How to know what’s ok to share in your online circle times

Over these last few weeks, many of us have gone from classroom teachers to online educators and are faced with questions we need answers to now!

One of which is what are the rules around sharing music via Skype/Zoom/YouTube etc? That’s just the question I received this week from a teacher…….

Question: My preschool team has attended your workshop at WAEYC the last couple of years and we love learning new music and movement activities from you! Due to the COVID19 situation we have created a YouTube channel for our students to access. We are providing circle time content, snack demonstrations, story time, and music and movement.

Since you’ve been doing this for awhile I wanted to ask you about the rules regarding using licensed songs in YouTube videos. What are the restrictions? Can we sing the music or play it on an instrument, but NOT play the actual song?

Answer: As far as using licensed songs, I stay away from them especially on a public format such as YouTube. Instead, I stick to public domain songs (if you aren’t sure if a song is public domain, click here to search for the song).

However, during this time, many artists are being extremely generous and allowing online sharing. If there is a specific song you want to share because your kids just love it, reach out to the artist!

I did just that last night as I really want to share Laurie Berkner’s “Fruit Salad Salsa” on this week’s Facebook Live Circle Time Sing-along.

If you can’t get permission to share online, why not create a playlist on YouTube or Spotify for your students to access after the online circle time? Fill the playlists with your class’s favorite songs and encourage families to turn on the music and let their child be the teacher!

Click here for how to make a Spotify playlist. Spotify has a ton of songs and getting an account set up is quick and easy.

Click here for directions on how to create a YouTube playlist you can share.

If you are looking for fair to share content, there are so many great poems and songs out there in the public domain. One of my favorite resources is King County Library’s collection called “Tell Me a Story”. They have tons of songs broken down by topic that are all ok to share. If they aren’t public domain, they do let you know so you feel good about knowing you are legal. There are also video demonstrations so you can see how the activity looks in action.

What about books?

While we are on the topic of what’s legal to share in an online platform, let’s talk about books. Sorry to say it, but same same goes for reading books. I know, YouTube is filled with people reading books so I’m not sure why those haven’t been taken down. The truth is you do need to get permission from the publisher if you want to read the book online.

But, because we are experiencing unprecedented times, many publishers have loosened their rules. Click here to view an ever-growing list as well as their rules around sharing. If you don’t see the publisher of a book that you want to share, contact them! Word is they are responding quickly with their sharing guidelines.

In the end, meeting your students online during these stressful times can be just what all of you need. When they see your face and hear your voice, a sense of comfort is felt.

I hope this information helps you to navigate the online world a bit better.

How to get your students’ attention WITHOUT yelling!

Ever heard someone singing a familiar tune, but the words were different? They were singing a “piggyback song” and if you are someone that works with children (and even adults), you will want to utilize this very effective group management strategy on a frequent basis. From hand washing to lining up, this strategy beats the heck out of yelling AND kids actually listen!

Why piggyback songs ROCK!

  • They Get Kids’ Attention! Trying to make an announcement to the class but they just won’t listen? Start singing what you have to tell them, but put it to the tune of a song you know.  You’ll find that they’ll stop whatever they are doing and listen. Why? Because the sound of your singing voice is different from the other sounds they are hearing. Your voice activates the brain’s alerting network (it’s the brain’s way of keeping us safe) and will require the body to stop whatever it is doing, figure out where the sound is coming from and then decide what to do about it. In that short amount of time, the child will listen to the words you are singing and the brain will get to work processing the information.
  • They Lock in Learning Want to teach your children information such as steps to washing their hands or how to put toys away? Turn it into a song using a tune they already know. Piggyback songs are great for learning new information because they offer children an opportunity to connect information to a tune they often already know. Think of the song as the vehicle that will carry the information to their memory bank. It provides a rhythm and rhyme and sometimes alliteration which helps to unlock that information with cues.

How to write a piggyback song

When writing a piggyback song, the trick is to keep it simple so you remember it! Below are four easy steps that will get you a piggyback song in no time!

  1. Know your purpose – Decide the purpose of the song ie. lining up, sitting down etc.
  2. Pick a Tune – Find a tune you know well. Refer to the list below for tune inspirations
  3. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat –  If the song has four lines like many simple songs do, your lyrics can repeat four times.  This allows the children to hear the direction over and over again and by the fourth time, they know what you are saying! So don’t worry about getting fancy and writing a ton of lyrics. That makes it hard on everyone including you. When you think of a great piggyback song, you want to be able to remember it again with ease.

If you do want to get a little fancy, try changing the third line of the song as   shown below: 

Piggy Back Song Example

(Tune: She’ll be comin’ round the mountain)

Oh it’s time to wash your hands.

Oh it’s time to wash your hands.

Scrub them here, scrub them there, scrub them everywhere,

Oh it’s time to wash your hands.

Piggy Back Song Tunes

Below is a list of well-known songs that work great as a piggy back tune. Be sure to choose ones you know the tune to really well.

  • “A Hunting We Will Go”
  • “Bear Went Over the Mountain”
  • “Bingo”
  • “Clementine”
  • “Farmer in the Dell”
  • “Frere Jacques”
  • “Happy and You Know It”
  • “Head Shoulder Knees and Toes”
  • “I’m a Little Teapot”
  • “London Bridge”
  • “Mary had a Little Lamb
  • “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”
  • “Ten Little Indians”
  • “The Wheels on the Bus”
  • “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
  • “Zippidy Doo Dah”

Piggyback Song Examples. 

Here are some of my favorite piggyback songs so you can see how they work. Credit is given to songs written 

Piggyback songs themed! – Need a song for a theme activity? Check here! They are all set to songs you probably know.

5 Ukuleles that Won’t Break the Bank

Ever thought of learning to play the ukulele? You might be saying, who me? I don’t have a musical bone in my body!

Well guess what, learning to play an instrument is a skill, not a talent.

Still with me?

Now that we’ve got that hurdle out of the way, I’d love to help you get started by choosing an instrument I know you can learn quickly!

Let’s face it, as adults we want immediate results without having to put in a ton of time practicing (or maybe that’s just me!). That’s why I recommend the ukulele.

If you have a ukulele in the back of your hall closet collecting dust and you are just waiting for “someday” to roll around to learn to play, there’s no time like the present. Get it out, dust it off and see what kind of sounds you can get out of it.

If not, I’ve made a list of 5 really awesome ukuleles that range in price. Honestly, I’m surprised that some of these ukuleles make such an awesome sound and don’t break the bank!

Let’s Meet the Ukuleles

Before I give my recommendations, I want to talk a bit about the four standard sizes of ukuleles so you’l be sure to pick (no pun intended) the right size no matter which one you select.

  • Soprano: Known as the original ukulele, it is the smallest in the ukulele family and has a bright sound. It is great for playing chords and works well for smaller hands.
  • Concert: Because it is longer than a soprano ukulele, it produces a deeper and louder sound, but still sounds much like a soprano. This makes it a great size for most players.
  • Tenor: Tenor is the next step up from the concert in size. The scale for the tenor is about two inches longer, the neck is just a little wider, and overall it’s a little heavier than the concert. The tenor size is the most popular among professional players, but is great for any skill or experience level. A tenor may be even more comfortable for those with larger hands and fingers than the concert size.
  • Baritone: The baritone is not only the largest in the ukulele family measuring 30” long, its tuning is the same as the highest four strings on the guitar. With that said, I’d recommend not going with this size if you are looking to play from traditional ukulele music because the chords will be different.

I’d recommend a soprano or concert size. If your hands are on the smaller side, go for the soprano. If your hands are on the larger side, go for a tenor. For me, the concert seems to be the perfect fit and here this from many ukulele players.

If time allows, go to a music store and try them out! It is a great way to feel what’s right for you.

My 5 Favorite Ukuleles

(Note: All links are to Amazon and show Amazon Prime prices, but the ukuleles can be found on other sites or at your favorite local music store for around the same cost.)

  1. Makala Dolphin Soprano  Great ukulele if you have a tight budget, but still want a quality sound. Comes in a ton of colors that will for sure catch the eye of kids and adults. 
  2. Donner Concert Mahogany Concert Ukulele comes with case which is great for keeping it safe and protected especially around kids when not in use. The strap will allow you to easily stand up for songs that involve movement. 
  3. Cordoba Concert Ukulele  – I got this ukulele for my dad and it is very nice quality. It has a great sound and fits his bigger hands, but still feels comfortable for my smaller hands. 
  4. Kala Satin Mahogany Soprano Ukulele– Another great budget-friendly ukulele with beautiful finished mahogany, makes for an affordable ukulele that stays in tune. It is fun and easy to pick and great for beginners and advanced players alike. 
  5. Luna Guitars Tattoo Concert Mahogany Ukulele – You can pretty much feel the island vibe thanks to the beautiful tattooed designs. The fret markers even look like sharks’ teeth! A perfect choice if you are looking for great sound and style. 

Are you ready to learn to play the ukulele? Enroll in a 4 week online course and be playing in no time!

3 Reasons Why Kids need to Move to Learn

“I can’t get my kids to sit still at circle time!” If I had a nickel for every time a teacher told me they struggled with this, I’d be rich!

Do you want to know the reason why kids can’t sit at circle? Kids need to move! It makes the brain function at its best. In classrooms today, we are seeing an increase in seat time and a decrease in free time.  The result? Children who dislike school, feel stressed out and anxious and aren’t excited about learning.

Gretchen LeFever Watson, a clinical psychologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School found that ADHD is over-diagnosed. Experts estimate that 5% is a realistic upper limit of children with the disorder, but in many areas of the country, up to 33% of white boys are diagnosed with ADHD. Check out the study to learn more.

I wager to guess the demand on children to sit and be quiet in school has a lot to do with it. Behavior is communication and I believe they are crying out to move! So why not use movement as a way to learn? Let me tell you why you should not just consider it, but give it a try today.

3 Reasons why kids need to move to learn. 

  1. Movement is a Primal Need

It wasn’t long ago that our ancestors were nomadic. Meaning, they walked up to 14 miles a day in search of food and shelter. Now children sit much of their day!  Evolution has not caught up to this sedentary lifestyle.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules says, “if you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you would probably design something like a classroom”

John Medina quote

2. Movement Locks in Learning

Why? Because it activates so many parts of the brain. We form a more robust memory when we learn this way. Would you rather teach something to children 55 times using our traditional method of teaching, also known as skill and drill? Or teach them the same concept 5 times before they understand it? I thought so! 

3. Movement Feeds the Brain

When the brain is asked to focus for long periods of time without being fed, it throws a fit. In young children, this means grabbing books off the shelf during story time, dog piling a neighbor or in some cases, straight up walking away.

Because our brain does not store energy, it must be fed to keep going. Guess what it likes to eat? Oxygen-rich blood!

This can be achieved through a variety of ways such as telling an emotionally-charged story that recaptures attention, or by getting the students up and moving their bodies.

By recognizing that your learners need to refocus, refresh and recharge often, you’ll be more likely to create activities where children stay engaged from beginning to end. 

By getting children up and moving every 10 minutes (let’s be honest, every 3-4 minutes is more realistic), they will be reenergized as oxygen-rich blood is sent to feed their brains. 

Taking these brain and body breaks are actually more beneficial to academic performance than they are harmful. ”Breaking up content learning with physical movement is more effective than excessive content dumping” (Jensen, E. (2000). Learning with the body in mind: The scientific basis for energizers, movement, play, games, and physical education. San Diego, CA: Brain Store. ).

Ready to bring more movement into your classroom?

Click here to check out “Move, Move, Move!” Infused with songs to get kids up and on their feet, it is a perfect mix of actions songs to add to your circle times.

Do you want 7 Secrets for Circle Time? Fill out the form below, and you’ll be on your way from chaos to calm in no time!

7 Secrets for Circle Time

secrets for circle time success

Do you know what the biggest struggle is when it comes to circle time? Keeping kids engaged!

Here’s how it goes….you plan this amazing list of activities to do at circle time, but you can’t even get a word in edgewise! With kids complaining about not having enough space, someone’s in their seat or they have to go to the bathroom, it is no wonder many teachers say circle time is their least favorite part of the day.

What if I could give you 7 tried and true secrets that will begin to turn your circle times around? These secrets have come from me falling flat on my face repeatedly until I found what works. This means, I’ve failed so you don’t have to!

If you are ready to make a change at circle time, check out the “7 Secrets for Circle Time Success” and get ready to rock your circle times tomorrow!

Songs for Circle Time

A really awesome way to keep kids engaged is to have lots and lots of activities to share. My two favorite kinds of activities are music and movement ones of course.

If you are ready to freshen up your circle times with some tried and true songs, check out my CD (or audio download) “Circle Time Success”!

How to Make a Flannel Board Box

When I was about 3 years old, I had a Sunday School teacher, Fern Peterson, who always told us flannel board stories. I loved her and all her stories.

Turns out, flannel board stories still work! I know this because, well, I tell a lot of them and kids are super, duper engaged.

For many years, I had a standard flannel board that I would use and it worked just fine. But then, one of my teachers made me a FLANNEL BOARD BOX!

I haven’t looked back. This thing is so snazzy! It allows me to be mobile at circle time and not stuck to one spot like by the book shelf where the flannel board has been glued.

With my mobile flannel board, if (ok, when) my friends start fooling around on the other side of the circle during the flannel board activity, no worries, I just stand up and move my body and the STORY.NEVER.STOPS!

I also love how it acts as a spot to store my flannels. I keep mine in separate ziplocks inside the box for activities I am currently doing at circle time. That means I always have my materials ready and waiting. When it’s time to start a flannel board activity, I simply reach for the box, open it up, and pull out the activity I am looking for.

This ways it keeps little hands out of my materials and older kiddos don’t get a sneak peek of what’s in store for them.

I’d love for you to have your very own flannel board box, so let’s get on to the directions:

Flannel Board Box Materials

1 Craft Box

1 large piece of flannel (or is it felt 😂)

Measuring Tape (you probably have this already)

Elmer’s Craft Bond Spray

Flannel Pieces for your activities


Check out the way I make flannel board pieces without ever cutting a piece of flannel!

How to Make the Flannel Board

To make the flannel board…

  1. Measure your piece of flannel to fit the front panel of the box. Mine was 12 x 12 and I am guessing that is pretty standard.
  2. Glue the backside of the flannel. Make sure to get both the middle part of the flannel and the edges glued down well. You don’t want this stuff coming off during a super fun flannel story!

That’s it!

Happy Flannel Boarding!