The Educational Songs and Children's Music Blog

Music and Literacy: Connecting Music to the "Big Five" Reading Skills

Reading is magical. I recently observed a young mom reading a book with her five year old. It was a beautiful, tender moment as her child sounded out a few of the words. The mother swelled with pride, misty-eyed knowing that her child received one of life's greatest gifts – the ability to read.

So, how do I help my child achieve this great milestone? There are so many things a parent can do to further this skill – engage in conversation, create a language rich environment, read aloud to your child, and MUSIC! Yes! Music.

In 1997, Congress commissioned the National Reading Panel, a group of fourteen experts, to review the existing research on reading instruction. Based on their analysis of thousands of studies, the panel determined that an effective approach to teaching beginning reading includes instruction in five areas (also known as the National Reading Panel’s Big Five). Multiple research (for you scholars, see bibliography below) shows that music can enhance each of these areas.

1. Phonemic Awareness - the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in words. Several recent studies show increase phonemic & phonological awareness when teachers use music in the classroom. Because songs manipulate sounds especially through lyrics and rhyme, there is a direct connection to literacy. Check out the song Tell Me All The Sounds, by Liz Buchanan. Also see Jack Hartmann's Let’s Make Words.The classic favorite Apples and Bananas is another fun one for building phonemic awareness! Click here our list of songs that build Phonemic Awareness!

2. Alphabetic Principle – the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. How did you learn your letters? Most learn The Alphabet Song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.We first learn the letters, next we learn the sounds, then we begin to blend them together. Here are some songs to help learning letters and letter sounds: Rappin the ABC’s and Who Knows the Alphabet Sounds. Check out Alphabet Boogie by Kiboomu, Jack Hartmann's Meet the Letters of the Alphabetor The Alphabet Song by Marla Lewis. Click here our list of songs about the alphabet and phonics!

3. Fluency - the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression. – The innate rhythm and tambour of music can be directly connected to the rhythm and prosody of reading fluency. Songs with a strong rhythmic beat are great, also use songs that encourage movement, clapping or playing rhythm instruments. Check out Tapping, Shaking Music Making by Rachel Rambach, I Clap, I Shout from the new Dandelion CD by Growing Sound. Try Gotta Get the Beat from Pam Donkin, or Liz Buchanan's Animal Hand-Clap Rap. Click here our list of Action & Movement Songs!

4. Vocabulary – the ability to recognize and understand words in print and in speech. Enhancing vocabulary through music is a proven strategy. Lyrics matter, and selecting songs with educational value make a difference in the development of academic vocabulary. So, playing that Beyonce song on the radio may not build the vocabulary you want for your child. Songs for Teaching has songs for nearly every subject. Check out our front page for suggestions in almost any category. Bilingual Music is great for building vocabulary for English Language Learners. Check out the songs on Francisco Herrera's Canta y Juega. Build vocabulary in English and Mandarin with Early Mandarin Adventures! Click here to see songs for building English vocabulary!

5. Comprehension - the ability to understand what has been read or heard. – Helping children with metacognition (thinking about thinking), making connections with text, visualization and synthesizing are all key comprehension strategies. Engaging the learner is key to comprehension. Music’s ability to engage learners is powerful. Secondly, engaging in dialogue about songs can help facilitate comprehension skills. Silly songs can be a fun way of engaging and talking about the lyrics can build comprehension skills. Try A Rhino Likes Popcorn by Jason Anderson; or Mrs. Music's collection Best Silly Songs Ever Song written specifically for comprehension can also build skills such as Context Clues by Matilda Gilbert or Reading Strategy Songs by Miles & Tanny McGregor (fyi -- Tanny McGregor is one of our sources in the Bibliography below)! Songs about books can be a good tool. Check out Cool Books by Recess! or Storybook Friends by Intelli-Tunes

In Closing, music can be a fun way to nurture literacy! Teachers, play music in the classroom or during transitions, integrate strategic songs into your lesson plans to yield fantastic results, and value the music teacher in your school -- they are helping your students! Parents, sing songs with your child, clap and dance along, recite nursery rhymes, or make a drum set out of your kitchen pots and pans. Playing children’s music in the car or at home is fun AND educational for your child.

You can find great educational music at www.SongsforTeaching.com. Stream educational music with our new App -- Get over 500 FREE songs on the Songs for Teaching Radio Android APP (Don’t worry Apple users, it is coming soon to the IOS Market). Also coming soon is our new Halloween Songs App!

Bibliography:

Degé, F., & Schwarzer, G. (2011, June 20). The Effect of a Music Program on Phonological Awareness in Preschoolers.National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00124/full

Gromko, J. (2005). The Effect of Music Instruction on Phonemic Awareness in Beginning Readers. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3598679?uid=3739552&uid=2&uid=4&ui...

Hansen, D., Bernstorf, E. D., & Stuber, G. M. (2004). The Music and Literacy Connection. Reston, Va.: MENC.

Li, X., & Brand, M. (2009). Effectiveness of Music on Vocabulary Acquisition, Language Usage, and Meaning for Mainland Chinese ESL Learners.krpb.pbworks. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://krpb.pbworks.com/f/music-esl.pdf.

McGregor, Tanny. (2014, April). Music and Literacy Strategies Using Comprehension Connections. General Music Today, Vol. 27, No. 3, 6-9.

"National Reading Panel." National Reading Panel. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. .

Peterson, E. (2012, July 17). Education Closet – Integrating Music and Literacy. Retrieved from http://educationcloset.com/2012/07/17/integrating-music-and-literacy/

Standley, Jayne M. (2008, Nov.). Does Music Instruction Help Children Learn to Read? Evidence of a Mega-Analysis. Applications of Research in Music Education, Vol. 27, No. 1, 17-32

Tarbert, K. (2012). Learning Literacy through Music. Oneota Reading Journal. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://oneotareadingjournal.com/2012/learning-literacy-through-music/

10 Ways to Use Music in Your Classroom

Due to several requests, we are republishing this blog post, originally published in March 2014.

Most teachers agree that using music can enhance learning. Yet, many teachers get stuck, not knowing what to play or how to use music to the fullest. Here are 10 ideas you can implement today in your classroom!

1. Transitions – music is a great tool when switching subjects of changing directions for your students. It has a way of resetting the stage so that children can mentally switch from one topic to another. Play a song to summarize what was just finished, or a song about what is coming next. Allow the children to stand up, march around the room or do hand movements to mark the transition. You will find your children fresh and engaged for the next subject. Click here for some great transition songs!

2. Energize – When children have been focusing on a subject for a time and begin to get fatigued (usually marked by restlessness, inattention, disruptive behavior), take a break from the class and call a music break. Play a activating song, best if related to the topic, to re-energize the children. Click here for some great suggestions!

3. Use Lyrics – display lyrics on a whiteboard, smart-board or on flip chart paper. Have the children find sight words, diagram the sentences or pull out academic vocabulary. Using the text while the song plays, gives relevance to the lyrics and allows the children to learn conventions, build vocabulary and enhance reading and literacy. Nearly all the music at Songs For Teaching is sold with lyrics.

4. Write Lyrics – collect a few instrumental tracks of familiar songs and as an assignment have the children write their own lyrics. This can be done individually, in small groups or with the class at large. The teacher can incorporate a current theme or target information learned from a particular lesson. It might be a great project for a poetry lesson! Here are several suggestions for instrumental tracks.

5. Power of the Pause – Pausing the music at key spots in the music can increase engagement. Pause before the end of a line and ask the children to finish the line. Then think of other words you could substitute for the actual lyric. Brainstorm other words that rhyme or words that may change the meaning! Use the pause button with any song (remember musical chairs?). For rhyming songs try Jack Hartmann's Rap, Clap, Rhyme. Also see Marla Lewis' Rhyme Riddles!

6. Pair with Literature – There are a number of ways to pair songs with the books the children are reading. Teachers can select songs that relate directly to the book. For example, if your class is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins, you can incorporate this song also titled Mr. Popper's Penguins directly about the book. Or you can find songs about a related topic such as Penguin Partyabout the different types of penguins or Puffin's Summer Picnic to learn about animals of the Arctic. This can be a great way to address the Common Core directive to integrate science, social studies etc into reading. Or . . . flip it! Listen to a song before going to the library and have the children find related books! Click Here for more songs inspired by Children's Literature.

7. Make Music Video – This is a great project to integrate the sciences. Children can find photos on the internet and arrange them in a slide show to convey meaning in the song. Take the song Hibernation for example. . Children can collect photos of hibernating animals and sync them to the music. How about a song about amphibians . . . or a song about the solar system. Not only do the children enjoy the science lesson, they build their technology skills as well.

8. Coordinate with Holidays - Most teachers are used to playing songs related to the big holidays, but don’t forget the other special days of the year. For example, Earth Day is coming soon. It is a great time to play music related to conservation such as Music with Mar.'s Can It, Save the Planet. It also can be a great way to integrate songs about historical figures related to that holiday. For Earth Day, you could play a song about John Muir and learn the history of the day.

9. Have a Performance! This can be something simple like a performing for the classroom, perhaps across grade levels or with reading buddies. Or it can be for a school assembly or parent night. Using instrumental tracks saves the day when an accompanists cannot be found. Click here for some suggestions for performances! Make costumes and write your own scripts. Try one of our great musicals that come fully scripted complete with vocal and instrumental tracks.

10. Just plain fun! Try some silly songs for the simple joy of it. Make the classroom environment one that nurture’s children’s creativity and natural desire for learning.

Why Shop at Songs for Teaching?

We know you have many choices as a consumer, and we here at Songs for Teaching want to win your business. So here are our top 10 reasons to shop at www.SongsforTeaching.com for your children's educational music.

Number 10. We've done the research! - We know that you want the best for your buck. We preview all the cds listed on our site for the following criteria:
a. The music must be of high quality.
b. The content must be educationally useful and appropriate.
c. The production value must be professional quality.

Number 9. We provide music in a variety of formats Hard Copy CDs, Mp3 downloads, Videos, Sheet Music, Lyrics etc. Many of our songs even have teaching materials as well.

Number 8. We are on the up and up with current trends in Children's Music. As Corporate Sponsors of Children's Music Network, a consortium of musicians, educators, producers, songwriters etc., we connect regularly with other like-minded folks who are committed to bringing quality music to children.

Number 7. Hard-to-Find Titles - We carry many items that never made it on to those "big dog" web sites. Some artists prefer to sell exclusively with Songs for Teaching! Looking for that folk song your grandmother used to sing? We probably have it!

Number 6. Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics - Nearly all of our products include lyrics. This is heaven for teachers who utilize lyrics as a teaching tool in the classroom. Lyrics matter and having a printable version saves teachers precious time and energy! Can't get that from the big dogs!

Number 5. Recommendations - Not sure what to buy? Tired of searching among thousands of songs and cds on those "big dog" sites? We have recommendation pages for nearly every topic. Just click the next to the topic of your choice on our Home Page and it will list out song suggestions for that topic.

Number 4. I answer the phone! - Customer Service is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy talking to parents and educators helping them with their orders or offering personal recommendations. I like email too! If you leave me a voicemail or email, I try my hardest to get back to you as soon as I can. You aren't getting the customer service department, you are getting me - an educator, a parent, a musician and the owner of Songs for Teaching.

Number 3. We take Purchase Orders. - Simply fax in your signed purchase order (866-769-8528) and I will take it from there! I am happy to jump through whatever hoops required to become a "Preferred Vendor" for your organization.

Number 2. Support Small Businesses - While "shop local" doesn't quite describe us, the sentiment is similar. We feel like we have a little shingle hung on the Main Street of the World Wide Web. We know it might be the trend to shop at one of those "big dogs" but this Mom and Pop are committed to helping you!

Number 1. We are Artists too! - We have been writing and recording educational music for years and really believe in it's power as an incredible medium for education. Our ultimate goal to get quality educational music in the hands of parents and teachers.

Humbly,

David & Alice Burba,
Songs for Teaching Owners

'Round The Campfile

Pack your bags and grab your favorite harmonica, it’s camping season!

The best part of camping is making s’mores, of course, but the second best part of camping is singing campfire songs.

Douse yourself in bug spray and take a deep breath of that crisp clean forest air. Imagine the earthy smell of campfire smoke wafting under your nose and feel the cool grass beneath your toes.  The stars have just woken up and the sky is still has a pink afterglow. Dodge the marshmallow your little sister threw at you. Crickets are singing their nightly chorus and the spring peepers join in. This moment right here, this is summer.

Now that you’re in your happy place and I have your attention, please grab an acoustic guitar (or a musical friend) and learn these songs for your next camping trip. These songs are even great in the car on the way to a camping trip.

The great thing about camp songs is that they are often sung in rounds, have interactive parts, hand motions, and silly lyrics so even those reluctant to participate will crack a smile after a few minutes.

Maybe you’re like me and completely, utterly, hopelessly a lost cause when it comes to singing. No worries! Campfire songs are not known for their difficulty and many can be lyrically spoken like “Going on a Bear Hunt.” No excuses. Everyone can enjoy a little Kumbayah or Down by the Riverside. 

Don’t forget the scary stories either. Songs, stories, and s’mores are the essentials of every camping trip.

See our many Campfire Songs and Folk Songs to liven up your next camping trip. Or try Bug Songs or songs about the Night Sky!

We've prepared a Free Downloadable Lyrics Book with Campfire Songs you can print out for summer singing fun.

Happy May!

Happy May, everyone! As a teacher, I think of May as a time to wrap up my year and a time to think about how I can do it all over—better—next year. As a Songs for Teaching teacher-musician, I’m happy to help you to do these things—with songs and classroom-tested activities!

* * *

It’s time to wrap up the year. I have created an “Ultimate End of the Year Extravaganza Package,”
which features “The Hug Song” from my Make Good Choices CD. Wrap up your school year with lots of hugs and tons of fun, user-friendly craftivities. I've included instructions for modifying assignments for grades K-3. From Kindergarten Graduation fun, to 5-paragraph essays, your students will enjoy reflecting and learning until the very end of the year.
This end of the year packet features:

1. "Memories" cover art for grades K-3 in full-color and black and white.

2. "Sweet Cinquains and Other Poems" Ice-Cream Cone Writing Craftivity: Children write one line of an end of the year poem on each scoop of ice cream. I've included instructions, templates, and ideas for modifying to meet your children's needs.

3. "My Favorite Books" Craftivity and Shape Book: Children choose which face and hair best match theirs, add a book, add hands, and then add pages to make a shape book.

4. "Celebration Hat--Glyph, Shape Book, and Wearable Hat:" Children answer questions about school preferences and color the hat based on answers in the glyph section of this craftivity. Add writing activities to make a shape book, and/or choose to create party hats from 2 different templates.

5. "Sun-sational Summer Plans" Shape Book: Choose from blank pages, lined pages, or prompt pages to meet your students' needs. I've also included instructions for writing longer essays.

6. "Keys to Success" Shape Book: Children write a "key" to success in your classroom on each page of this book.

7. First Place Ribbon "School Favorites" Shape Book: Children write their favorite things about school, as well as favorite songs, movies, etc., in this project. I've included blank, lined, and prompt pages as well as ideas for expanding the assignment.

8. "Friend-Ship" Autograph/Shape Book: Children sign one part of the ship each. I've included several different templates so that children can choose to simply sign their names or write longer notes. I've also included a suggestion for ensuring that all students sign all books.

9. "Graduation Cap" Shape Book and Wearable Hat: Children write about what they've learned, their goals for next year, their goals after high school graduation, and their goals after college graduation. I've included prompt pages, blank pages, and lined pages as well as ideas for making wearable hats and expanding the assignment to meet all students' needs.

10. Simple Memory Book Pages: Attach these basic memory book pages to covers at the beginning of the packet if you are ever running short on time.

* * *

Now, to think about how we can do it all over—better—next year. Why not align your entire curriculum with songs? Songs make standards come to life. Children love singing. The repetition is like a commercial—but better. While commercials play in the background, using songs in the classroom involves active listening for the purpose of learning. As your children sing, they are repeating important information. They can also do motions to help cement the information in their brains. Alternatively, they can read the words to improve reading skills as they continue to reinforce content each time that they sing.

For those of you who teach Common Core State Standards, I’ve designed my Common Core KinderMath and Common Core 1st Grade Math CDs to teach concepts and strategies in every single Common Core K-1 standard. My Early Phonics, Phonics Time, and Advanced Phonics programs teach K-2 Foundational Skills and more. Six Traits Writing teaches the six traits along with presentation skills and parts of speech. The book features charts, rubrics, and activities to enhance learning. Start the Day With a Smile and Make Good Choices offer fun ways to make each day exciting in your classroom.

* * *

My goal in creating CDs is to give teachers complete musical programs. Teachers often ask what they should use in various grade levels. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Preschool Teachers: Please take time to look at my Early Math, Make Good Choices, and Start the Day With a Smile CDs. I’ve designed these programs based on my experience in the classroom, based on teachers’ needs, and based on comparing preschool standards of many different states.

Kindergarten teachers: Your students will also enjoy Make Good Choices and Start the Day With a Smile . In addition, please try Early Phonics, Phonics Time, Science Songs, and Common Core KinderMath. These programs will meet your curriculum needs for an entire year.

First grade teachers: Your children will love to Start the Day With a Smile as they Make Good Choices as well. Please try Phonics Time, Advanced Phonics, Science Songs, Health and the Human Body, and Common Core 1st Grade Math.

Grades 2+: Please try Advanced Phonics, Six Traits Writing, Science Songs, Health and the Human Body, and Make a Difference. In addition, my Skip-Counting Chants are great for giving children the fluency they need for multiplication and division.

"Miss Jenny," founder and president of Edutunes, is a teacher, children's song-writer and national teaching consultant. Miss Jenny has created over 200 educational songs in top-quality programs. Click here to find all Miss Jenny's Products at Songs for Teaching

Songwriting with Second Graders, Part One

I just completed a Songwriting Workshop Residency with second graders at Wantagh Elementary School in Wantagh, NY. Everybody has been so excited about it – both the process of creating and the completed songs – that I am inspired to share it here with fellow teachers and musicians. Here is the first installment.

Before giving a songwriting workshop, I meet with the teachers and ask: How many of YOU enjoy writing? If you love it, your students will! Now I’m not talking about composing The Great American Novel; just, say, answering an email. Expressing yourself to a friend. Ask yourself: do you enjoy that?

Then I ask--Are your students:
• Eager to write?
• Bursting with ideas?
• Willing to revise and edit until they are proud of their work?
• Can’t wait to share their writing with the other kids?

Now wouldn’t that be awesome? Second graders have just begun to express themselves in writing. This year, they are beginning to write stories and non fiction pieces. They have been encouraged by the Writer’s Workshop Model to discover seed ideas and begin to develop them with details. Hopefully, children are beginning to think creatively. I like to review some facts about creative thinkers:

• They are flexible; they will try out many possible solutions to a problem;
• They let their ideas flow more freely, without judgement;
• They make use of the right brain (intuitive) as well as the left (logical and practical); and
• They don’t give up easily! Creativity definitely IS 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration! (e.g., Einstein, Marie Curie, Edison)

Click here to see Marla Lewis' songs!

Here’s how my songwriting sessions work:

SESSION I --Prewriting

Part 1: What is a song? A song is made up of lyrics (the words, a form of poetry) and melody (the musical notes – try humming “Happy Birthday” without the words, and reciting the lyrics without the music, to illustrate).
The lyrics should have a strong meter, or beat. As we recite “Happy Birthday,” we’ll clap to the beat of the words. The chorus is the main idea of the song – what the song is about -- that repeats at least twice or more.

Part 2: Example of a strong chorus. I hand out the lyric for a song with a really strong chorus. Just last week, the second graders listened to “Happy” by Pharell Williams, with a copy of the lyrics in front of them. The children love this song, so it helps them to easily understand the concept of chorus as main idea.

Part 3: Generating Ideas for our song. Important: Your class will already have decided what they will be writing about! (This saves lots of time. Using the Spring theme, some possible ideas include: Coming out of hibernation, butterflies, things we love to do in Spring, etc.) Together we brainstorm about ideas, vocabulary, and facts your class finds most interesting, using words or phrases only. We can use a Word Web or whatever graphic organizer you find most helpful, either on chart paper or on a smart board. No idea is “good” or “bad” – we want a flow of ideas here. We will review this list with the class and ask the children, “Can you tell me any more about that?” Get the children’s energy and understanding of the topic. In this climate, the ideas come fast and furiously! I call on children while the teacher acts as scribe. Toward the end of this session, we take time to reread what we have written on our chart. Do we notice any trends? From this, we get a very good idea of what the chorus will be about. It is even possible that we come up with a few possible song titles and/or first lines of our chorus.

Before I return for Session 2, I ask teachers to have students generate more ideas during Writer’s Workshop. They can each write words, phrases, or sentences about what they found most interesting about the song’s topic. (Homework: Identify the choruses of favorite tunes on the radio).

Submitted by Marla Lewis
Marla Lewis has been dubbed, "one of the best creators of children's music in America today...whose songs are... filled with a warm wit and a happy heart." (--Steve Cahill, President, Songwriters' Resource Network). Her CDs have won Parents' Choice Gold and NAPPA Gold awards. Currently, Marla is writing personalized songs for children with cancer through Songs of Love, a national charity. She is also writing songs with second graders and singing with preschoolers at day care centers.

Click here to see Marla Lewis' songs!

10 Ways to Use Music in Your Classroom

Most teachers agree that using music can enhance learning. Yet, many teachers get stuck, not knowing what to play or how to use music to the fullest. Here are 10 ideas you can implement today in your classroom!

1. Transitions – music is a great tool when switching subjects of changing directions for your students. It has a way of resetting the stage so that children can mentally switch from one topic to another. Play a song to summarize what was just finished, or a song about what is coming next. Allow the children to stand up, march around the room or do hand movements to mark the transition. You will find your children fresh and engaged for the next subject. Click here for some great transition songs!

2. Energize – When children have been focusing on a subject for a time and begin to get fatigued (usually marked by restlessness, inattention, disruptive behavior), take a break from the class and call a music break. Play a activating song, best if related to the topic, to re-energize the children. Click here for some great suggestions!

3. Use Lyrics – display lyrics on a whiteboard, smart-board or on flip chart paper. Have the children find sight words, diagram the sentences or pull out academic vocabulary. Using the text while the song plays, gives relevance to the lyrics and allows the children to learn conventions, build vocabulary and enhance reading and literacy. Nearly all the music at Songs For Teaching is sold with lyrics.

4. Write Lyrics – collect a few instrumental tracks of familiar songs and as an assignment have the children write their own lyrics. This can be done individually, in small groups or with the class at large. The teacher can incorporate a current theme or target information learned from a particular lesson. It might be a great project for a poetry lesson! Here are several suggestions for instrumental tracks.

5. Power of the Pause – Pausing the music at key spots in the music can increase engagement. Pause before the end of a line and ask the children to finish the line. Then think of other words you could substitute for the actual lyric. Brainstorm other words that rhyme or words that may change the meaning! Use the pause button with any song (remember musical chairs?). For rhyming songs try Jack Hartmann's Rap, Clap, Rhyme. Also see Marla Lewis' Rhyme Riddles!

6. Pair with Literature – There are a number of ways to pair songs with the books the children are reading. Teachers can select songs that relate directly to the book. For example, if your class is reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins, you can incorporate this song also titled Mr. Popper's Penguins directly about the book. Or you can find songs about a related topic such as Penguin Partyabout the different types of penguins or Puffin's Summer Picnic to learn about animals of the Arctic. This can be a great way to address the Common Core directive to integrate science, social studies etc into reading. Or . . . flip it! Listen to a song before going to the library and have the children find related books! Click Here for more songs inspired by Children's Literature.

7. Make Music Video – This is a great project to integrate the sciences. Children can find photos on the internet and arrange them in a slide show to convey meaning in the song. Take the song Hibernation for example. . Children can collect photos of hibernating animals and sync them to the music. How about a song about amphibians . . . or a song about the solar system. Not only do the children enjoy the science lesson, they build their technology skills as well.

8. Coordinate with Holidays - Most teachers are used to playing songs related to the big holidays, but don’t forget the other special days of the year. For example, Earth Day is coming soon. It is a great time to play music related to conservation such as Music with Mar.'s Can It, Save the Planet. It also can be a great way to integrate songs about historical figures related to that holiday. For Earth Day, you could play a song about John Muir and learn the history of the day.

9. Have a Performance! This can be something simple like a performing for the classroom, perhaps across grade levels or with reading buddies. Or it can be for a school assembly or parent night. Using instrumental tracks saves the day when an accompanists cannot be found. Click here for some suggestions for performances! Make costumes and write your own scripts. Try one of our great musicals that come fully scripted complete with vocal and instrumental tracks.

10. Just plain fun! Try some silly songs for the simple joy of it. Make the classroom environment one that nurture’s children’s creativity and natural desire for learning.

Celebrating Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and it’s a great time to talk with kids about women in history. Unfortunately, I think a lot of schools are reluctant to spend much time on women’s history, especially because March is also“Read Across America” month and Dr. Seuss’s birthday. However, there are lots of great resources out there, and it’s important for kids to learn about the contributions of women and the challenges they have overcome and those they continue to face. Girls need to hear about strong women so that they can have role models to counter the overwhelming emphasis on looks in our culture, and boys need to hear about strong women so they can grow up treating them with respect and standing up for gender equality.

A few years ago, David & I developed a women’s history month assembly, with the culminating song being “Girls Who Rock the World” from our Patchwork Planet CD. The song is based on several books titled “Girls Who Rocked the World,” featuring short biographies of young women who accomplished something amazing by the time they reached age 20. There were women throughout history, from diverse countries, and with various areas of expertise including the arts, sports, science, government, and activism. The books and the song are great tools for introducing students to women in history with whom they may be unfamiliar.

With children, putting the history in context is particularly important. Many children don’t realize that there was a time when women were prevented from voting, getting jobs, getting an education, playing sports, and were in fact treated as property. This discrimination still happens in some parts of the world. Children realize how unfair this is, especially when they learn that today, women still don’t get equal pay for equal work here in this country. Equality between women and men is a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice. It is necessary for equality, development and peace around the world.

One way to combine Women’s History Month and Read Across America is to seek out books with strong female characters. Songs can help underscore this emphasis, including our song“Harriet the Spy”. When we do Monty Harper’s wonderful song “Hangin’ Out with Heroes at the Library,” we make sure that at least half of the verses feature strong female characters such as Ms. Frizzle, Charlotte (the spider), Alice (in Wonderland) and Dorothy.

In addition to “Girls Who Rock the World” mentioned above, here are some resources you can use to introduce students to important women and women’s history in America.

African-American women:
Do You Want to Be Free? about Harriet Tubman and written by 4th grade students; recorded by Two of a Kind on our So Many Ways to Be Smart CD.
• Harriet Tubman by Walter Robinson; recorded by Holly Near & Ronnie Gilbert on their Lifeline CD.
What Can One Little Person Do? has verses about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks; by Sally Rogers, on her CD What Can One Little Person Do? and also on Two of a Kind’s Friends CD

Women in Labor History:
• Babies in the Mill, by Dorsey Dixon, on CD Babies in the Mill.
• Cotton Mill Girls, American Traditional; recorded by Hali Hammer & Pat Wynne
on CD, Labor of Love (out of print)

Other great songs for kids about famous women: Amelia Earhart written by Kathleen Wiley. Jonathan Sprout has written lots of songs about famous women on his American Heroes CD’s including songs about Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jane Addams, Clara Barton, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rachel Carson, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt and others.

African American Heroes - Part 3

This is the third and final post in our series celebrating the contributions of great African American Heroes in honor of Black History Month

Harriet Tubman (1820?-1913) was born a slave near Bucktown, MD. At about the age of 29 she escaped to the North. Before the outbreak of the Civil War she made nineteen journeys back to lead other slaves—including her own parents and most of her brothers and sisters—to freedom along the secret route known as the Underground Railroad. Slave owners were constantly on the lookout for Tubman and offered large rewards for her capture, but they never succeeded in seizing her or any of the slaves she helped escape. She helped so many blacks escape to freedom that she became known as the “Moses of her people.”(see Harriet Tubman’s song, co-written with fellow children’s recording artist Dave Kinnoin, titled Take a Ride from Jonathan Sprout's American Heroes CD )


George Washington Carver (1864?-1943), known as the Peanut Man, helped countless poor Southerners survive as farmers. Born a slave, he overcame harsh racial prejudice to earn two college degrees, becoming one of the most famous scientists of his time. His research reportedly led to the development of 300 products made from peanuts. From the sweet potato, he found more than 100 uses. A soft-spoken, modest man, Professor Carver donated his savings near the end of his life so his research could continue. On his gravestone is written: “He found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.” (See George Washington Carver’s song, co-written with Jimmy Hammer and Dave Kinnoin, titled Peanut Man from Jonathan Sprout's American Heroes #3 CD ).


Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) overcame severe physical handicaps to become one of America’s greatest athletes. As a young girl living in poverty, child #20 in a family of 22 children, she was often sick. At the age of six, she was fitted with a metal leg brace and told she would never walk again. Through determination, dedication, and great courage, Wilma Rudolph turned her life around to become the “fastest woman in the world” as well as the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. In her soft-spoken, calm, and gracious manner, she taught us that we must not allow our circumstances to hinder our potential to succeed. After winning her three gold medals at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, the mayor of her home town wanted to hold a parade in Wilma’s honor. She agreed to participate only if the town would change its segregated custom and hold a racially integrated parade and banquet. It did. This was the first fully integrated municipal event in the history of Clarksville, Tennessee. (See Wilma Rudolph’s song Can’t Stop Running from Jonathan Sprout's American Heroes #3 CD)

Jonathan Sprout's American Heroes CD, won critical acclaim and awards from The National Association of Parenting Publications & Parents’ Choice as a groundbreaking CD in the field of educational children’s music. A sequel, More American Heroes CD, has been awarded The Film Advisory Board’s Award of Excellence and Parents’ Choice Awards. Jonathan's American Heroes #3 CD won eleven national awards, including a 2010 GRAMMY® nomination. American Heroes #4 is now available! on Songs For Teaching!

African American Heroes - Part 2

This is the second in a series of three posts celebrating the contributions of great African American Heroes in honor of Black History Month


Beginning in 1937, Carter Woodson (see African American Heroes, part 1) focused on making the celebration of African Americans an annual event at the urging of Mary McCleod Bethune (1875-1955), once the most influential black woman in America. At 29, she started her own school for African Americans with $1.50, all the money she owned. She became a voice of hope and optimism, inspiring pride and self-confidence in others. Firmly committed to social justice, she taught her students how to succeed, insisting they pay it forward by helping others who were less fortunate. Her non-confrontational style of preferring conference tables to picket lines enabled her to build bridges between black and white communities that advanced the cause for equal rights. She was the first black woman to serve as a presidential advisor and the first black person to have a national monument dedicated to her in Washington, DC. (See Mary McLeod Bethune’s song, co-written with Jimmy Hammer, titled Heads, Hearts, and Hands from American Heroes #4 CD).


Jackie Robinson (1919-72) broke the color barrier in 1947 when he became the first black major league baseball player. In spite of racial hostility and even death threats from players and fans, he played the game of baseball with quiet dignity and extraordinary talent. He was a daring base runner, an excellent fielder and held a career batting average of .311. He was an active spokesperson for civil rights, and in 1962 he became the first African-American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Jackie was born in 1919 on the verge of Black History Month—January 31st. He said, “There is not an American in this country who is free until every one of us are free.” (See Jackie Robinson’s song, co-written with Dave Kinnoin, Break the Barrier from More American Heroes CD)


Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) believed that love and peaceful protest could eliminate social injustice. A clergyman and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, he was one of the outstanding black leaders of the United States at a time when many blacks were clearly treated as inferior people. His house was bombed and his life and family were often threatened, but, until the day he died, Dr. King continued to teach people the world over to protest peacefully in order to achieve equality and peace. I’ve written songs about 40 American heroes since 1994. My first was about Martin Luther King, Jr. His song Martin from American Heroes CD).

Jonathan Sprout's American Heroes CD, won critical acclaim and awards from The National Association of Parenting Publications & Parents’ Choice as a groundbreaking CD in the field of educational children’s music. A sequel, More American Heroes CD, has been awarded The Film Advisory Board’s Award of Excellence and Parents’ Choice Awards. Jonathan's American Heroes #3 CD won eleven national awards, including a 2010 GRAMMY® nomination. American Heroes #4 is now available! on Songs For Teaching!