The Power Of Song

This post originally appeared on  blog site. 

Power of Song

Songs are extremely powerful! CAT scans have shown that all the hemispheres of the brain ignite when songs are played and people truly listen. A song has three key ingredients: rhythm, music and lyrics (words). “Music” is Greek in origin (from “muse”) and once meant ALL of the arts.  Although listening is primarily an auditory experience, a song’s rhythm is kinesthetic, and its lyrics make it visual. Today in our busy world, words fly everywhere through all media, and are often confused or meanings changed with spell-checks. Fleeting texts seem to lack emotion and can easily be misconstrued. Where people once had to think before picking up a pen and writing on paper, Twitter, emails and texts are often the only way we communicate. There are so many songs in so many genres that lyrically relate to so many different subjects, thousand of playlists are generated every day, and not that many people truly listen to a song’s lyric or pay attention to their meaning.  To fully understand the power of song, let’s focus on three major ways they are actually used:  1) to unite;  2) to teach; and 3) to soothe.

Songs That Unite:

Songs that unite typically have a magical way of bringing people together. They can highlight differences, love, race, gender, culture and other societal norms. But impactful music that unites typically highlights how, in spite of our differences all humans are similar. We all experience the same stages of growth, emotion, love and pain. Our common life experiences can create a bond and relationship to a song and bring people together.

An awesome example of songs uniting people from all over the world is Eric Whitacre’s emotional TED talk and “Virtual Choir” project. He held auditions and curated a 2,052-person choir to create a beautiful collaboration for his newest work Sleep, using YouTube. A project like this illustrates the beauty of sound and the skill of editing to create a masterpiece. What a way to unite people!

Creating unity is a very important part of my work and of Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Music.  My songs are written with the intention of bringing children and families together, and with the hope of creating fun, safe and interesting ways to experience them. All The Way Around The World from “Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta: BOO-2” was developed with these goals in mind.

Songs That Teach:

Songs that are specifically composed for children, can be created with the intention of entertaining them through active physical engagement, and can also be infused with life-lessons. Songs can tell stories and present situations that focus on sharing, caring, listening, learning and growth. And they can incorporate early childhood skills like:  learning numbers, the alphabet, animal sounds, colors etc.

Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta songs like “Read A Book!” emphasize the importance of reading. It’s lyrics focus on sequencing and tell three mini-stories, and it expands the imagination and promotes a sense of adventure. This video is by the talented Patricia Shih, another children’s songwriter I know.

Songs That Soothe:

Songs can activate people.  (Pay some attention to what is being played in shopping malls or crowded restaurants. It’s usually “busy” music to get people to purchase more or eat quickly). And, it can also soothe the mind, body and spirit.  Naturally, children’s day-to-day lives are filled with lots of activity and movement.  They are constantly exploring, moving and growing. Slow, soothing and calming lyrics, melodies, rhythms and instrumentation can be used to bring energy levels down and reduce stress. My goal with the album I created with Bonnie Nichols, another children’s songwriter,  Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta BED was just that:  to create songs for growing sleepy and slowing the mind and body down. The way a piece is  performed also contributes to how soothing a particular song can be.

The power of a song is everywhere!

CLICK HERE to see more of Katherine Dine’s Music!

Katherine Dines is an award-winning children’s songwriter, recording and teaching artist who performs throughout the world. Since 1992, her Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta® Music has garnered numerous national awards including a Grammy nomination, while her concerts continue to captivate children and family audiences of all sizes. 

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Back to School Behavior Management Tips

This post is written by August Artist of the Month, Ben Stiefel

Music Class

A new school year is almost upon us.  And since you, as a music teacher, teach the best subject ever, are you feeling joyful anticipation and excitement (as you should be!)?  Unfortunately, many of us are feeling the opposite: apprehension and tension.  The cause of these worries rarely have to do with the joy of teaching music, but rather, the difficulties of classroom discipline.  If you find classroom discipline overshadowing your love of teaching, I’d like to offer up a few basic tips that have helped me for over 25 years.  They’re not new or revolutionary.  But they will definitely help get you through the tough times.

Tip one:  Each student must have an assigned seat that you can refer to on a seating chart.  Whether you have your own music room, or you travel classroom to classroom, it’s imperative you make yourself a seating chart for each and every class you teach.  Making seating charts on the first day of class is both time consuming and tedious. Children can potentially get restless while you’re taking names and creating your chart, but, it is vital to classroom discipline.  During the school year, both well-behaved and problematic children will want to change their seats for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they want to sit near a friend.  Maybe they want to cause another student trouble. Without a seating chart, chaos could ensue.  With a chart, you can decide who may change their seat and who may not.  Additionally, children both like and need structure.  A proper seating chart benefits both you and your students.

Tip two:  If you say it, mean it.  Don’t make statements of behavioral consequences to a student unless you fully intend to follow through. In other words, don’t say, “Johnny,  if you don’t stop fooling around and take your seat right this minute, I will call your parents,” without actually making the phone call.  If you say you’ll do it, do it!  Once students get the idea that you don’t deliver on your promises, they will be emboldened to misbehave.

Tip three:  Rewarding good behavior is effective! When you’ve tried everything, and your classroom is still in chaos, try positive reinforcement.  You can’t teach anything if the children won’t sit, won’t listen, and only want to play, argue, and fight.  Here’s a quick way to summon everyone’s attention and put order back in the classroom:  grab some maracas, a tambourine, a triangle, anything that kids love to play – hold it up – and say, “I’m looking for someone sitting properly, with hands folded, to come up and play this.”  I’ve seen poorly behaved children straighten right up for a chance to hit a bongo drum.  Once you’ve regained control of your class, you can proceed with your intended lesson (which would, ideally, incorporate the percussion instruments!)

My book, “Winning Over Your Toughest Music Class K-6” is filled with ideas to calm the most unruly classes.  And many of my CDs, including “Just Be Cool – Follow The Rule!” and “Awesome Activities To Win Over Your Toughest Music Class” have songs, games, and stories all designed to reinforce classroom discipline in the music room.

To view all of Ben Stiefels excellent products, click here!

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Six Back to School Tips – Don’t Forget the Music!

BACKtoSCHOOLcanstockphoto39451008Teachers have a tall order preparing for the new year. They often spend weeks setting up their classroom so that when the kiddos arrive, they will have an inviting organized space for learning. My teacher friends have been posting pictures of their classrooms on FaceBook to show how ready they are. I love seeing the creative bulletin boards and desk combinations, but I just want to say one thing. . . “Don’t forget the music!”

Here are some tips for teachers planning for music in their back-to-school classroom. These tips are great for establishing routines that will not only engage learners, but also diffuse some of those negative behaviors we see when kids are anxious.

1. Morning and End of Day Routine Songs —
When kids enter the classroom at the start of each day, there is a bustle of activity which can often be extremely chaotic. Kids push into the classroom with their backpacks, lunch boxes, sweaters and jackets — all needing to get settled before the child can sit at their seat ready to learn (not to mention attendance, lunch orders, homework collection, notes from home, announcements, the pledge,  etc. etc). Many teachers assign classroom responsibilities and chores as well that need to be completed.

 

Morning routine songs and end of the day songs can help define these chaotic times. Playing an up-beat hello song as the children come in the door can set a tone for a positive, productive day. Once the children understand their tasks, challenge the children to finish their jobs and be in their seats by the end of the song. Same for the end of the day routine. Kids will sing along and happily get ready to go in a timely fashion.


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2. Transition Songs —
As you plan out your daily schedule think about ways to transition your students from one activity to another. We have countless transition songs tailored just for this purpose — everything from going to art class, lining up, starting a math unit, or going to the bathroom.


Some children struggle with transitioning from one activity to another. They either cannot leave the last activity (hyper-focus) or they cannot attend to a new activity (lack of focus). Music can really be a boost for these children and help them close out one activity and move to another. It’s a lot more engaging than simply announcing, “Class, time for math now.” Choosing songs that have academic content for these transitions also can have the added benefit of introducing or reinforcing subject matter.

If a teacher uses transition songs consistently, children will tune in to the routine of the day and are better able to switch their focus. Lastly, putting movement to these transition songs (marching, fist pumps, crossing the midline, etc) has the added benefit of providing a Brain Break for the learners and helps reduce learning fatigue.
3. Set up a Listening Station —
boy_w_headphones_iStock_000005494750XSmallMost primary classrooms have a reading nook or book table. Why not have a listening station as well! This can be used as a part of a rotation of centers or it can be a place where kids can go to when their seat work is done.

 

Teachers can go old-school and set up a boom box with headphones, but technology has made this much easier. Using a tablet, computer or even cell phone, the teacher can create a listening station playlist. This can be powerful when using content driven music. Align the playlist for different units or themes in the classroom to reinforce topics covered in class. One tip is to plan for songs that match the current literature study, or your current social studies, science or math unit. As the year goes on, you can tailor this station to the differentiated needs of your students.
4. Substitute Teacher Playlist —
The day will come in the not too distant future where you will need a sub for your classroom. Whether you have the sniffles or you’re headed to a great PD session, planning for your sub can be a chore. As a teacher, you are not always sure who will be in your classroom and how skilled they might be. You certainly don’t want the day to be a loss for the kids.

 

Creating a playlist just for subs can serve as a great tool for the substitute. The kids will be engaged and it might help reduce some of the classic shenanigans that go on when the teacher is away! Again, using content based songs, you can reinforce topics you are learning in class. In your sub instructions, simply tell the teacher when to play each song. You might even want to designate a student to teach the substitute teacher the movements!
5. Mindfulness & Growth Mindset Songs —

GIRLFLOWERcanstockphoto10919689There has been a lot of research on mindfulness in the education of late. Mindfulness allows for children to be in tune with their body and their feelings and how one can, in turn, become empathetic and mindful of others. Planning for a few minutes of centering each day with songs that sooth, encourage or teach self awareness can create an environment for social-emotional learning.

Likewise, Growth Mindset has been the push in many classrooms. Growth Mindset is based on the belief that children can always grow and learn – that learning is not limited or fixed. When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger and therefore they are motivated to take on challenges. Songs that encourage positivity and character can help teachers create an environment of persistence so that kids see effort as the path toward mastery.

 

Weaving these social-emotional and character education songs throughout your lessons, can have long lasting effects on the children in your classroom.
6. Plan for Upcoming Holidays —
Once the year starts, it is amazing how quickly it goes. Before you know it, it will be Halloween, then Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, then the winter holidays! Sometimes these holidays can catch up on you by surprise.
It isn’t too early to gather some music for these seasons. You can switch up your routine or transition music with holiday songs or create a playlist for a party. (We have some great streaming apps that do just the trick!). Looking for a good song for a school performance? We have several for holidays or by topic that come with instrumental tracks or sheet music for performing.
This blog post was originally published in August, 2017. 

#NationalBestFriendsDay

#bestfriendsdayTrolling around twitter today I see the common Friday hashtag #friendsfriday and think, “What a marketing ploy!” I can’t help it. It’s the business woman in me. Then I surf some more and see that today is #NationalBestFriendsDay! My first thought was what if we took these hashtags seriously. What if we committed to building our current friends, reconnecting with old friends, and lastly, meeting new friends! As the old girl scout favorite goes, “Make new friends and keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” 

I first thought of my friend Melanie and realized that I hadn’t asked her how she was doing lately. I pulled out my phone and sent a quick text. How easy that was! Melanie is a dear friend. We go back over 30 years when our husbands played in a band together. Melanie managed the band,Tim, Julie, David, Alice and I would occasionally sing back up vocals. I can’t think of that time without smiling. Come to think of it, so many of our dearest friends are connections we have made through music! Just this week, Dave and I played and sang for a funeral with our dear friends Tim and Julie who moved across the country this year.  While we were sad for our friend, Sal, who lost his step-dad, we were elated to see one another and to play and sing together.

When I think about my music friends, I can’t help but think of the new friends I have made through our membership with the Children’s Music Network. We joined as business sponsors about 5 years ago when we took on Songs for Teaching. I figured it would be important to join to promote children’s music and to connect with some of our Songs for Teaching artists who were also members. What I didn’t realize is how this group would touch card from Lisamy heart and lead me to some incredible human beings, whom I am proud to call friends.  Just this week I’ve been emailing with our new friend Dave Kinnoin about an important song he has written; I received a cute card from Lisa Heintz just because; and I hungout via google for a meeting feeling like I just reconnected with friends across the country.

Music is the perfect connector! It has the ability to draw out our feelings and to break down barriers or inhibitions. There is something special about the shared joy  experienced when playing or listening music with friends. I guess that’s why I am so passionate about the Children’s Music Network. I can’t wait until the conference in October where we can meet up face to face and add to those joy-filled shared experiences.

So send a text to one of your best friends. Better yet, invite them over and get out the guitar and sing some songs or spin some records together!

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