February Fun on Teacher Feature Friday

I always feel like the months January and February are to the school year what Wednesday is to the school week, hump-day, mid-way through….and we all need some fun and laughter, some bright colors in the middle of the year that also falls right smack in the middle of the winter in most of the United States.  It could be a dreary time…but of course music helps push away the gray!


For me, being a member of CMN has provided endless material for that fun and color.


February has a lot happening:  it starts out with Groundhog’s Day, which always confuses kids because whether or not the groundhog sees it’s shadow, there are six more weeks of winter…but good for some laughs for sure!  I honor this holiday with a familiar tune repurposed to reflect this quirky event, learned long ago on the CMN list!  Because it is such a familiar song, children immediately join in.


To the tune of Frere Jaques:

Where is groundhog, where is groundhog?  Here I am, here I am.  Shadows on a sunny day, make the groundhog run away, and winter will stay, winter will stay.  BUT, what if it’s a cloudy day?

Where is groundhog, where is groundhog?  Here I am, here I am.  If it is a cloudy day, groundhog stays outside to play, and spring is on its way, YAY!  Spring is on its way, YAY!


The entire month has been designated Black History Month, and while, of course, Black History should not and cannot be relegated to just one month during the school year, it is a great way to focus students’ attention on history that they may not be aware of, and a wonderful way to highlight heroes and sheroes that are not necessarily household names.


Being a member of CMN has provided endless material to help me share this rich history through songs and discussions that we conduct on the elist.


In the Jewish American world, February is also known as JDAIM, Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.  As an autism advocate, I spend a great deal of time this month sharing concerts about disability awareness.  It’s hard to be inclusive if you don’t recognize how you are not being inclusive.


February often includes Chinese New Year as well.  Another opportunity to share how people’s uniqueness is a factor to be celebrated, not feared or viewed as odd.


February has Presidents’ Day, an opportunity to share historical songs with children.


And last but not least, February also brings us Valentine’s Day.  For years I thought of Valentine’s Day as an excuse to sell cards and chocolate, and use up old doilies!  But over the years I have begun to find ways to combine the topics of Black History Month, Inclusion, Chinese New Year’s and Valentine’s Day.  After all, what is Valentine’s Day essentially about?  Making friends, telling someone else that we like them, showing them that we care, giving something of one’s self.  What is inclusion about?  Extending ourselves, offering friendship, being open to someone who is different.  And what better way for children to learn to look beyond stereotypes and preconceived notions about someone who has different colored skin or a different culture than themselves?  By extending one’s self outside the area of familiarity, by making new friends, showing them that we care, giving something of one’s self.  It all fits together, and can make for great music programs.

I teach in a number of day care centers as well as traditional preschools.  In the daycare centers, I sing to the babies for 15 minutes, to the 12-18 month olds for 20 minutes, to the 18-24 month olds and the 24 – 36 month olds for 25 minutes each.  From 3 years old and up the classes are 30 minutes long.  When I used to teach elementary music, I usually had 45 -60 minute classes, which was a real treat!  But for younger children, I think that 30 minutes is a perfect amount of time.  And in that time frame, we vary the type of attention needed greatly!  Here is what a typical lesson looks like in my classes:


  1. Opening/Greeting song
  2. Introduction of concept/topic for the day
  3. Finger play
  4. Instrument play
  5. Moving Activity (sometimes with instrument, sometimes not.)
  6. Quiet down song
  7. Musical Book


My music classes in February tend to focus on the overall theme of friendship.


I introduce Basso the Bear, who has a low voice, and his friend Badger, who has a high voice.  They sing their “good morning” song, and then we talk about Valentine’s Day, with this finger play that I adapted from an old book I found:

(Point at each finger with the opposite hand, adding one finger each time)

This valentine is for bibbity-bobbity-boo, This valentine is for cibbity-cobbity-coo,

This valentine is for dibbity-dobbity-doo, This valentine is for fibbity-fobbity-foo,

And this valentine is for yibbity-yobbity-yoo!

(Repeat with second hand, progressing through the consonants, but ending again with “And this valentine is for yibbity-yobbity-yoo!”


I learned the following whole-body chant from one of my CMN friends, Brigid Finucane.

O Valentine (to the tune of A Ram Sam Sam)


O Valentine, O Valentine                               (patsch hands or stomp feet)

Happy happy happy happy Valentine!       (roll hands or do the twist)


I love you, I love you,                                                (throw arms out in big “air” hug and clap hands together on “you”)

Happy happy happy happy Valentine!         (roll hands on “happy” and patsh hands on “valentine”)



I then hand out shakers, and we do some dancing.  I have a few favorite dances at this time of year, Love Somebody Yes I Do, an old African American song, Way Down Low In The Cedar Swamp, an old Appalachian song that I learned from a Jean Ritchie dulcimer collection, A Rig A Jig Jig, an old Irish song, or Looking For A Friend, a Chinese song.  For each of the songs, I instruct the children that part of the song will be danced solo, and part of the song, with a specific cue to listen for, will be danced with a partner.  For older preschoolers, I give them the instruction as well that each round of dancing will be with a different partner.

Here is a cute version of Love Somebody Yes I Do, with children singing in their family members that they love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRzNg-_7Xu8

Instead of those lyrics, I change the verses to “Dance together, me and you, (3x) Until I say bye to you.”  And we zipper in jumping, spinning, stomping, etc.

Here is Jean Ritchie singing Way Down Low In The Cedar Swamp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qP4WiPlHL6A

I have changed the chorus so that it is not simply swinging a lady, but also “swing a gent’man up and down, swing a gent’man home.”

I love videos of future music teachers!  Here is A Rig A Jig Jig:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqVTCznT4WA

I often change the verse to add some variety, instead of always singing, “As I was walking down the street…” I often zipper in different movements, like dancing, skipping etc.

Lastly, here is a video of Looking For A Friend:



I do not sing it in Chinese, but learned a translation from the book, Roots and Branches, co-authored by Judith Cook Tucker along with Patricia Sheehan Campbell and Ellen McCullough-Brabson.


All of these dances provide an opportunity to subtly teach children about inclusion, that they can dance with people other than their best friend, that they can dance with people that they might not always get along with.  I love observing the wary alliances that happen that are clearly healing some unhappy interchange that may have happened earlier in the day…music and dancing bring smiles and resolution!

We then catch our breath with a quick little puppet show, using a bumble bee and a fly puppet to sing an old English folk song, Fiddle Dee Dee, with the children holding their shakers quiet and shaking on the words of the title.

We collect the shakers, and if there’s time we sing some love song standards, Skiddamarink (with motions,) or Bushel and a Peck, or Woody Guthrie’s Mail Myself to You.

Whenever possible, I love to end my lessons with a singing book, and over the years I have had wonderful conversations with other CMN friends about favorite ways to use books in music classes and performances.  There is something about the visual anchor that helps kids collect their breath and transition from the activity of the music time into whatever is waiting for them after I leave.  I have a version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, by Jane Cabrera, that has a wonderful twist at the end that ties all of our February themes together.

A request by CMN member Stacey Peasley for material for Valentine’s Day on our CMN e-list recently yielded many members favorite Valentine’s Day songs, and I thought I would include that list here.  For more details about a song listed here, contact the CMN member listed next to it.  Oodles of treasures here!

Stacey herself contributed the following:

Bari Koral’s “Give a Hug”, Charity and the Jam Band’s “Valentine’s Day”, Brady Rymer’s “Light of Love”.


Malvina Reynolds’ “Magic Penny” suggested by Nancy Schimmel

(with a new verse by Nancy, Malvina’s daughter)

Money doesn’t have magic in it

Things we buy might break in a minute

Love’s a circle so let’s begin it

And bring it to every door, for…


You are my Sunshine suggested by Patricia Shih with new verses by Joanie Calem,

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,

I dreamt I held you in my arms,

When I awoke dear, you were indeed here

And you kept me safe from harm.

Every morning, when I awake dear,

I love to sing to you all day.

And as the time goes, my love for you grows,

And you push the gray clouds away.


And Joni Avrutik:

We need the sunlight to see a rainbow.

We need the clouds to bring the rain.

Everyone of us, has gifts to offer.

But none are exactly the same.


Brady Rymer’s “Mama Hug.” Suggested by Patricia Shih


Pam Donkin’s Planting Seeds of Love; and Love Goes Round and Round In A Circle, by Alice Olsen; suggested by Liz Hannan


Pam Donkin’s I Can Bring Love, suggested by Val Smalkin

Ruth Pelham’s Love is All Around; Carole Johnson’s Love Grows; and Pam Donkin’s Kindness Is Everywhere, suggested by Pam Donkin


Tim Seston’s Having A Friend, and Sara Qunitanar’s Dia del Amor Y La Amistad, suggested by Tim Seston.


I Love You (More Than My Shoe), by Roger Day; Song of Life by ScribbleMonster; You’re Great, You’re Swell (Song for Someone You love) by Kevin Kammeraad; I Just Love You, by Yosi; I Love You Too, by Ziggy Marley; Love’s Enough, by Songeez; Best Friend (Cover song) by Danny Adlerman; all suggested by Kevin Kammeraad.


Barry Louis Polisar wrote the following:  In addition to “All I Want is You” I have a whole album’s worth: http://barrylou.com/naturally-sweetened/.  Every CD I recorded since 1975 had at least one love song—and often two— on it. You can hear the entire album for free on my web site, get the sheet music for most of them, and get the lyrics for each one here: http://barrylou.com/lyric-link/

Susan Shane Linder sent in the following list of songs that she shares with different age groups:

*2 year olds and turning 3 year olds

I Love You – Barney, You Are My Sunshine, Skid-A-Ma-Rink, It’s Love


3 year olds

L.O.V.E. – Linda Arnold, Love is Something If You Give It Away – Malvina Reynolds, You Are My Sunshine

I’m Gonna Mail Myself to You – Woody Guthrie




Bushel & A Peck – Frank Loesser – Guys & Dolls; Generation to Generation – Susan Shane-Linder; Tradition – Susan Shane-Linder; You Are My Sunshine; Building A Better World – Ellen Allard; IM4U – Sev F. Marino, José Melis, Jack Paar & Buddy Haskel

Happy February everyone!

Article by CMN Blog Team writer Joanie Calem


  1. Great and informative article Joanie!
    Thanks for including some of my songs.
    Here is the video Val Smalkin and I made with her sweet Silly Goose, for the song, I Can Bring Love (into the world). With parent child classes we sing just the first part, and change the lyrics to Mommy’s or Daddy’s bring love and Children bring love, or We can bring love, You can bring love, or peace, joy etc.


  2. Joanie, You, like so many veteran CMN members are just chock full of great song lists and variations! Thank you for this timely post to freshen the brain with new music to get out of the winter blahs.

  3. What a treasure trove, Joanie! Thank you for sharing such engaging songs and ideas!

  4. Wow, Joanie! I finally got to read and listen all the way through your amazing collection of suggestions. I love the mix of words, tunes, and actions, and the way they all build inclusion.
    You are the best!

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