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How to write a song for Kids

March 5, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Actually, I'm going to talk about reworking an existing song for kids to help get done whatever it is that needs doing/learning/teaching.

Why is this so natural and why does it work to well? A partial answer is that singing phrases involves both hemispheres of the brain. Music is whole brain- more parts of the brain are stimulated and light up when a direction or concept is sung rather than spoken. It makes the job more interesting and less of a put-upon demand. You can watch music, hear it and feel it

My first premise is that anyone can do this. People can get nervous about doing this. You don't need to get nervous. You CAN do this. Also, I must say that there are very few people who really “can't” sing or who are really “tone-deaf.”And then there are the kids who even as toddlers tell their parents “NO SING.!!!” Ok, I've known two ex-voice majors whose babies said “Don't SING.” Sing anyway. If you're still resistant, then I bet you had a bad chorus teacher or choir director who told you to just whisper the words.... They should have just helped you learn to focus your ears rather than turn you off to the joy of singing. Naughty teachers.

This is what you do: You take an easy, familiar, traditional little kid song and you stick words into it. That's it.

You do not need to be clever. You do not need to rhyme. Just stick in the words. Take the song “Wheels on the bus” for example. To help kids clean up, you can sing “Play time is over and it's time to clean, time to clean, time to clean. Play time is over it's time to clean. Clean up the toys.” If you're teaching body parts to toddlers, sing “Put the beanbag on your head, on your head, on your head. Put the bean bag on your head. Put it on your head.” It really is that simple and mundane. As Nike says, “Just do it.” To help peers learn names and to help foster awareness of syllables sing “Let's sing hi to Monica (while clapping the syllables Mo-ni-ca) Monica, Monica. Let's sing hi to Monica. Hmmm who's next?” You can use this for social skills, daily routines, new experiences, pre-academics /academics, language concepts, math, pre-reading, colors, vocabulary and more.

All of this grabs our attention and makes us want to listen. This opens us up to foster new understandings of the world around us, of concepts, of ourselves, and of other people.

Here's a bit more about writing or adapting songs to help teach kids what they need to know. This can include transitions, sound articulation, motor skills, body parts, eye contact.....

Most of the songs on the radio have a formula. Many songs are comprised of alternating verses and choruses. All the verses of a song are quite similar to each other but are different from the chorus. The chorus is usually the same each time it is heard. The bridge section usually comes near the end of the songs and is a notably different but returns to the chorus and everybody says “ahhhh, back to our familiar reference section.” A song on the radio often follows a pattern similar to verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.

Back to kids songs. There are two main types: one has three repetitious lines (either lyrically and/or melodically) and a final contrasting phrase that is the same from verse to verse. The other has two repetitious lines, a consistent third phrase and a return to the first or repetitious line. The contrasting line in both these cases can consist of a general phrase that describes the purpose of the song, or a commonality within all the verses.

Examples of a same -same -same -different song include: Mary had a little lamb, This little light of mine, Kumbaya, the Wheels on the Bus and London Bridges.

Examples of a same -same -different -same song include: The farmer in the dell, Old Mac Donald, Oh my darling Clemontine and Oh Susanna.

How does this matter to you? It's simply a frame work in which to insert your lesson material/objectives. You may never have contemplated the musical structure of Kumbaya, but that melody can help your kids do anything from wash behind their ears to learn math. There is a reason that song has lasted the test of time. I suspect these song formulas sit well with the human psyche with our need to push into what is new, but come home to what's familiar. (The different phrases and new, contrasting bridges as well as the consistent, familiar choruses that we all are happy to return to join in on.....) If you are feeling confident in this, I want to point out that you want to be aware of the syllabic inflection of what you are singing and make sure your syllables have correct emphasis.

For older kids who learn through song, you can use melodies from verses and choruses of more current songs. Try to notice which tunes have you tapping your foot and have a repetitious quality to them either through the words (“She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you) and/or the melody. Try to notice the patterns of repetition and newness. By the way, “I'm Yours,” by Jason Mraz is a great song to insert new lyrics. Now go sing!

Margie La Bella has worked as a music therapist serving young children with special needs for more than 25 years. Her website, http://www.MusicTherapyTunes.com is full of useful information (music, videos, blogs, lessons plans…) for parents, therapists, and teachers and just about everyone else.


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Creative Music Therapy: Music’s Capacity to Reach Developmental Potential

January 8, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

We all want to be heard and understood, we want to be able to express the depths of our feelings and live life to the fullest of our abilities. In music therapy this is possible. Music does not discriminate instead it has the capacity to uncover our potentials. The vast qualities of music itself can reach the broadest of emotions and stimulate the mind and body. Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Its clinical use spans a wide range of populations. Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, & cognitive skills through specifically designed music interventions for individuals and groups based upon the client needs. Read the rest of this entry →

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Music: A Scientific Elixir Balances the Brain and Mends the Mind

August 10, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

One cannot deny the beauty of music and the power it has over us. As Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” It is little wonder that music is used to rehabilitate disorders of the brain and today music is being used in new unique ways to correct learning and behavioral disorders in children at the Brain Balance Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

On a scientific note, it is interesting to be aware how different kinds of music affect us in different ways. In fact, that difference is being used strategically to target areas of the brain that are not working properly. The different effects of music can be better understood by these examples. For instance, the marching music of John Philip Sousa, with its strong beat and cadence, has a strong affect over the left side of the brain, the side responsible for order, sequence, and linear thinking. That is in contrast to the sounds of Jean-Paul Sartre, or the wail of Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar that stimulates the right hemisphere which gives us innovation, creativity, and novel experiences. Albert Einstein, who was known for his independent thinking as well as his brilliant creativity and unique right brain structure said, “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”

The point is that kids with learning and behavioral disorders have specific things in their brains that are disconnected causing each child to be different in ways that may hold them back. The problem is that since each child is different, it follows that, each child needs a unique set of solutions to re-connect their brain.

Brain Balance Centers have produced different sets of scientifically composed music for use in its centers across the country. There are different compositions created for different learning disorders. The music used for ADHD, Tourettes, or compulsive disorders all of which are caused by the underdevelopment of the right hemisphere, are different than those compositions used for Dyslexia, ADD, and processing disorders that are caused by disorders of the left hemisphere. The Brain Balance Program owes its remarkable success with children’s learning and behavioral problems to its ability to target the specific hemispheric delays of the brain, including this unique use of music for specific disorders. Brain Balance Centers does not stop with music. Brain Balance has scores of ways to stimulate the brain. That is because each child’s learning and behavioral problems are complex, multiple, and unique to that child. The type of stimulus has to match the child’s weakness in order to help that child. As a result Brain Balance has taken music theory to the next step and developed different music programs to fit each child’s needs. This is likewise done to fit the correct brain weaknesses with the correct stimuli (other than music) for each developmental delay.

Music is one of the ingredients in the mix at the Brain Balance Achievement Center in Wayne, and it is an important one. When the correct stimulus is matched with the correctly identified brain disconnection the result is the re-connection and the restoration of the brain function. Sometimes the results in the children seem to fit the effects of music as seen by Ludwig van Beethoven when he said, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”

Dr. Albert Forwood, director of Pennsylvania’s first Brain Balance Achievement Center, is a Board-certified Chiropractic Neurologist who specializes in working with children affected by ADHD, OCD, Dyslexia, Tourette ’s syndrome, processing problems and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.   The center which recently opened in Wayne helps children improve socially and academically using a drug-free approach.

You can visit Dr. Forwood at his website www.brainbalancecenters.com or contact Brain Balance by E-mail at wayne@brainbalancecenters.com or by phone at 610-688-2700



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