chorus)

People are different than foxes and rabbits
Affect the whole world with their bad habits
Better to love it while we still have it
Or rat ta-tat-tat, our habitat's gone! (Chorus)

Additional Verse:
The ocean is a habitat, a very special habitat
It's where the deepest water's at
It's where the biggest mammal's at
It's where out future food is at
It keeps the atmosphere intact
The ocean is a habitat we depend on! (Chorus)

Mirror Movement

A Music, Dance, and Math Idea for All Grades

Participants create and mirror slow movement along with slow music

·         Students mirror the teacher’s movements (without music). Make sure movements are slow enough so that everyone can follow.
·         Students take turns being the leader (without music).
·         The teacher demonstrates mirror movement with a partner.
·         Students practice mirror movement with a partner (possible group of three if there is an odd number of students). Switch leaders.
·         Add slow music. Encourage the students to avoid talking, to listen intently to the music, and to move slowly enough for their partner(s) to follow. Have the students change partners at an auditory signal (chimes, finger cymbals, triangle, etc.). The transition between leaders should be seamless enough that someone watching can’t tell who the leader is.
·         Give half the class an opportunity to watch the other half or for the entire class to watch one or two partnerships.
·         This activity is also rather beautiful and engaging when students hold props such as scarves or streamers.

Ocean Rhythms

A Music and Math Lesson Idea for all Grades

Participants will apply the names of ocean creatures to musical rhythms in box notation.

Music—reading notation, creating
Math—patterns, fractions and percents

·         Drill the students on the following rhythm counting system. The rhythms should be spoken evenly so that they divide the beat accordingly:


Place the symbols in a 4 by 4 grid and say them. Keep the beat—one beat per box.

·         Start with simple rhythms and work up to the more difficult ones.
·         Eventually leave out the sound on “m”.
·         Clap the rhythm (each syllable) while saying the names.
·         Clap the rhythm (each syllable) while thinking the names (for “m” hands go out to sides).
·         Replace the clapping with other body percussion or instruments.
·         Perform the grid backwards, down each column, or in a round.
·         Have one group repeat a row over and over and then add other groups on other rows.
·         Figure fractions and percentages (How many barracudas are there?).
·         Expand in to much larger grids.
·         Divide into groups and create grooves using the grids.

Use the grooves to accompany spoken patterns such as times tables or songs-that-teach.
Change the rhythm names to reflect other habitats.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oh, Susanna (for 6-hole ocarina)

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (for 6-hole ocarina)

Accompaniment  The accompaniment repeats three times following an 8-count introduction. The clicks precede the introduction.

When the Saints Go Marching In (for 6-hole ocarina)

Juba (for 6-hole ocarina)

Juba this and Juba that. Juba chased a yellow cat.
Juba up and Juba down. Juba running all around. 

Boil 'em Cabbage Down (for 6-hole ocarina)

Biol 'em cabbage down, down. Bake 'em biscuits brown, brown.
Only tune I ever learned was "Boil 'em cabbage down, down." 

Begin playing after the clicks and 8 counts of introduction. Repeat three times.

Mary Had a Little Lamb (for 6-hole ocarina)

Country Accompaniment
Rock Accompaniment

Begin playing after the click and eight counts of introduction.

Down By the Station (for 6-hole ocarina)

Hot Cross Buns (for 6-hole ocarina)

Accompaniment: After the clicks, there is an 8-count introduction. Play the tune through 3 times.

Shape Portraits

K-6 Visual Art and Math (30-40 minutes)

The children will construct self-portraits out of shapes cut from construction paper.

Glue sticks, scissors, and construction paper

Art (fine motor movement, personal expression)
Science (observe, manipulate, measure, describe)
Math (reason about shapes)
Speaking and Listening (presenting ideas)

For older students use specific shape classifications such as polygons. Make sure students understand that their portrait does not have to look exactly like they do.

  •       Compare and contrast pre-cubist and cubist self-portraits by Picasso (
  •       Discuss and draw polygons
  •       Identify polygons in cubist paintings
  •       Discuss how aims of cubist art differ from more realistic forms of art (expresses feelings or ideas rather than simply looking like something)
  •       Identify and discuss polygons in faces (large photographs or mirrors could also be used)
  •       Cut polygons out of construction paper (review scissor safety)
  •       Construct a portrait by gluing polygons onto a large sheet of construction paper. Fill the space.
  •       Show the portrait to the class (or to a small group) and tell about the processes and choices that went into its production. What does it express?

A similar idea is included in the wonderful book, Object Lessons: Teaching Math Through the Visual Arts, K-5 by Caren Holtzman and Lynn Susholtz, 2011.