Back to School!

It’s that time of year: many students are returning to school, and so am I. After a nice long summer break, I’m heading back to The Hope Institute for my 4th (!) school year as a music therapist. It’s going to be an exciting one — I’ll be supervising my first-ever music therapy intern. Up until now, my department has been a one-woman show, so it will be nice to finally have some company!

In honor of the new academic year, I’d like to share some school-related songs. These can all be downloaded from my studio album, Time to Sing Hello, which debuted earlier this summer.  The first is all about getting there…on the bus, of course!

My favorite thing about going back to school (both when I was a student and now as an employee) is seeing old friends and making new ones. Socializing is a goal area that I address often with my students, so this song comes in handy:

I’m on a tight schedule during the school day! I have classes to see, meetings to attend, and planning to do, which means I need to keep a close eye on the clock. Many kids are learning how to read the clock for themselves, which is exactly why I wrote the next tune:

There’s one thing that must be done before it’s time to say goodbye and head home for the day, and that is cleaning up. Almost everyone knows the old “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere” song, but I got tired of that one and came up with my own:

Check out the rest of my school-friendly tunes here. For those of you who are getting back into the swing of the school year, good luck!  It can be a stressful time, but it can also be lots of fun.

A Drum Song for Seth

Paddle Drum

Seth loved drums. It didn’t matter what kind – if he could use a mallet or his hand to make a big sound, he was a happy camper.  What Seth didn’t love was following his music therapy schedule and completing his work.  On the rare occasion that he did finish a task, he was rewarded with the chance to play a drum.  His face would light up and he would say “Boom, boom!” as he played, which is what gave me the idea for a song that would serve two purposes.

All this time, I had been using the drum only as a reward.  Why hadn’t I thought to incorporate the drum into Seth’s goal-based interventions?  (The answer to that question: because I was an intern, and I still had a lot to learn.)  One of Seth’s IEP goals was to count to 20, and I was determined for him to achieve it with the help of the drum.  At that point in my young career, I hadn’t written many songs of my own.  But this one worked, so I still use it today.

Boom, boom!
We can count to twenty.
Let’s start with number one.
Boom, boom!
We can count to twenty,
While we play our drum!

1, 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, 12,
13, 14, 15, 16,
17, 18, 19, 20!

I used a paddle drum just like the one pictured above when I sang this song with Seth.  He held the mallet, and I held the drum up only when it was his turn to play (during the “Boom, boom!” lines and as he counted).  Not only did Seth achieve his goal, but he wanted to count even higher so that he had more chances to play the drum!

This song took the work out of counting, just as music so often does for tasks that might otherwise be mundane or frustrating for children.  The key is figuring out the motivating factor.  I may have helped teach Seth to count to 20, but I owe Seth big time for teaching me this important lesson.

Using Music to Teach…Physics?

Music + Physics

I use music to teach a variety of concepts on a daily basis, from money to making friends to telling time.  These are basic skills that every child learns one way or another, but learning through music is not something students learn as a part of getting their teaching degree. Learning through music is also not limited to elementary subject matter.  When I was in 8th grade, I took an advanced algebra class in which we learned the quadratic formula.  To this day, I can still spout it out.  You know the tune “Pop! Goes the Weasel”, right?

X equals negative B, plus or minus the square root of B squared minus 4AC, all over 2A

I don’t have any use for this knowledge now, but the fact is that almost 15 years later, I still have it — because I learned through song. The same goes for the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution (“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”), the 50 states, and so on.  A catchy song is so much more “sticky” than a textbook page when it comes to both short- and long-term memory, which is why music is such an effective teaching tool.

In addition to my work as a music therapist, I write custom songs for children to target specific skills and concepts.  I also put together custom CDs, one of which I created this past weekend for my nephew.  Mason turned 2, and for his birthday, I wanted to do something special for him.  He LOVES music, so when he heard all of these songs with his name in them, about all of his favorite things (especially drums), he was ecstatic.

Mason’s party was held at the St. Louis Zoo, and we played the CD while we ate cake and ice cream in the discovery room.  As the party was winding down, one of the employees came over to tell me how much she enjoyed the CD.  She then proceeded to explain how much she loves music, and that she used songs to teach her children all kinds of things as they were growing up.  When her son was in college and struggling before a physics test, she set the key information to music.  Her son learned the “physics song” his mom wrote, and in turn, aced his exam.

Bottom line?  Music can help teach just about any skill or concept, whether it’s as basic as tying a shoelace or as complicated as college physics.

Sunday Singalong: Shakin’ It Up

Happy weekend! After a short hiatus, I’m back with a brand new “Sunday Singalong” video. This time I’m shakin’ it up with a song I wrote specifically for fruit shakers, which I added to my instrument collection last summer.  I’ve posted this song before, so you can listen to the entire song and get the sheet music by following that link.

The “Shaky Fruit” song is very straightforward, and the objectives are clear: listen (or use visual cues) for your turn to shake your fruit, and only shake your fruit during your turn.  But the second version I presented goes just a little deeper.

The key moment comes when I ask the group, “Where is (child’s name)?” and the child replies, “Here I am!”.  The primary objective was for the child to respond verbally to his or her own name; playing the instrument is simply a reward for doing so.

My friend and colleague, Lea Keating, explains the importance of a child being able to do just that in her latest blog post.  It took a very scary situation to remind her of this, as she details in her post, but it serves as a lesson for every parent, therapist, and educator out there.  You can read it here.

Friday Fave: A Day at the Beach

A Day at the Beach

This past Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary.  Zach is the planner when it comes to special occasions and vacations, so although I knew we were going to Chicago (we had a wedding there the night before), he surprised me with a stay at the W Hotel, a boat tour, several romantic meals, and a trip to the beach.  Zach knows how much I love sun and sand, so it was quite a treat to spend the afternoon relaxing on the shore of Lake Michigan together.

And as I lay on that beach, enjoying the gorgeous weather and perfect company, I was reminded of just how lucky I really am.  Not only do I have a loving and supportive husband, but together we have a beautiful home, an amazing family, and more blessings than we could even name.  I have a career that I love and feel genuinely excited about when I wake up in the morning, and a place where I can share my work with people all over the world (you!) who find it interesting and valuable.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the tidal wave of life sometimes that we forget to step back and see the big picture.  I’m often guilty of this myself.  It took a day at the beach to make me realize that, all things considered, my life really is a day at the beach.

[For more mushy thoughts and snapshots from my anniversary weekend, feel free to visit my photo album on Facebook.]

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