Melodic Approaches

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Even though Christmas is just around the corner, I am still creating new songs and visuals for my students.  One of my co-workers remarked today, as I was standing by the laminater, "why are you making something new! We only have 2 days left this week."  At that moment I realized, as I was commenting on her question that making new and exciting visuals for my students is more like a hobby than a job.  I LOVE creating new songs and visuals.  Yes, I know I have a huge box of music therapy strategies for the month of December I could have pulled from . However,  none of them "spoke" to me this year.

 So, I decided to add a few new strategies to my repertoire. One of the strategies that worked great with all my groups was a parachute game.  I used Martina McBrides version of "Let it Snow" put cotton balls in the middle of the parachute and "made it snow."  We found it to be quite the challenge to keep all the "snowflakes" in the parachute.  What a great way for our kids to work together to get a job done. 

Another fun activity we did this week was putting cut out snowflakes in an 8 pattern on the floor.  I sang "Walkin in a Winter Wonderland" as the students used a reciprocal pattern to walk from one snowflake to another.  We even mixed it up and tried jumping, hoping, and stomping through our winter wonderland.

Finally, I added a new color song this year.  Rudolph!! Rudolph!!  I found this cute little poem on pinterest and thought Hey,  this would be a great song!!  I used the  piggyback tune "Twinkle Twinkle"  found some clipart on google, drew a few circles and shazam we have a new strategy.  Please email @ if you would like the visual.  I would be more than happy to share it.  Just put "visual for Rudolph" in the subject line.

Here is the Poem/song I used!!  Enjoy!!
Tune of
Twinkle Twinkle

Rudolph! Rudolph!

What will you do?

You can’t guide Santa

If your nose is blue!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

You’re such a silly fellow!

Who will know it’s you

If your nose is yellow!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

Your way cannot be seen

Through the wintry weather

If your nose is green!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

Santa gave a wink.

But what will Santa think

If your nose is pink!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

It’s time to fly at night.

But you’re quite a sight

Cause your nose is white!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

It’s time to go to town.

But Santa’s wearing a frown

Cause your nose is brown!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

Santa has his sack.

But you’re not ready

If your nose is black!

Rudolph! Rudolph!

The children are in bed.

And now I know you’re ready

Cause your nose is red!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear??

Today in my medical fragile classrooms I sang the traditional Christmas song "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  As I sang the song, "Ms. Shae style,"  I introduced different sounding instruments to my students. First singing "Do you hear what I hear?  I repeated this several times while I played the selected  instrument.  As I walked from student to student I looked to see if the students were tracking the sounds, and if they were able to focus on the instruments.  I then sang, "A bell, a bell, do your hear the bell. Do you hear the bell as I play... now let me hear Megan play."    The students LOVED this activity and love when I put their names in the song we are singing.   I was able to introduce the following instruments in one session; wind chimes, bells, castanets, finger cymbals, drum, tambourine, triangle, cabasa (I did change the words during this verse to feel and rolled the cabasa up an down the students arms and legs) and a vibrotone.  The students and the teacher loved the activity so much I may just have to pull this one out at other times of the year.

 After the session I shared with the teacher how she could change up the words even more to say do you see what I see, what I feel etc.

 Later in the day, I tweaked the activity a little more and used the song to facilitate choice making.  I started out with "Do you hear what I hear?" A bell a bell, who wants to play the bell? Who will play the bell for me? Who will play the bell for me?"  I then had the student play the instrument one time and put it under his/her chair and fold their hands.  We repeated this until everyone had an instrument.  Once everyone had an instrument I accompanied the students on my guitar as we played through a medley of carols. 

 I wish I could take full credit for the idea but I can't.   I recently purchased a book called Sensational Songs and Activities by Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BC and one of her song suggestions was my springboard for this suggestion.  Her ebook is packed full of great ideas to help jump start your creativity!!  You can check out her blog and her book @

I do hope you have a wonderful day!!

Music In The Classroom

Music can play a major role in the elementary classroom.  Here are just a few reasons why!
  • Music is a wonderful motivator
    • Children naturally enjoy the rhythm, rhyme and repetition.
  • Music creates a bond
    • between the teacher and children and among the children themselves.
  • Music stimulates the imagination
  • Music introduces new vocabulary
    • in a meaningful context.
  • Music aides in long-term retention
    • As adults we still remember many of the songs we learned in our childhood.
  • Music is a right brained activity
    • Children with learning disabilities or left-brain dysfunctions often find success with music.
  • Music lends itself to repetition
    • The children want to sing the same songs over and over.  The repetition helps the child to internalize language.
  • Music aides in fluency
    • Children who hesitate or stumble over words when they are reading, find that their language flows as they sing.
  • Music allows children to get their whole body involved
    • in a song as they keep beat or dance to the music.  Learning is further accelerated through movement.
  • Music is a great transition
    • from one activity to another

Musical Interaction at Home: Why??

This blog segment is going to touch base on why and how we as parents should engage in musical interactions at home and with our children.

"Music Therapy Literature reports that most individuals with autism respond positively to music." (DeMeyer, 1974; Exlgerton, 1994; Euper, 1968; Snell.)  Why is this you may ask? The obvious answer is, music is motivating and enjoyable!  I know personally I will run longer and faster if I have my iPod me. Music can also promote relatedness, relaxation, learning, and self - expression.  Music can also provide success - oriented opportunities for achievement and mastery.  All the while the structure and sensory input inherent in music helps to establish responses, expectations, positive interactions, and organization. -  American Music Therapy Association (2004).

Now that we have touched base on "Why" we should use music in the home let me give you a few suggestions as to "How." Here is a basic list of how you can interact musically with your child at home.
  • Singing together
  • Using "songbooks"
  • Playing instruments
  • Movement and music
  • Game playing
Why should you sing together?
  • Increases interactive skills
    • Respond to sound
    • Listening
    • Waiting
    • Turn - taking
    • Eye contact
  • Increases vocal imitation skills
    • Open vowel sounds (Ah, Oh, Ooo)
    • Vocal sounds (Da, Ba, Tttt, La)
    • Words
    • Phrases
    • Fill in the Blank
      • Twinkle Twinkle little ....
Some may say I can't sing!!!  Just remember, your child would rather hear you, with all your perceived flaws than hear a stranger sing perfectly.

Songbooks:  What????

When I refer to a songbook I am talking about books that can be sung.  Many times children may not have any interest in sitting down and having a book read to them yet will demonstrate an increase in focus and attention when a book is sung to them.

I currently have a huge collection of children books where the book was created as a visual accompaniment to common songs.  Some of my favorites are the new Pete the Cat books, Puff the Magic Dragon, Love Can Build a Bridge, and Sunrise, Sunset.  I will break each of the books down on a future blog on how they are used during music therapy sessions.

Some songs are created out of books, and can accompany them.  Brown Bear, and Today is Monday both by Eric Carle.

Remember, reading to your child has proven to be essential for speech and language development!!!

Songbooks can facilitate:
  • Book memorization -- a pre- reading skill
  • Fluency of reading
  • Speed of reading
  • Increase in Vocabulary
  • Creativity
Songs can also be used in your home to aide in transitions
  • Music offers a sensory reinforcment with which to sequence.
  • Music can help reinforce a transitinal moment in a non-threatening manner.
  • Songs offer a means for repetetive instruction.
  • Makes changes more tolerable
  • Can be effective in establishing a routine or schedule
  • Focuses attention
To create a transition song, write a short simple direction repeated with a familiar tune also known as a piggybacked tune.  When my children were toddlers I used songs when it was time to clean up toys, when it was ready to eat, using the bathroom, and when we needed to transition from home to anywhere. 

That reminds me,  the kids chose when they were little to symbolize it was ready to get in  the car was none other than the "Wheels on the Bus."  I would say,  the bus is ready time to get in the car!"  To this day when I am having a hard time getting my tweeners out the door I will say, "Bus is Ready lets load it up!!"  And I must say it still works!!  However, the song has been completely phased out.

A few familiar melodies instruction are easy to put are; Allouette, Twinkle Twinkle, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Mulberry Bush, Farmer in the Dell.  For example:

Its Time To Wash Your Hands
Farmer in the Dell

It's time to wash your hands
it's time to wash your hands
we'll rub, and rub and rub and rub
it's time to wash your hands.

Playing Instruments Together

I love love loved playing  rhythm insturments with my kids when they were young!!  We worked on concpets such as slow/fast, start stop, loud/soft taking turns and listening to one another.  Playing instruments with your child will provide them with a very special and unique musical expereince.  You may ask, what type of instruments are out there that we can play. A few basic rhythm instruments are tambourines, rhythm sticks, shakers, and jingle bells.  Keep in mind, the instruments do not matter as long as you both enjoy it.  Instruments can even be homemade!  The quality of the music produced by you and your child is not as important as the quality of the interaction and musical exploration.  Sing, Laugh, Have Fun!!

Music and Movement

Let's face it, dancing is just FUN!  I loved to swing dance with the kids and taught them both how to jitter bug!!  Find music that makes you want to move and get out there and dance!! 

Keep in mind
  • The rhythm of music facilitates and inspires movement.
  • Music is a non-threatening vehicle for teacher skills
  • Use music that highlights key concepts
  • Have FUN!!!!  Your kids will feed off your energy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Learning Through Music and Movement

Music and Movement activities help to develop the large muscles of the body, help enhance creativity, and help to improve listening skills and concentration. You may want to try these activities with your student or child:

Follow the Leader --

This activity helps develop concentration. Play a recording of an instrumental song. Move around the room in different ways such as walking, tiptoeing, hopping, and twirling. Let you child observe you, follow your lead, and copy the movements. As your child becomes familiar with this game let them take the lead and you follow them!

Scarf Dance --
This activity nurtures your child's creativity. Give your child a scarf or a piece of cloth. Play a recording of a song and let your child wave the scarf to the rhythm of the music. Wave the scarf over your head and across your body crossing midline as often as you can.

Loud or Soft --

Your child will improve listening skills with this activity. Play a recording of a song loudly or softly. Tell your child to listen carefully to the song. When it is loud, he or she marches around the room. When the music is soft, he or she tiptoes around the room.

Mirrors Mirrors --

This fun activity helps your child improve concentration. Play a slow piece of music and have your child stand facing you. Move very slowly using a variety of arm and leg movements while your child copies you. Then let him or her make the movements while you mirror them.

Musical Instruments can also be used during movement activities. Instruments can be a motivating way to encourage grasp/release, bilateral integration, eye hand coordination, crossing midline, cause/effect skills, and basic motor imitation.

Jim Gill is one of my favorite artists. I have been using his songs in my practice for 10 years. Jim Gill has several CD's out and I must say they are wonderful to move to. The kids and the teachers love the upbeat songs and catchy lyrics. You can check out his website at

Here is a list of my favorite:

Irrational Anthem
Toe Leg Knee
Hands are for Clapping
Alabama, Mississippi
List of Dances
Let's Dance Now
Poison Ivy
Leaky Umbrella
I love to use shakers with Alabama Mississippi. Here is the basic movement pattern I use with this song
Alabama - shake over head
Mississippi -- shake on knees
New Orleans -- shake side to side all the way to the floor (I like to have the kids bend their knees to work of quad. strength if unable to do this movement simply have them reach down as far as they can go.

Repeat pattern throughout the song

For my upper grade levels I have even brought in a map to show them where each of these states and city are located. From there you can open up discussions of how long it would take you get there, the climate, culture, etc.

I hope you enjoy these songs!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Music and Literacy

Reading to children has proven to be essential for speech and language development. However, have you ever thought about singing a book to your child? Singing, is a natural activity for children and provides opportunities for them to build language fluency which can transfer to other aspects of their lives. Songs, like predictable books, help children link oral language to the written language through rhyme, rhythm and repetition. When songs become quickly memorized the music can be used as a structural prompt to reinforce the relationship between the songs text and the words in print. Over time, I will be sharing several of my favorite books to sing to my students on this blog. Some of the books will be songs that have been turned into books and books that can easily be turned into songs. Some of my favorite books to use in the Springtime are as follows:

What a Wonderful World -- Weiss and Thiele

Little White Duck - Whippo-Zaritzky-Paley

Ten Little Ladybugs - - Melanie Gerth

Easter Parade - Irving Berlin

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm Not Perfect

As promised, here is the very first activity for Melodic Approaches. I debated and debated over what should be the first music strategy. As a perfectionist I get caught up in “trying” to make everything just right before I try something new or allowing someone to hear a song I’ve been working on or even creating my session plans. Well life isn’t perfect and no matter how hard I try, neither am I. I have also learned over the years that opportunities fly by if you never put yourself out there and try. The premise of this blog is to share my thoughts and strategies that are working for the students I work with. I do not claim to be a top expert in my field or a professional grammy award winning performer. (My “recording studio” is in our craft room and I sing into my daughters karaoke machine.) I am merely just a music therapist who happens to have a passion for teaching others how to use music to help our kiddos reach their full potential.

During my music therapy sessions this week we have been talking about how each one of us is given talents and how each of us are different in our own way. The students helped devise a list of their talents and things they are good at. We then discussed things that are hard or challenging for them and made a list. I made sure the list of strengths were much longer than the list of weaknesses than we talked about how everybody struggles with something sometime. When we finished our discussion we sang the following song, I’m not Perfect by Laurie Berkner. Laurie is one of my all time favorite children's’ song writers. I have been using her songs during music therapy since 2001 and tell all my friends when I grow up I want to be her! You can only imagine how excited I was last year when I was able to see her in concert! I did bring my children and 2 year old nephew so I wouldn’t look out of place.

I'm not perfect.

No I'm not.

I'm not perfect, but I've got what I got.

I do my very best.

I do my very best.

I do my very best each day.

I'm not perfect but I hope you like me anyway.

You're no perfect.

No, you're not.

You're not perfect,

But you've got what you got.

You do your very best, you do your very best.

You do your very best each day.

You're not perfect

But you know I like you anyway.

Cause, we're not perfect.

Oh no we're not.

We're not perfect.

But we got what we got.

We do our very best, we do our very best

We do our very best each day.

We're not perfect.

But I hope you like us anyway.