Music is truly one of the universal languages. Even if you don’t understand a word being sung, you can feel the heartbreak or joy that the singer is trying to convey. I sing every day while I teach, and hopefully it doesn’t sound like unimaginable pain. Using music to signal a transition is especially important because it can be a non-verbal signal in a very verbal environment. The music can cut through the dull roar that sometimes exist in a classroom. Students sit up and take notice when they hear music.
When used appropriately, a song can let the children realize that it’s time to transition to another activity. For example, come to the carpet, line up, move to another part of the classroom, or clean up centers. When it is time to clean up, I sing, but it may be not the song that you are already humming. I announce it’s time to clean up by belting out that little ditty from the movie Monsters Inc. Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) sings an impromptu song, “Put that thing back where it came from or so help me!” It makes me smile every time it’s time to clean up because I sing it once and the kids sing it to each other and they all just laugh, while they clean!
Because music is such an important part of my days, new music is quite frequently inspiring. When it comes to children’s music, The Laurie Berkner Band has always been a favorite of mine. This is partially because my daughter absolutely adored Laurie Berkner when she was growing up. Because of that, I became super familiar with all of her music.
She released her latest CD on October 4, 2019 titled Waiting For the Elevator. Here are four songs from that album and how I have begun using them in my classroom to signal a transition.
Track 9 – I Know How That Works
This song is super catchy, with its “1, 2, 3, what do I see” opening. This song is a great transition song for either a STEM/STEAM activity because it’s about how things work and forces of motion. I love it even more for letting the class know that it’s time to head to centers. It also becomes a sweet song about how a family works, through the line, “you learn from me and I’ll learn you”. I have found playing a song before I share center assignments lets the kids know that the time has arrived. If they want to know their center for the day, they need to settle down so that I can share when the song ends.
Track 4 – Look at All the Letters
This is a new version of the alphabet song. It’s a fun and breezy tune that both sings the rote reciting of the alphabet, but also inserts a fun middle section where you hear words that start with each letter of the alphabet. (not necessarily the sound of the letter but the letter) I love this song as a fun, musical way to get the students to gather on the carpet for a whole group reading lesson. I don’t think it’s possible to begin your lesson with a grumpy face with this auditory happiness happening before you begin. As the song goes along, I’m pointing to the letters around the room, things around the room that start with that letter, or even throwing kids some alphabetical bean bags to reinforce the letters in a visual and kinesthetic way.
Track 3 – Did You Go to Ohio?
I use this song to introduce a new postcard. My class is part of a global Kindergarten Pen Pal program. We send out about 50 postcards that explain where we live and what we like to do. My classroom also receives about 50 postcards from around the world so that we can learn about different places. We get the opportunity to see how all five-year-old children are similar or different! This song incorporates lots of movement like: jumping, swimming, and hopping. Allowing, and even encouraging your students to move is a great way to get the wiggle out. This simultaneously gets them ready to learn about the world around them!
Track 6 – Do You Hear the Bells? (Featuring Gavin Creel)
If you casually listen to this track, math isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I hear some amazing 1 to 1 correspondence happening for each number from 1 to 12. When Laurie and Gavin sing about hearing the bells chime at each hour out of their window, I picture the wet, bustling streets of London giving a distant background choir to the wonderful bells of each new hour. To further entice the students to come to the carpet as quickly as possible, have some bells ready for them to ring with the song as the students hear the “ding-dongs” continue to add with each passing number.
I sing students names, especially when I’m trying to get their attention. I will also sing directions. When I use this technique, students tend to remember more then if I just say what I need them to do. Singing, and music, is definite part of our daily calendar time and used very often during reading instruction. These four songs are some of my favorites from the new CD. Though, Laurie has 19 different songs on her CD, your favorites may be completely different!
I hope you will take a moment and share what songs you use to help your class transition.
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