Song Wheel

Putting all the spokes in your teaching wheel!

STEM Story: Why STEM Matters in Music

Posted by lbbartolomeo on September 1, 2018

hands hand notes music

Photo by Negative Space on

STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  I was certainly excited when the trend turned to STEAM by putting the “A” for the arts into STEM.  But long before 2005 when the acronym STEM was first used, these subjects were a natural part of my music teaching.

Science-The science of sound is essential to so much musical understanding.  We choose instrumentation based on the particular sound.  Children learn that they prefer instruments based on their sound-production capabilities depending on what they want to accomplish.  High to low voicing is everywhere as we learn the soprano recorder or alto xylophone or bass drum and see that size matters and determines pitch.

Technology-While much of our music-making in school is acoustic, we use technology in many ways.  We have digital tuners, iPad apps for skill practice, online metronomes, digital recordings, interactive whiteboards, computer projection, apps for composition, and the whole world of electronics related to performing.  I could write volumes looking at computer use with just iTunes and Youtube.

Engineering-While this may be a bit of a stretch, I really believe that how my students create a performance piece is all about engineering.  They look at the overall structure with an example being intro, verses, chorus, bridge, and outro.  They look at the aesthetics through instrumentation which might include voices, strings, percussion, and other possibilities depending on the student’s capabilities.  Engineering is about design and construction which has so many parallels in music.

Math-Math is deeply ingrained in music.  Mathematical groupings and patterns are part of note durations and meter.  A diatonic scale is based on 7 notes that repeat at higher or lower pitches.  Learning the notes on a staff uses octaves (8), intervals (i.e. major 2nd, perfect 4th), and other patterning.

In conclusion, STEM has always been a part of my music classes.  I LOVE it when I see classroom teachers put the “A” in their STEM teaching and make it STEAM!  Students certainly deserve it ALL!


Posted in STEM | Leave a Comment »

Scales & Ear-training

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 29, 2018

I started adding a minor scale to our music routine and the payoff was HUGE!  Students started noticing songs in minor keys on a regular basis!  Here’s some opening routines that I use in the beginning of the year, for about 8 weeks.

We sing and sign the “do” scale and then the “la” scale.  If we sing the major scale in F, we sing the minor scale in Dm.  I always keep them in their relative minor.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 10.11.22 AM

This PPT slide is a visual to help them see the relationship between notes.  You sing up and down every column.  I do not have them sign this exercise because it gets in the way and slows them down.



Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 10.12.23 AM

Starting on the left, sing up to high do.  One group holds on the blue, one on the yellow, one on the green and one on the orange.  Watching the T (or S leader), you resolve to your final note.  Take green, for example.  Green would sing, d r m f s l t d t l s f———-m.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 10.13.08 AM

Posted in Choir Skills, Major/Minor, scales, solfege | Leave a Comment »

London Bridge Is Falling Down

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 29, 2018

Always a favorite with kindergarten, London Bridge is a classic.  Pair is with a book written and illustrated from an historical perspective, and you have a double winner.

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 9.38.20 AM

How to Play: 

  1. Walking in a circle, the children start singing the rhyme and walking under the bridge.  They follow each other one after the other.  “London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down.  London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.”
  2. When “My fair lady” is said, the bridge lowers their arms around one of the players and traps them is inside the bridge!
  3. They rock the child back and forth for the next verse “Lock her up.”  We talk a lot about doing this action in a gentle way.  “Take the key and lock her up, lock her up, lock her up.  Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady.”
  4. When that verse ends, the child that was locked up has to sit in the mush pot (in the middle of the circle) until the next child is caught by the bridge.
  5. When two people have been caught, they create a new bridge, which also tries to trap people! Now the group walks through both bridges during the song, doubling their chances of getting trapped!  I try to initially help students place their bridges in the circle’s pathway, but they soon learn to do it all by themselves.
  6. Eventually you will have a room full of bridges and one child left trying to make it through safely!

Peter Spier is one of my all-time FAVORITE illustrators.  I love the details in his books.  He loves to add whimsy and humor in hidden places.  This song makes great science connections as you sing a verse about the composition of the bridge and whether it will be strong enough.  The subsequent verse lets you know the outcome!  Kids LOVE finding out what’s going to happen next.  There are verses about smoking and chaining up a dog, which is a perfect chance to talk about the time period in which it was written and the change in thinking today.

London Bridge by Peter Spier

Posted in England, Game, history, London Bridge, Origin, science, Subject Integration | Leave a Comment »

Higher Than a House

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 28, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-04-28 at 10.34.50 AM

  1.  Read some riddles to get in that riddle mood! 🙂  (See below)  End with “Higher Than A House”, but don’t let them guess the answer yet.
  2. Learn Higher Than a House rhythm w/patschen w/clap on last word “be”.
  3. S step beat as they speak the riddle.
  4. Add the pat rhythm as move around the room. Call on one person to guess an answer.  S repeat that answer 4 times then continue stepping beat/patting rhythm.  T notates answers in a long list as they move.  Try not to stop between answers.Screen Shot 2018-04-28 at 10.54.15 AM
  5. After 8-10 guesses, class puts guesses in rhythm bricksScreen Shot 2018-04-28 at 10.45.05 AM
  6. Class creates a 4 beat riddle answer.  I like to repeat it to match the length of the riddle. Say it w/added BP and perform ABA form.  Here’s an example.

    Harry Potter, golden eagle, airplane, cloud

  7. Create 4 beat answer combos in groups of 4.  Again, you may want them to repeat their pattern.
  8. Share and T corrects any rhythm problems
  9. Perform in rondo.  A=class speaks riddle, B, C, D, etc. group answers.  ABACADA…


  1.  Improvise melodies on xylophones.
  2. Create a class melody.
  3. Add “answer” ostinati such as “airplane cloud”, “Harry Potter planet”.
  4. Take class melody to the riddle rhythm that becomes the A section to a rondo form where the B, C, D etc are individual improvisations on the rhythm.
  5. I usually play the bordun on a bass to keep us all together.  If you wanted to perform it, a student could certainly take over the bass part.

At some point in the lesson, I reveal the answer to the riddle!  A STAR!



Higher than a house, higher than a tree.  Oh, whatever can it be?

– a star

What does a cat have that no other animal has?

– Kittens.

What has two heads, four eyes, six legs, and a tail?

– A cowboy riding his horse.

What always sleeps with its shoes on?

– A Horse.

What is as big as an elephant, but weighs nothing at all?

– The shadow of an elephant.

What fur do we get from a Tiger?

– As fur away as possible! –

Why do dragons sleep all day?

– They like to hunt Knights.

What can honk without a horn?

– A goose.

What has a horn but does not honk?

– A rhinoceros.


What two keys can’t open any doors?

– A Donkey, and a Monkey.

Posted in Improvisation, Quarter note, quarter rest, Speech Pieces, Two eighths/Qt., Xylophones | Leave a Comment »

She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 24, 2018



I teach this cumulative song in kindergarten every year.  After learning it, a great activity is for partners to create a new verse.  I ask the Ks, “What else would we want to do to get ready for a guest at our house?”  With their partner, they create a new verse with motions and sing it for the class.  Then we get a coloring sheet and color in all the known verses, and add a picture to the empty square with our new verse.  They take the paper home with “homework” being for them to sing the song to three people!

Our version of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain is:

  1. She’ll be coming ’round the mountain.
  2. She’ll be driving six white horses.
  3. We’ll all go out to greet her.
  4. We’ll take her out for pizza.
  5. We’ll give the dog a bath.
  6. She’ll be wearing  pink pajamas.
  7. We’ll give her purty roses.
  8. Student verse.

The song is available on Amazon and iTunes.

Posted in Composing, Cumulative Songs, She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain | Leave a Comment » to Get Funded

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 24, 2018 is an organization that has changed my life as a teacher.  Teachers post projects of needed resources, helps find corporate and individual donors, and then it’s the teacher’s job to promote their project to find more donors to hopefully eventually fully fund the project.  Here are my tips to getting funded.

How to Get Funded

  1. I’ve had over 125 projects funded and I can tell you that YOU CAN DO IT!  You have to find a way to promote your project that works for your own situation.  Different teachers approach it in different ways.  One thing is clear; the harder you work, the more successful you will be.
  2. Contact your school community through email, Facebook groups, PTA, etc.  Even if your parents/school community can’t afford to donate, ask them to SHARE the information to get the word out.  One large donation or several small ones will be worth it.  One T got her PTA to donate during a matching money opportunity and it helped immensely.
  3. Friends & Family-while some people are hesitant to involve friends and family, I think many teachers are pleasantly surprised at how much people want to help.If I post on Facebook I figure it’s like anything else, if they don’t want to help, they can just scroll right on by.
  4. Twitter helps in a couple of ways. You can follow other DC teachers to get help and great ideas.  If you tweet about your project, other teachers will retweet to reach more people.  When you tweet, add a pertinent hashtag.  e. You want books so you use #HarryPotter or #reading or #literacy.  This helps reach people who are searching those hashtags.
  5. Facebook-get in some of the DonorsChoose teacher pages for updates on great matches, additional funding ideas, and general support.
  6. Thanking Donors-many random donors will follow your teacher page because you have written great thank you notes and they feel connected to your classroom.
  7. Give to your own project-MANY teachers donate to their own projects because it sends a message that they care AND it counts in your donor count. I give to my own projects and many times it’s just $1.
  8. The more unique donors you have the greater chance you have of ending up on the first page of the DC website where projects are posted. Most all projects on the first page get funded by random people who are just dropping by DC to donate.
  9. Classroom photo and title-while it isn’t a hard and fast rule, a GREAT classroom photo and clever/catchy/interesting title can certainly catch the eye of a random donor.
  10. Data proves that projects under $500 have a high chance of getting funded. If you want resources that cost more than that, break it up into 2 or 3 projects.  I got 12 iPads and did it in SIX projects!
  11. If at all possible, use a matching funds opportunity. As a music teacher I’m not going to get a match for instruments necessarily, but I can craft an essay to meet the guidelines of many matches that aren’t musical; science, STEAM, literacy, etc.  Keep a list of items you need and then when a match comes along, go for it. Those matches are listed here.
  12. Quite a few teachers are having luck using the Nextdoor app. Be aware that you have the best chance of not being perceived as soliciting if you are asking for these resources for your students, not you personally.
  13. Giving Pages-DonorsChoose allows people to create giving pages. The admin chooses projects to put on that page and helps promote your project.  You can get on a giving page by competing in contests or being a loyal supporter or sometimes just by luck!  You’ll find lots of giving page links on
  14. I am a volunteer ambassador and would love to help you write your first project.  Reply to this post if you would like help.
  15. This is an article from the BLOG about funding!  Take a look!

Posted in, Funding, Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Little Kids Rock-Keyboards!

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 24, 2018


  • Yamaha 61 key keyboards (8)
  • Single brace keyboard stands (8)
  • Casio mini-keyboards (12)
  • Mini-keyboard power adapter (12)
  • Multi-plug extension cords (3)
  • Headphones
  • Keyboard Note Stickers
  • Non-slip liner
  • Stools



Posted in Keyboards, Little Kids Rock, Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Little Kids Rock

Posted by lbbartolomeo on April 24, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 6.51.22 PMThis year I went to Little Kids Rock workshops to become an official Little Kids Rock teacher!  I highly recommend this valuable resource!  Besides learning from skilled teachers during the workshops, my school received free instruments to get the program started.   Whether you are an official LKR teacher, anyone can use their fabulous website that is full of great resources.  There’s also an LKR Facebook page where I’ve gotten lots of great ideas.


So what is the Little Kids Rock method?  From the site-

“What makes Little Kids Rock different is that we do more than just donate instruments like guitars, drums and keyboards; we build lasting music programs that focus on teaching kids to perform, improvise and compose the popular music genres that they already know and love, like rock, pop, blues, hip-hop, country, reggae and R&B.”

Posted in Little Kids Rock, Stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Bell Horses

Posted by lbbartolomeo on August 26, 2017

IMG_5526This is a great song to teach SLS and quarter note/rest and eighth note pairs.  Here’s my process.

After learning the song by echo singing with a pat/clap steady beat pattern, I told the Ss the history of the song from the info I found HERE.  That info led me to have the students get in groups of 3 with two horses and a driver.  I cut lengths of rope for the reins that went around the torso area of the two horses in front, with the driver holding the ends behind. We trotted around the room after singing the song, with the idea that the horses had done their work for the day and were heading home.  We switched until everyone had been the driver.  Lots of giggles and fun!

  • The next music class we sang and clapped the rhythm, then partners got bells or other non-pitched metal percussion and played the rhythm as they sang.
  • The third music class, as a group, we sat at my large rhythm chart, and together determined the rhythm of the song.  How I made my chart is located HERE!


  • The fourth music class, partners got a 16 beat template, an envelope with the necessary rhythmic icons, and then wrote the rhythm.  After a few minutes of them working on it, I clapped the first line, let them look at what they had, then I put it on my large chart for them to check and see if they were correct. I continued this method until all 4 lines were complete.  Then one partner touched the answers as the other partner clapped and sang the song.  They switched roles.

Here’s the version of Bell Horses that I use!

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 11.27.08 AM

Posted in Bell Horses, Manipulatives, Quarter note, quarter rest, SLS, Template for rhythms, Two eighths/Qt. | Leave a Comment »

BIG Rhythm Chart

Posted by lbbartolomeo on August 26, 2017

IMG_5528I needed a big chart for K-2 so that we could write song/rhyme rhythms.  I wanted something cheap! 🙂 I bought a black foam board (20×30″) at Dollar Tree, then added strips of thick paper such as card stock to form the pockets.  The actual rhythms are written on blank 4×6 note cards.  I laminated them but that isn’t completely necessary.

A foam board is about 20″ wide.  The pocket strips were cut to 20″ wide and about 2″ in height, and then I glued the strips on the left,right, and bottom edge, and then a vertical line about every 4.25″, enough room to slide a 4″ note card into.

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 10.51.54 AMThe glued bottom edge serves as a stop for the note card.  The red lines on the photo to the right show where I used glue.




This picture shows rhythmic icons, which required that I copied images onto the note cards.  This is what I use for the song “Bell Horses”.IMG_5526


Posted in Bell Horses, Quarter note, quarter rest, Rhythm Chart, Stuff, Two eighths/Qt. | 1 Comment »

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