Friday, January 30, 2009

Celebrating National Flag of Canada Day

February is a great month in which to celebrate our great Canadian heritage. National Flag Day falls on February 15, and it commemorates the day in 1965 when our country finally chose a flag that we could fly proudly.

When I was teaching in an elementary school, I took this opportunity to increase the "heritage quotient" of the students (and of the teachers). I chose a different theme every year and prepared ten "info bits" that I read at the morning announcements leading up to February 15. I placed items and information in the display case in the front foyer.

A good place to begin your research is at the Heritage website that provides official information on our Canadian symbols as well as many links to other information about our country.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

O Canada

I am appalled that an elementary school principal in New Brunswick has decided to no longer begin the school day with our national anthem.

It is also appalling to think that the Ministry of Education in New Brunswick would give that discretionary power to individual school principals.

Children learn from example. They need to see that the principal and the teachers of their school respect our country. They need to feel that Canada is the best place in the world to live. (Because it is.)

A principal who decides that he will cancel O Canada to please a minority is giving his students the wrong message. Will he choose to stop flying our flag because "some people don't like the flag"?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another Song for Music Class

Nursery rhymes hopefully form a big part of your students' repertoire by the time they reach grade one. If not, you can correct the situation by teaching nursery rhymes set to music.

The music for "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat" is wonderful! The melody line is great for teaching the students to sing the ascending and descending scale.

If you own our primary book, The Key to Your Primary Music Program, you can find how to sing up to the starting note. This song does not begin on do, rather it begins on so. (If this explanation means nothing to you, you need to buy our book! I didn't know what "starting on do meant, either, and that was one of the reasons for writing our primary book.)

Once your students have learned this melody, teach them the following poem and have them sing it to the tune for "Pussy Cat".

Snowflakes are filling, are filling the air,
Look at the footprints I see over there.
Is it a rabbit, or is it a bear?
Come let us follow it back to its lair!

I taught my students to play some of the songs they learned on the glockenspiel. They loved playing this song. I transposed it to the Key of C so that it would work on the glockenspiel in our classroom.

You don't need to be a musician to do this(but you do need to be able to count!): just count down 4 from every note. The starting note would then be G and so on.

For the students to play the notes on the glockenspiel, I printed the words on a card with the corresponding note names above.

Click on the image to enlarge and print.

Music for Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat and Snowflakes are Filling

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reading Aloud to your Baby and Preschooler

We have an overabundance of available reading material for babies and preschoolers. We are bombarded with the importance of reading to our children right from the beginning, and this is definitely true. However, many of the books on offer lack the criteria that would give them lasting value.

Books that are meant to be read aloud need to contain a cerain kind of language: the words need to flow, the story needs to be simple, and the illustrations must be appealing to the young child.

Surprise, surprise! Our culture has two great resources that tend to be forgotten in our tendency to look for something new and better: nursery rhymes and fairy tales!

Since many parents know some of these rhymes and stories, storytime can happen in the car or the kitchen, while your hands are busy.

The nursery rhymes have a rhythm and flow that appeals to the very young. If they hear them often, they can begin to fill in words that the parent omits. I would recommend that every new parent read the book by Mem Fox:"Reading Magic". She makes the case for nusery rhymes very effectively. Children who learn nursery rhymes can eventually "read" their collection of nursery rhymes.

The fairy tales must not be ignored either! You can tell these stories to your child even without a book, and change them and embellish them if the need arises!

Don't be concerned about political correctness and gender inclusiveness! These rhymes and stories are part of our oral heritage and parents need to keep them alive! They were the basis for learning to read for many generations: they have proved their worth!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Air and Simple Gifts

I was watching President Obama's inauguration today and I was thrilled to discover that the four-piece ensemble was going to play an arrangement composed especially for the occasion called, "Air and Simple Gifts".

The song, "Simple Gifts" is a beautiful Shaker melody which we included in our book, The Key to Your Primary Music Program.

The melody and the lyrics are beautiful, and although it appears to be a difficult song to teach, my grade one classes seemed to love it instinctively and learned it quickly. This proves to me that a love of good music is inherent in all children.

The following is the sheet my grade one students completed and placed in their poetry duotang after they learned the song. The music with the lyrics and the lesson plan can be found on page 60 in our primary book.

Click on the image to enlarge and print the lyrics.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A great math game for number facts

I have discovered a great game for consolidating the number facts to twelve. This game can be used at home or in the grade one classroom. It would be fun for buddy classes to do together.

It is a simple game called "Shut the Box" (see picture below). Since the game moves quickly,the players remain involved and interested. At the beginning, students would need bingo chips or bottle caps for concrete support. Students in an older buddy class would benefit as well, because we all know that teaching is a good way to learn! It isn't necessary to own the actual game: write the numbers from 1 to 9 on a sheet of paper and strike them out as they come up on the dice. Individual chalkboards or whiteboards could also be used for the game.

I am including a simplified explanation of the game and its rules. Click on the image to enlarge and print.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Using Concrete Objects to Teach Math

This does not translate into using fingers for counting and addition!

As a grade one teacher, I spent a lot of time teaching my students to forget this habit. It was a difficult enterprise, and not always successful.

Do your child and yourself a favour, and use anything but fingers! There are lots of little items that please a child: plastic bottle caps, buttons, small lego blocks, pennies, etc. Your child can move these items around on the table, and the count isn't limited to ten items only!

I used bottle caps in my classroom to teach addition and subtraction. In my classroom, I used dominoes and dice frequently as well, and was absolutely amazed to see children using their fingers to add instead of counting the obvious markers: the dots!

The use of concrete items worked perfectly for teaching equations (for the number facts to 12). For example, the students had ten bottle caps and were instructed to write all the possible addition equations for the ten items. Of course, this was a final task after practising on the carpet with the class. We usually experimented with five caps each, and worked our way up to ten.

When the class had learned to build addition equations, they learned to move the bottle caps around to build subtraction equations.

They were essentially doing algebra! They could see patterns develop as they moved the caps around and recorded their discoveries. The ability to see patterns in numbers is a basic skill for learning math.

I encourage parents to discourage the use of fingers for math activities. Your preschooler will very quickly start to follow the first method that you choose to use.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Storage Solutions

The Christmas season of hyper buying and selling is over. The next thing is "storage solutions".

But what about this radical approach: you don't need to store more stuff! (Because that's what it is: stuff.) Once you store it, will you use it? I have decided not to buy any more storage items. If I don't already have a place for it, I don't need it.

Try to lighten your load and move it on out to the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Snowman: a January song for the music class

This song is a great song for music class in January. If you own our primary book, The Key to Your Primary Music Program, refer to Page 36.

If you are not comfortable following the lesson plan, just teach the song to your class because they will love it. The last page is an activity to integrate language with your music class.

Just click on the images to enlarge and print.

Lesson Plan I'm a Little Teapot
The Snowman sheet music
The Snowman cloze exercise

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Key to Your Junior Music Program

The second book we wrote is called "The Key to Your Junior Music Program".

It was written at the request of the superintendent of the school board of my co-author (Marie Skelding). We had already presented summer workshops with our primary book, and the superintendent requested a junior book and an accompanying workshop.

Once again, this book contains only songs from the public domain; songs that have survived for generations. These songs have real musical value, as opposed to many songs that are written to meet specific curriculum themes.

The Junior book differs from the Primary book in that it contains "reading songs" that may be photocopied in class sets by the teacher who owns the book. The Primary book, by virtue of the fact that it is for primary students, only contains songs that are to be taught as rote songs.

All these terms are explained in our books.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Key to Your Primary Music Program

I want to tell you about two music books for elementary classroom teachers that I co-authored. The first book is called The Key to your Primary Music Program.

I was a classroom teacher who loved music and wanted to teach my class according to the Ontario Curriculum. But I didn't know how, and I spent at least $100.00 on books that were either useless, or that I couldn't understand!

My sister (a principal at a senior public school in Guelph) was a music specialist. We combined what I needed to know with her knowledge and expertise and wrote the book, The Key to Your Primary Music Program. We chose songs that are in the public domain and that have stood the test of time.

I used the book in my classroom and finally felt capable and successful as a music teacher!

The Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor is now in their second year of using it as a course book.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Getting Started on the Music Class

Are you nervous about teaching music to your primary class?

Have you already pushed the time for music class to the end of the day and “run out of time”? You know you did that because you didn’t know how to get started!

I have some tips:

1. You are probably worried about whether you will sing in key.

Solution: Don’t worry, your students won’t care! They love any opportunity to sing, and the most important thing is to get started!

You will soon feel comfortable and find that music class is your favourite time!

2. What songs should you teach them?

Solution: Buy our primary book! The songs in our book have stood the test of time, and have been sung by generations of children.

Our book provides the words and melodies along with long range plans and lesson plans.
You will probably recognize most of the songs in our book (as will your students, hopefully!)
And that’s a good thing!
But do not be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the songs.
You will learn how to pitch your voice and how to read the notes.

3. Remember that your students will more easily learn to sing true with just your voice and no accompaniment. But playing just the melody on a keyboard can help you and your students learn the notes. (As an untrained singer, I used this method. But once the class learns the song, remove this crutch).

4. You will gain confidence to find other songs with musicality.

5. Also, remember to add tapes and CD’s that are musically appropriate for your students. Your music program will be enriched.