• A  A  A  

Week 16 The Time Between

If you’re at home with the kids, and there’s no snow for the holidays, check out  “I Want To Go Outside”.    Used to be when there wasn’t snow in December things were at least brown   …  so I wrote

“but when I look outside its all quite brown                                    there’s no snow in our town”

But these days where I live, if there’s no snow, the grass is green  –and possibly growing!    So I changed the song words.


Enjoy your holiday, however you spend it.


Week 15 The Holiday Hop

Check out other holiday specific songs in CanDo Music!         Click:  1.   “All Songs”      2.   “Kinds of Songs”    3. Holidays


January can seem a bit dreary after the bright holiday season.  I like to begin working on one or two pieces of music that work just as well in January as December.    Jingle Bells is an easy one  —the only Decembery thing in it is snow.   Jingle Bells makes for easy singing and/or dancing.   Add the 2nd and 3rd verses to set it in its original time period.

The Holiday Hop includes 6 video versions to help teach and/or choreograph a dance with your students.    Again, its simply dance music with no deep ties to December so it can brighten up January days as well.

        Dance  into the holidays!


Week 14 Are Traditions, Traditional?

The deep connection between traditions and holidays for us may, or may not be because of their original significance to the holiday.     I mean, I understand that being “home for the holidays” has a heart-catching sentimental string attached.  But the first Christmas was all about making a home even if you were traveling and the only space for the night was in a barn.

Tell a few stories about holiday traditions   —well known ones like dreidels for Chanukah,  decorating trees for Christmas or enjoying special music for any faith.    Then invite students to tell the stories of their special family traditions  –which ones they really like, or maybe aren’t so fond of.

Oh, and about the man in red?   I like to think of this story as a “let’s pretend” game many of us enjoy, and appreciate children letting us play.    When you’re able to ignore the made up Hollywood version, he has a real connection with the religious story.

Instead of trying to do everything this year  —choose the traditions that are really important for you, and enjoy them.

Week 13 Holiday Season

lights d

Traveling in countries close to the equator, I’ve had to get used to not having sunshine past 6:30pm, even in the summer.    The year I lived in Yellowknife,  late June-July, I kept forgetting to go to bed because the sun was mostly up all the time.   But most of my life I’ve spent mid-way.   In the summer, evenings are long and bright.   In the winter, the sun disappears in the afternoon.     Living mid-way,  changes in sun light punctuate the seasons.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself really looking forward to the sparkle of holiday lights in December.   They break into the growing darkness with a reminder that the year is turning as it ought to.    Its no wonder that everywhere around the world people celebrate the solstice.    In winter we sing and make noise to drive the darkness away.  In summer we sing and dance to celebrate the light.    So my holidays now are a mix of various places and people   —all of us looking for light.

May you find what you need to drive the darkness away this year.

lights b      lights alights c


Week 12 Feeling?

One of the delightful things about working with children is that they wear their feelings,  well, usually.  Now, like us, their feelings are hidden under  masks.     How many feeling words can you name in a minute?    How many feeling words do your students know and use?

embar pic    happy pic   mask   sad pic    scared pic

“Mood” is the music word for feelings.    Many songs for children are upbeat  —funny or emphasizing the positive or about seeking good ideals.   It’s helpful to also include at least a few songs that express some of the unsettling feelings that come into our lives.   Singing about the angst of life, is a way of acknowledging it exists.   Naming feelings is a step along the way to making good choices about what to do with anger, or frustration or sadness.

This mixed up year of 2020, provide fine arts opportunities in class to sing, dance, paint and read/tell stories about  the wide gambit of feelings that we are all having.       Wallowing in the angst may not be helpful, but neither is pretending it isn’t here.



Week 11 Teddy Bear Time

Clicking on the name of a featured song takes you to that song’s page.   From each song page you can view/listen/download mp4s (usually 1 with voices, 1 just instruments);  mp3s  and   pdfs with ideas for how to teach the song, and how to exploit the song for teaching music.

“Teddy Bear” has 22 pages of ideas and resources.   I may have gotten a bit carried away on this song but its simple rhythms and melody make it perfect for practicing “so-mi-la”; introducing “do”;

teddybear sola

reading rhythms  and rhythm and beat counting.

teddy rhythms

“Teddy Bear” also has a student work page.

teddy work page

Teaching music all day is exhausting  —its a group activity that requires high energy and constant voice use.   Work pages are included in CanDo Music for those occasional days when your voice needs rest;  or the class needs a quiet time.  Work pages can help consolidate individual learning, and are essential for teacher self-evaluation.   The whole class’ s ability to read rhythms doesn’t always mean everyone in the class can do it on their own.

Even though every week has work pages as options, the preferred option in primary is movement, singing(humming this year), composing, active listening, percussion playing(a ruler tapping a desk or a metal water bottle is percussion), dancing or drama.

Oh yes, the other option for “Teddy Bear” is to add orff instruments   …  check out the ideas on page 22!

Week 10 Active Listening

Is it an oxymoron?     active  —  listening  —  active

I think it depends on where I am.   Sitting  at a classical music, string quartet concert for which I have paid a good price  … then active is not what I want the patrons behind me to be.  Sitting  with a class of primary students, opening up a world of new listening music  … actively engaged is what I aim for.

Sometimes active means movement and dance.   Sometimes it means drawing a visual map of the music.  Sometimes it means making a face to show the mood of the music.   Sometimes it means  …  ????     Eventually I hope that active listening means active minds and imaginations journeying with the music that is heard.

Ask students what their imaginations can hear in the music with leading questions …    Where are you?   What colour do you hear?    Who is going to arrive in this music?

Most important  —if this is a new genre of music for most students, keep the “active listening” simple and short in duration.    Leave them wanting more.



Week 8 Remembering

My grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge in World War I.   My father was in the Canadian Air Force during World War II.    When I was little, Remembrance Day was the day everything stopped at 11am for two minutes  —everything;  traffic, talking, old and young in grocery stores.   When I was little, two minutes was a very long time.    It made an impact, even if I didn’t understand what was going on.

The featured songs today are my attempt to provide a few pieces of simple music for primary students to remember that peace is still something we need to work towards.     AND, that especially on November 11 in Canada  (I’ve since discovered that the remembering day varies in different countries) we think about people who in the past or in the present serve in our Armed Forces. 

Today is very different from my growing years during the flower-power of the 1960s.   With the world community seeming to shrink, and internet making far away seem very close;  with refugees from war-torn countries coming to live in our neighbourhoods, and people from our neighbourhoods going to fight for peace far away  … finding a balance in the remembering, especially when working or living with young children can be difficult.    Peace be with you as you prepare to remember this November.

In 2015, with my Grandfather’s diary in hand, I visited places in France and Belgium where he fought during World War I.    Remembrance Day I spent in Mons, staying with friends who were living/working at the Nato base there.    The art work in “Poppies Are for November” were done by students at the Canadian school on the base.



Week 7 This Is The Way the Notes Fly By

Have you looked at the feature song,  “This Is The Way”?   The first verse has musical notes moving up and down on the staff.   Its not just for entertainment, although it can be entertaining.   Moving pumpkin notes attract student eyes.   Challenge students, even the youngest, to move their hand up and down with the notes.

I don’t have any empirical data that shows this kind of video helps students connect written music to aural music, but that’s my hope.    Its part of pre-literacy for music  i.e.  exposure to written music while hearing the music.    The more ways to attract student attention to the written music, the more effective pre-literacy will be.  Even if you don’t teach the song,  just show and enjoy it with the class then ask:         “Why do the notes go up and down?”

Check out the other two feature songs for different versions of connecting visual and aural music.

I wanted to post  another song on the home page, but as you can see, the fourth space has decided to remain empty the past few weeks.    If your class doesn’t celebrate Hallowe’en, try  “I’m Gonna Be A…”  for two more songs that connect visual and aural music.   They also feature the fun of dressing-up  or  imagining what an adult job might be.

More experienced music students might have fun trying to pick out the places in the songs where the timing of the music pumpkin notes is “off”.    I make the videos with Music Maker and have varying degrees of success in getting everything to synchronize.     Mea cupla.

P.S.  I’ve been playing with “Five Little Pumpkins”  …pumpkin card.

Week 6 Pumpkins ‘n Drama


Pumpkins  —what a delightful word.   Say it five times and try not to smile.     Yes?

Five Little Pumpkins makes easy drama   …  five solo parts every time its acted out!   Change up the solo part by having students write new couplets to fit the rhythms … pumpkin words

Ask students to draw their favourite part of the rhyme, and turn them into a video with spoken parts done by class members.

I’ve taken Peter Peter  and   Humpty Dumpty and twisted them a wee bit  …   challenge junior students to re-write other nursery rhymes.

Many nursery rhymes begin as subversive social commentary.      Older students may be enticed back to these rhymes when let in on their secret history    e.g.  Humpty was a cannon!    Why include nursery rhymes in a music curriculum?    Their metre and simple words help re-enforce basic rhythms and beat.   Widespread use provides a base of “common” rhymes known across families.   Their back stories are part of history, part of the way music is entwined in culture.     Oh, and they’re fun.

Hallowe’en Songs: 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat                                                                        Old Mrs. Witch                                                                                                    This Is the Way the Witches Fly                                                                    This Black Cat                                                                                                    I’m Gonna Be a Pirate

and for Active Listening/Dancing:     Fossils