Underwater Play

Underwater Play

Today at Armbrae Academy where I teach a music class the children were doing an underwater theme with their teachers. They wanted to sing two Beatles songs, Octopus’s Garden and Yellow Submarine, and had fun singing and clapping along as I played.

Great music always stands the test of time, regardless of one’s demographics. Here is a fun video of Octopus’s Garden for you and your kids to enjoy.

Another good song for underwater play is Baby Beluga where the children can pretend to be the beluga whales and the diving dolphins.

Here’s Raffi singing Baby Beluga with an audience of children singing along.

And the Beatles’ own Yellow Submarine:

The Legend of the Talking Stick

The Legend of the Talking Stick

As you may know, I have gathered a wide selection of multi-cultural material, songs, dances and games from around the world, for my World Music and Rhythm Talk program.

I came across the legend of the talking stick and found that it worked marvelously in my class as children tend to talk all at once. They get louder and louder in order to be heard over each other, not realizing that the louder they all talk, the less the teacher can hear them. They seem to feel that if they yell loud enough, someone is bound to hear what they are saying.

I believe that this is a natural phenomenon and we have all been guilty of it since our cultural beginnings. This is why the Native American people have come up with the idea of the talking stick, a powerful tool used by many tribes of different nations for years.

When the person holding the stick is talking, no one else is allowed to talk.

Teaching kids respect for another’s culture at an early age is critical to a happy, healthy society free from the predeterminations and prejudices which still haunt our planet.


Feel the Beat

Feel the Beat

Kids have an intrinsic feel for the beat of most music.

To start off the very little ones, ages 18 months to 3 years, hand out percussion instruments such as wood blocks, maracas, drums, jingle bells, tambourines, etc. Show them the beat by playing a 4/4 bar: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.

Sing a familiar song such as “The Ants Go Marching,” “The Grand Old Duke of York,” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” playing the beat on a drum to show them how it should sound. They will learn visually as well by watching you play.

After they can play a steady beat they may enjoy marching to a couple of these songs. Their hands and feet go together, 1, 2, 3, 4, as body movement is an extra aid to the memory process.

Check out my sample of “Six Little Ducks” which is also a great one for keeping a steady beat.



Beethoven has always been one of my favourites of the great composers. He crossed over the classical period into the Romantic era with his compositions and for that reason, among others, he is seen to be quite versatile.

I love to introduce the kids to Beethoven’s music via Beethoven Lives Upstairs, which has Ludwig van Beethoven moving upstairs in the house of a bereaved boy, Christoph, and turns his life upside down. Christoph has just lost his father and is in no mood for the tail-spin his house has been thrown into by this mad composer. Initially he resents their new eccentric tenant, Mr. Beethoven, but slowly he comes to understand and admire the genius of the man, the torment of his deafness and the beauty of his music. In the end he is won over by the music and true incidents from the great composer’s life.

What kids will learn:
Biography, introduction to classical music, grieving, responsibility and caring, learning about disabilities, and recognizing one’s Talent through it all!


“Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17th 1770 at Bonn. His family originated from Brabant, in Belgium. His father was musician at the Court of Bonn, with a definite weakness for drink. His mother was always described as a gentle, retiring woman, with a warm heart. Beethoven referred to her as his “best friend”.”


Here’s the Moonlight Sonata from Beethoven Lives Upstairs for your listening pleasure.

Beethoven composed this Sonata in 1801 and dedicated it to his pupil, Countess Giulietta Guicciardi. Shortly after their first few lessons, the two fell in love. After dedicating the Moonlight Sonata to her, it is believed that Beethoven gave his proposal of marriage. Although she was willing to accept Beethoven’s proposal, one of her parents forbade the marriage, probably due to Beethoven’s rank in life and temperament, and it did not come to pass.

Strangely enough, the original title of the sonata was not “The Moonlight Sonata.” It was “Quasi una fantasia” (almost a fantasy). The popular title of Moonlight Sonata actually did not come about until a few years after Beethoven’s death. In 1836, German music critic, Ludwig Rellstab wrote that the sonata put him in mind of the reflected moonlight off Lake Lucerne. Since then, Moonlight Sonata has remained the “official” unofficial title of the sonata.



Raven was my friend and guide dog of many years. Although he is no longer with us, I still remember all the good times:

Taking him to the daycare when he was younger and playing the Copy Cat Rhythms on the drum with his paw so the kids could see that even the dog could play. We didn’t keep that one up as Raven began to protest, pulling his paw away as if to say “That’s your game, not mine.”

He would also jump up in the air and bark whenever we were up dancing and clapping.

The one I think he enjoyed the most was the springtime class. We were outside in the playground doing The Elephant Song where the children walk very slowly like the elephants do, raising their arm like a trunk. When the music speeds up, so do the children as they are being chased by a tiger or hunter. Raven ran right along with them in his deer-like fashion, leaping and bounding around as Standard Poodles generally do. I wish I had a picture of that scene.

Here is a sample of the song he and the kids were running to: