Adventure Day: Surviving the Summer Doldrums in Phoenix

Summer is fast approaching, and while we all love the extra time with the kids, we dread those summer doldrums. Looking for guidance, I would peruse the magazine rack at the grocery store for creative ideas and find countless articles titled, “Explore the Outdoors” “Celebrate Nature this Summer” or “Send the Kids Outside to Play”. . . These are all great themes for this time of year, except . . . we live in Phoenix, Arizona where the average temperature in the summer exceeds 105 and often rises above 110.

The problem for most Arizona parents is that the kids are off school when the weather is at its worst. When my kids were young, I would look forward to the relaxed time with them, but dreaded being locked inside. (I suppose those of you with severe winters can relate). It was a time for creativity, so I declared one day a week devoted to library day (always a bonus that libraries have great air conditioning) and one day a week for Adventure Day.

Adventure Day was a big hit with the kids and became a sacred tradition that my now adult children still talk about. We would all brainstorm local places and activities we wanted to go or do during the summer break and write them down on individual slips of paper. Each of us (myself and my three kids) got to select two of their choices. Mom had the right to veto those items that were out of the budget, unsafe or just plain unrealistic (I had to cut flying to the California beach for the day, skydiving, and running with the bulls).

After we shared our selections we folded up the pieces of paper and put them in an Adventure Day jar. Every Sunday night before bed, we would take turns picking one paper out of the jar for that week’s Adventure Day. Adventure Day was a bit later in the week so we could plan our time. When the day came, we would hop in the car belt out our Adventure Day theme song (a parody of Hurray for Hollywood) in true Ethel Merman style.

There was no grumbling allowed if you didn’t like the week’s pick because you knew yours would come soon. I had to endure arcades and laser tag, but my kids had to cheerfully go to the art or science museum. Some weeks I would allow the kids to bring a friend, but we had the most fun when it was just us (The kids sometimes got embarrassed when mom belted out the Adventure Day theme song in the car, but that was part of the deal if you brought a friend). If the budget allowed, I would close the Adventure Day season at the end of summer break with a big-ticket item like a visit to a local water park.

Some of my favorite Adventure Days were:
• Breakfast at the Zoo (the Phoenix Zoo opens early in the summer and we would pack a picnic breakfast and eat with the chimpanzees).
• Our local children’s museums or science museum – they sometimes offered summer discounts.
• Going to the airport to watch the planes take off and land (when the kids were little this was a kick, but didn’t make the list as they got older).
• We don’t have a beach, but the local “wave” pool was always on the list.
• Early morning hikes in the nearby mountains.
• Ok , I admit it . . . I did love laser tag, but the arcades drove me crazy.

Now grown, my kids will sometimes spontaneously bust out with our Adventure Day theme song when we gather! It just warms my heart (but not too warm, it is after all, Phoenix!)

Alice is the owner of Songs for Teaching. She has three adult children who still love to go on adventures together.

Create a playlist of songs for your Adventure Days this summer! See our suggestions for Songs for Summer Break See also our list of Folk Songs, Campfire Songs
and out list for Library Summer Reading Program Theme Songs.

Music and Literacy: Connecting Music to the “Big Five” Reading Skills

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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 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!


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

Gromko, J. (2005). The Effect of Music Instruction on Phonemic Awareness in Beginning Readers. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from

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

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

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

10 Ways to Use Music in Your Classroom

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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?

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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 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.


David & Alice Burba,
Songs for Teaching Owners