Posted in 1st and 2nd Grade, First Week, Kindergarten, Singing

Hello Song for Little Ones

Once in a while I do a blog post more aimed at a music teacher audience, and this is one of those posts.  This is the hello song that I sing to start every music for kindergarten and first grade.  I use the piano, but you could use a guitar too of course!  We sing the first eight measures first to start out, and then we start singing to individual students.  I don’t sing the same student’s name twice, for the sake of time, for example, I sing “Hello there Ian yes indeed, yes indeed, yes indeed, hello there Madi yes indeed, yes indeed my neighbor!”  In the beginning of the year, I give everyone an assigned seat on the rug in three or four rows, and I start out with the name of the first kid in the first row, and go in order down the row, and then down the next row, and then down the next row.  After the kids get to know each other’s names (and I get to know their names!) I start with different kids each time.  We sing the first eight measures, and then I do a boom-chick accompaniment while I say “Today I am going to begin…. by singing hello…. tooooooo….” and then I choose someone!  From there, we go down the row, then to the next row, and the last person is whoever is sitting before the person we started with.  Hopefully that makes sense!  At the very end, if it’s an odd number of students, we’ll sing “Hello everybody yes indeed, yes indeed my neighbor!”  Then I will say “Can we sing hello to Mrs. Runnals?”  And I let them all sing to me, singing my name twice.  Then at the very end, I choose a student who I “noticed singing very nicely and sitting on their bottom” to come play the piano with me.  The kids all love singing the song!  Little ones love routines like this.  Feel free to post comments if you have questions!


Posted in Chorus

West Providence Bruins Night: January 20th

A yellow Providence Bruins ticket order form went home with every student at West  for a special West Night Out at the Providence Bruins vs. Rochester Americans game on January 20th!! West will have a huge section at the game, and our very own West School Chorus will be singing America the Beautiful ON the ice. Tickets for students, friends, and family members are discounted 50%- just $20 per person, and all kids will receive a Providence Bruins hat, popcorn, and drink 🙂 This was an awesome event last year, don’t miss out!! Ticket order forms and checks are due to me by January 5th.

Click here to print out the ticket order form!

Posted in 3rd Grade, 4th and 5th Grade, Chorus, Multicultural Activities

Paint the Town December!


The West School Chorus performed a special holiday musical last night: Paint the Town December!  The show was a great success, with 97 chorus students participating in the performance.  Santa even took time out of his busy schedule to make an appearance, can you believe it??!

The kids of Graysville do a community service project each year and paint all the shop windows on main street, to brighten their town up for the holidays.  Along the way, they met Mr. Ladin at the Dreidel Cradle, Ms. Abraham at the World Import Store, Mr. Scrooge at the Bank, and Senora Frida at the Inn.  By the end of the show, the dreary town of Graysville, USA went from looking like this….


to THIS!


Thank goodness for those Graysville kids and their holiday spirit!


And everyone was all smiles after the show…

Posted in 1st and 2nd Grade, Classical Music, Movement Activities, Parachute Activities, Scarves, Steady beat

The Syncopated Clock


Students in second grade learned the terms legato (smooth and connected), staccato (short and choppy), and learned a new music vocabulary word: slur.  A slur is a symbol that looks like an arch, and tells you to connect your notes and sing (or play) legato.  We sang a song called Legato Staccato, and then we used scarves to show staccato movements and legato movements while listening to The Syncopated Clock composed by Leroy Anderson.  The C part is the most fun- whenever the “alarm” goes off, throw your scarf in the air!

We began with this chart:


And finished with this one!


We also discussed the structure of the piece: ABACA with a coda at the end, and the instruments used in the song.

After doing the scarf activity (and of course, folding our scarves during the magical scarf folding music) we made it into a parachute listening activity!

Posted in 1st and 2nd Grade, Kindergarten, Movement Activities

Music and Movement!

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 2.48.48 PM.jpg

Did you know… studies have shown that music has huge, positive effects on early childhood development?!  Exposure to music- listening, singing, dancing, or playing- fosters many essential early learning capabilities, including

  • Speech development
  • Listening skills
  • Patterning and sequencing (early math skills)
  • Rhythm, beat, and timing
  • Social skills
  • Emotional development
  • Memory
  • Physical coordination

The Elements of Music

Each aspect of music contributes in many ways to a child’s fundamental development. For instance . . .

Beat serves as the master timekeeper for all music, while engaging listen- ers in a common experience. When you rock or dance to the beat together, the music gives your child a sense of being in sync with you and the world around him.

Rhythm maps the timing of each note in a song. We each have a unique sense of rhythm that influences our style of moving, communicating—and even thinking.

Tempo is the pace and timing of the music (fast or slow). Tempo gives little ones important clues about big ideas such as order, sequence, and the pas- sage of time.

Pitch tells the story of the song as the notes go up and down, much like words selected and arranged in a sentence to convey an idea. For children, music serves as a gentle guide to understanding the intricacies of language and communication.

Dynamics are variations in volume (loud and soft) and intensity. They express emotion (strength, playfulness, sadness) and offer clues about the overarching message of the music. Dynamics offer children the opportunity to explore feelings.

Melody brings pitch, beat, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics together to create the tune we hear. Melody aids in memory by compressing multiple bits of information so it’s easier to remember. That’s why songs like the ABC song work so well (and stay with us for a lifetime).

Harmony introduces complexity to the music and mirrors important social skills young children grapple with—skills like conversation, speaking, and listening.

Intervals mark the changes in music. An inter- val is the difference in pitch between two notes. Intervals build anticipation for what’s next while giving the listener the time she needs to follow along.

Lyrics (words) multiply the language development value of music for young children.

As you can see, music all on its own is a powerful force for learning and growing. But when you add movement to music, from toe tapping to hand clapping to hitting the dance floor, the benefits multiply manyfold. When children use their bodies to explore, they are engaging the entire brain in the experience. So the next time you’ve got a few minutes, turn on some music and start moving. It’s great learning, and it’s a lot of fun, too!

Posted in 1st and 2nd Grade, Halloween

Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens


Students in first and second grade listening to and learning about Danse Macabre by French composer Camille Saint Saens.   Danse Macabre is French for “Dance of the Dead.”  Perfect for the Halloween season!!  We have learned (or reviewed) that a composer is someone who makes up a song and writes it down using music notes.  We also discuss that music can tell a story, and that many songs have “themes” in them.  Danse Macabre, for us, has a “skeleton theme” and a “ghost theme.”   The ghost theme is smooth and soaring, like a ghost moaning and flying.  The skeleton theme is choppy and bumpy, like a skeleton’s rattling bones!  Sometimes the skeleton theme is even accompanied by a xylophone, to imitate the sound of bones.

ghost skeleton

As a listening activity, students listen to the song and place magnet-backed pieces onto a map of the piece as we listen.   After doing this activity once or twice, students can identify every part in the song simply by listening for the tunes associated with each piece without any help from me- it’s quite amazing!

danse map