Ask Listen & Learn

question mark ask listen and learnI get lots of email from Listen & Learn readers. I try to answer each and every question that lands in my inbox, which sometimes takes me hours at a time. So instead of writing the same responses over and over, I thought it might be beneficial to share reader questions and my answers right here for everyone. The first question in my “Ask Listen & Learn” series is as follows:

The children I work with are hospice patients. Our goals center on bonding between mom and patient (not that they have problems bonding, it’s more creating memories) and getting a response from the patient. My patient’s response is declining, due to diagnosis, but the patient still responds to music more so than to other stimulation. AND the patient still communicates…will smile to show pleasure, and pouts when upset — will seriously pout by sticking out lower lip when we give the little sibling too much attention during session (it’s pretty cute) and will also turn head away and roll eyes if doesn’t like something (also very cute). I guess my request is for music that is less teaching a skill and more geared towards significantly lower functioning kids.

As a music therapist who works primarily with children in an educational setting, it is easy for me to get tunnel vision as I write my songs — so many of them do tend to “teach” a skill or concept. However, because many of my students are significantly lower functioning, I often adapt the majority of my songs to suit their abilities.

This being said, I am well aware that as busy therapists, parents and teachers, we don’t always have time to rewrite lyrics to existing songs in order to make them suitable for our own children and students. Here are a few Listen & Learn songs that may be appropriate as-is for this particular reader’s patient:

  • The Feelings in My Heart: This reader actually cited this particular song as one that was effective, so I’m sharing it more for everyone else’s sake. It doesn’t necessarily require a response from the child, but if he/she is capable of facial expressions, then the child can respond non-verbally.
  • Patrick & Polly Pumpkin: I thought I’d throw in a seasonal song here, too. This song doesn’t require any response at all, but it has a nice theme — friendship and feeling loved.
  • On the Disney Channel: Even some of my lowest functioning students, those for whom most skill-based songs are too advanced, light up when I sing this one. The characters and shows are familiar and fun, and the song itself is just for enjoyment.

Another option for this patient is a singable story. This is something that not only you, the therapist, can do with the patient, but it is also an activity the parent and child can share on their own later. My personal favorite is The Story of My Feelings, by Laurie Berkner.

If you have a question you’d like for me to answer here at Listen & Learn, simply send me an email (and be sure to include that you’d like it shared on the blog). I would love for Ask Listen & Learn to become a regular feature!

Let’s Count: Hold Up 10 Fingers

boy-counting-to-tenAfter four years of actively writing songs for children, I’ve lost count of the songs I’ve written about counting (no pun intended, hehe). It’s definitely not for lack of other song topics; it’s just that counting is a skill that every child needs to learn, whether it is through signing or speaking.

My latest counting song employs the use of our fingers. Not only does this give the child something visual and concrete to represent each number, but it also involves fine motor coordination and imitation – two more important areas of development.

Hold up one finger,
Hold up just one,
And wave it around
‘Cause we’re almost done.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up two fingers,
Yes, hold up two,
I had a wonderful
Time with you.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up three fingers,
Yes, hold up three,
Now join right in
And sing with me.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up four fingers,
Yes, hold up four,
Wiggle and wiggle
And wiggle some more.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up five fingers,
Yes, hold up five,
Fly up to the sky,
Then take a dive.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up six fingers,
Yes, hold up six,
And tap them like
They’re rhythm sticks.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up seven fingers,
Yes, hold up seven,
Down on the ground,
Now up to heaven.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up eight fingers,
Yes, hold up eight,
Close them up
Just like a gate.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up nine fingers,
Yes, hold up nine,
Climbing up
A great big vine.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up ten fingers,
Yes, hold up ten,
And wave goodbye
To all your friends.
La la la la, la la la la.

Hold up one finger,
Hold up just one,
And wave it around
‘Cause we’re almost done.
La la la la, la la la la.

Before and after singing the song, I invite the children to verbally and manually (with our hands) count to 10. I added lots of movement to this song so that it’s not just about counting. I also designed it as a cool-down song, meant to be sung near the end of the class, music therapy session, or what have you.

Like I mentioned at the beginning this post, I’ve written lots of counting songs. But it’s not all Listen & Learn, all the time, around here. I want to know: what are your favorite songs for teaching kids to count? Which have worked best for your own students and children? Let’s see how many we can round up!

Friday Fave: Music Therapy Week in Illinois

Illinois-Music-Therapy-WeekThis week, we’re celebrating and advocating for music therapy (even more so than usual) in the state of Illinois.  The Illinois Association for Music Therapy is holding its annual Fall Meeting and CMTE this Saturday at Illinois State University.  I’m especially excited, since as Secretary/Programming Chair,  I’ve been planning and preparing for this event over the last few months.  The perfect culmination of an entire week devoted to music therapy!

The goal of this week is to educate as many people as possible about music therapy and its many benefits.  The Chicago Tribune featured fellow Illinois music therapist Emily Sevcik in an article called Tune In to Music Therapy Week — how cool is that?  You can help join us in our efforts just by sharing links to Listen & Learn (you are here!) and the Illinois Association for Music Therapy via email, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Every week is Music Therapy Week for me, but it’s nice to have an “official” statewide one…especially since I get to spend part of it with my colleagues from all over Illinois (none of whom live near me).  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share with you after our event on Saturday.  Thanks for your support, and enjoy your weekend!

Today at Listen & Learn Plus!

New at Listen & Learn Plus!

Since yesterday was the first day of fall, I thought it was only fitting to share with my Listen & Learn Plus members the lead sheet and mp3 download of my favorite fall song, All About Autumn.  Like almost all of my songs, it is easy to learn, upbeat, and educational.  You could be singing it with your students later this morning!

I’ll be featuring many more fall-themed songs this season at Listen & Learn Plus, including the ever-popular topics of Halloween and Thanksgiving (can you believe it’s almost time to start talking about those things?).  Get in on the action…learn about becoming a member today!

Members, click here to access this post.

Happy First Day of Fall!


It’s officially here, even though the Midwest is experiencing temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s. We’re also experiencing quite a downpour this morning, which makes me glad to be safe and sound in my little music therapy office :)

As sad as I always am to see the summer end, there is so much to look forward to in the fall. I love watching the trees change color, and the cool, crisp air is refreshing after months of heat and humidity. I’m excited about getting out my pumpkin-scented candles, wearing sweaters, and making plans for Thanksgiving (I don’t give much thought to Halloween aside from writing songs about it, because it is my least favorite “holiday”).

I’ve written quite a few fall-themed songs, and I’ll share two of those with you today. “Fall into Fall” is one of the first songs I ever recorded (back when I had an extremely primitive recording set-up) so please disregard the not-so-amazing sound quality.

Fall into fall,
the most colorful season of all.
Orange and gold, red, yellow, and brown,
Leaves are swirling all around.

September, October, November, fall is here.
At the end of December, we know that winter’s near.

Fall into fall,
the most colorful season of all.
Orange and gold, red, yellow, and brown,
Leaves are swirling all around.

Football, and pumpkins, and hayrack rides abound.
Most of the leaves that were once on trees, are now upon the ground.

Fall into fall,
the most colorful season of all.
Orange and gold, red, yellow, and brown,
Leaves are swirling all around.

The air is getting colder, the wind is getting strong.
The days are getting shorter, but we keep on singing this song.

Fall into fall,
the most colorful season of all.
Orange and gold, red, yellow, and brown,
Leaves are swirling all around.

The second song is called “All About Autumn” and was written last year. I thought it was important to use the word “autumn” in a song, since the season goes by both names. It sounds like this:

I want to tell you all about autumn,
That’s another name for fall.
It begins at the end of September,
When the days are short and the trees are tall.

Autumn is a time to change the clocks,
We fall an hour behind.
We get an extra hour to sleep at night,
‘Cause that’s what happens when we rewind.


Autumn is a time for Halloween,
Wearing costumes while we trick-or-treat.
Walking around our neighborhood,
Collecting so much candy to eat.


Autumn is a time for Thanksgiving,
Let’s be thankful for the food on our plate.
And all of the good things in our lives,
With our family, we celebrate.


So there you go: two songs for a brand-new season! Since I sing about the season every day with my students, it’s nice to have two to alternate so that they don’t get too stale. What are your favorite fall-ish songs?

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