Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another song for your class for Christmas

Another great song that is a favourite of mine is "Over The River and Through the Wood". It is actually an American Thanksgiving song. It is copyrighted so I can't publish it for you. I have shown copies of two books that have wonderful pictures, as well as the lyrics and the music. The lyrics evoke the kind of "olden days" magic. The first verse has the same images as Jingle Bells, and since there is no mention of Thanksgiving, the class can learn it as a Christmas song. The melody is catchy and bright.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Christmas song: Ring the Bells

This song is another simple round to teach your class. It is set in the key of D and begins on do. Use your pitch pipe to help the class find the starting note. Once the students have learned the song well, divide the class in half and have them sing it as a round. The results are very effective! You and your students will be amazed!

If you would like more music for your class, check out my website and purchase a book online.

Cick to enlarge and print.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A French song for your class for Christmas

Since I had taught French Immersion and Core French before I began teaching in the primary grades, I had a small repertoire of French Christmas songs.

I taught the following song to my grade ones and they performed it for their parents. You will recognize the tune of Frere Jacques. Use your pitch pipe to start the children on key. It begins on do.

When the class has learned the song perfectly, divide the class in half and have them sing it as a round. It sounds beautiful, and my students were thrilled to be singing in French. At the completion of the song, the glockenspiel can be used for the last line as an extra touch!

Click to enlarge and print.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Christmas Song for Primary Classes

It may be late to teach this song to your class this year, but it is fairly simple and your class will learn it easily. This song works well for a simple presentation at a Christmas concert. One of your students could play the last two lines on a glockenspiel after the class has sung the song.

Click on the image to enlarge and print.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Taxes on Pet food

I think we have a distinct contradiction in the fact that food for pets is taxed.

The Ontario Government finally updated their laws on cruelty to animals. This new law has some teeth, and hopefully, people who mistreat animals will pay a heavy price.

But if the government really believes in this new law, how can they tax food for pets? I know that the standard argument holds that pets are a luxury, and therefore, their food should be taxed.

But every one of the five cats I have owned has been a rescued cat. I saved their lives and they needed food. All pets are living creatures who need food to stay alive.

So how can the government tax pet food?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Song for Music Class: Michael Finnegan

"Michael Finnegan", a traditional Irish song, is a neat song to teach your grade one class. We didn't have room for the following version in our primary book, "The Key to Your Primary Music Program", although a different version is included in our second book, "The Key to Your Junior Music Program".

Children love this song for a variety of reasons. First, the lyrics appeal to the grade one sense of humour! The melody and rhythm patterns are very pleasing and children learn the song easily.

This song is perfect for practising echo clapping and learning to write and clap blank rhythms.

I also transposed the song into the key of C so that the class could play it on the glockenspiel. They loved that activity!

The students will love returning to this song in grades two and three after learning it in grade one.

Click the image to enlarge and print.

Michael Finnegan

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Did you say "out of"?

I guess it is time for me to concede my battle against "out of" to the all-powerful "usage" rule.

In his column of March 21 in the Toronto Star, James Travers wrote, "... decision to pay executive bonuses out of a bailout."

The word "from" should replace "out of".

I heard the same term on the news tonight: "The last workers walked out of the building today." A better form would be: "The last workers left the building today."

"Out of" can always be replaced with a better choice of words. Unfortunately, "out of" has become acceptable everywhere. I have just finished reading a very good novel, and the author used "out of" many times.

It is especially discouraging to find myself making this terrible grammar mistake as well! Usage has won the battle!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Did you say "had not took?"

I must say that I am completely discouraged about the future of the English language. It is gradually and relentlessly being destroyed by people who should know better. The basic problem is that these people are totally unaware of how little they know about the structure of our language.

The problem to which I refer in the title is based on inadequate understanding of verbs in the English language. The past tense of a regular verb is formed by adding "ed" to the base. For example, the verb, "to walk" (this is the infinitive form):"walked" is the form used for the past tense.

However, many of our frequently used verbs are irregular in form. For example, "to take". The simple past tense is "took", and you say, "I took". But if you want to use the pluperfect past tense, you must use the past participle "taken" with an auxiliary verb: "I had taken".

I was disgusted this morning to read an article on the MSN Sympatico home page written by Jeffrey Baynes (MSN shopping editor)in which he said, "...and wonder why I had not took the plunge yet"!

That affects me like fingernails on a blackboard!

Refer to my previous post from March 2, 2009.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pension Benefits

It has been an enlightening experience to learn about the perks that auto workers take for granted. The news conference with details of the proposed contract with GM on March 8, 2009 provided me with information that I never had before.

The "copay" idea for health benefits, for example! As a retired teacher who stayed home to raise her children, I have a small pension based on nineteen years of teaching (the first three were part-time). I am presently paying 10% of my gross annual pension for drug and extended health care coverage. The premium I pay does NOT include dental coverage. I didn't think I could afford the extra $100 a month for dental coverage that in reality provides only 50% coverage.

But as I listened to the news conference, I learned that the pensioned auto workers had total health care benefits provided completely by their former employer. I also understand that the workers also have a complete and free package of health benefits! I don't know whether this amazing coverage is based on a group plan with an insurer, or whether it is completely financed by GM.

The head of CAW apologized to the pensioners, saying that they have the best record for looking after their pensioners! How true! I would love to only pay $15 a month for a complete benefits package!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Did you say "between you and I"?

Too many people in high places are ruining the English language. This is the outcome of grammar no longer being taught as a subject in our schools.

When I was taking my teacher training at the Ontario College of Education in Toronto in 1966, we were given a publication from the Ministry of Education which stated that grammar would no longer be taught as a subject.

The outcome of this poor idea is audible everywhere. Many principals, teachers and reporters lack an understanding of the basic grammatical function of certain parts of our language.

For example: "Between you and I" is incorrect. An easy way to test this is to change to the plural form: Would you say "Between we"? No, you would say, "Between us". Therefore, the correct form is "Between you and me".

Why is one form correct, and not the other? Why do most people have no problem with one, but can't solve the problem when "I" is in the mix?

Have you heard "for you and I"? This is not correct! Would you say "for I"? NO! You would say "for me". When "you" is added, the correct form is still "for you and me".

There are two forms of pronouns: the subjective and the objective form. The subjective form is the subject in the sentence (the subject of the verb).
I,he, she, we, and they are subjective pronouns.

Me, her, him, us and them are objective pronouns. That means that after a preposition such as between, for, from, etc., you do not use "I"; rather, you must use "me".

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Did You Say?

I consider Peter Mansbridge of CBC News to be the "Voice of Canada".

I was therefore appalled and devastated to hear him use the word "quicker" when he introduced The National at 10 PM (EST) on February 25, 2009.

This word does not exist in the English language! The word, quick, is an adjective, and modifies a noun. To use this word as an adverb, the suffix "ly" must be added. Peter should then have said "more quickly" to express his meaning.

The word, fast, is both an adjective and an adverb, and can have the suffix "er" added. But in this instance, using "more quickly" better suits "The National".

I wonder if Lloyd Robertson would have made the same mistake?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Adult in Charge

Our North American society made a big step forward when physical punishment was recognized as the totally wrong approach for teaching children how to behave.

In fact, the clue to our changing ideas is present in the previous statement. We finally realized that the goal we all have is to "teach" our children. Physical punishment did teach children something: "might is right". Every child who was hurt by his parent decided that one day, when he was big enough, he would have control.

So parents today are generally in uncharted territory. Remember that "discipline" has the Latin root meaning to teach or to train.

The first thing to remember is that every child wants to feel safe. As a parent of a toddler or preschooler, you need to feel confident that you do know best in the situation. This confidence is conveyed by making your expectations clear, and by not giving in to tantrums, etc. It may surprise you, but your child wants to feel that you know best. Then he feels safe and protected.

Exhibit self-discipline: expect from yourself what you expect from your child. Remember that you are "the adult in charge".

Monday, February 9, 2009

What is a tangram?

A tangram consists of seven geometric shapes that can be fitted together to make a square.

In my post on February 7, I mentioned two books that I used in my classroom to teach tangrams. Tangrams can be re-arranged into various shapes and are a valuable teaching tool for geometry. The students enjoy the challenge of re-arranging the tangram shapes into different shapes.

It is possible to buy plastic tangram sets for your class. Have your class sit in a circle and practise with the individual sets to copy the shapes from the stories. The biggest challenge is to re-form the square!

Click in the on the image to enlarge and print.

print tangram shapes

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Three Little Pigs

I have already mentioned in a previous post that reading nursery rhymes and fairy tales to your young child is important. Check my post from January 23, 2009.

Nursery rhymes and fairy tales provide a good base for learning when using the system of going from what you already know to learning something new. This raises the comfort level of the class and increases interest.

One of the five strands of the Ontario science curriculum is Matter and Materials. I used the story of the Three Little Pigs as part of my integration with language for this unit in my grade one class.

Another strand is Structures, and the natural progression for teaching this strand is to begin it after completing Matter and Materials. The Three Little Pigs can be used again as part of "Homes" theme for structures. (Find a book with a different author and illustrator,and read the story again - the class will love it!)

I integrated this science strand with geometry in Math as well. I did this by following up with teaching tangrams. The class loved this activity because I had two books I always read to them: "Grandfather Tang's Story" (A Tale told with Tangrams) by Ann Tompert, and "Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes" by Gail Maccarone.

The story of The Three Little Pigs is not complete until you have also read "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs! by A. Wolf" by Jon Scieszka. Your class will love this story!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl 2009

Kudos to the marketers of the Super Bowl! They have proved the power of marketing and we now have another annual commercial event! The Super Bowl may have accomplished more for the Canadian economy than Harper's stimulus package!

People who know nothing of football and care less were convinced that they needed to have a Super Bowl party and spend money on chicken wings and beer.

Maybe the Conservatives should instigate an all night "Watch for Spring" party on March 21st! Leak the proposal and the media will run with it and Voila!- another major marketing scheme may rescue our economy!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow

Even though we are still buried under snowbanks,it is time to begin planning for songs with a spring theme.

It's even better if the song you choose to teach can double as a dance! If you need to comment on "Dance" for the spring report cards, teach this song!

Once again, you must teach the song until the students know it really well, because they have to sing the lyrics as they do the motions!

If the Lesson Plan uses terms with which you are unfamiliar, you may want to consider buying our primary book, The Key to Your Primary Music Program.

Music for Oats, peas, beans and barley grow

Click each image to enlarge and print.

Lesson plan for Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow

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.