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This month marks the ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY of monthly session plans here at Listen & Learn Music! Time has flown by since I released my very first session plan last August, and now here we are on lucky #13!

I have to say, creating these plans has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made both for me personally and for YOU, based on the feedback I’ve received. I love that they are being put to use in so many ways and in so many different settings.

Each month when I sit down to create the next session plan, I get to revisit my collection of 300+ songs. Not only do I rediscover tunes I had completely forgotten about, but I also get to figure out what topics are missing and write new songs to fill those gaps.

And now, with the new school year just weeks away, I hope you’ll find the August 2019 session plan incredibly useful as you prepare. Just putting it together and covering some of those back-to-school subjects has me super excited!

For the month of August, I’m incorporating shakers and the gathering drum, along with plenty of opportunities for addressing articulation skills, social interaction, gross motor movement, directional awareness, counting, emotions, and more.

The August session plan includes 10 goal-based songs (mp3, instrumental track, lyrics/chords) along with a facilitation guide for each song, which will allow you to implement a cohesive 30-45 minute music experience. Grab it for yourself for just $10, or save even more by subscribing for an entire year.

   

The post The August Session Plan is Here! appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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Parents and caregivers often attend music classes and music therapy sessions, and although those classes and sessions are not for them, their presence so important to the progress and growth of our clients and students. 

It’s always important to engage everyone in the room through the music, and unfortunately sometimes the adults get forgotten. But parents and caregivers are more likely to engage with their children and return to music class and music therapy sessions if they are also playing instruments, singing along, and dancing.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that can help keep everybody engaged during music class or music therapy!

Tip #1: Explain what the goals and objectives are for each song. 

This has been one of the most helpful and important things I’ve done to help engage parents and caregivers. Once you give a brief explanation of why you chose a song, and what you hope to accomplish, parents and caregivers often become motivated by that information. 

Once they are aware of the goals, they will often engage with their children much more efficiently. I love seeing parents and caregivers become empowered by the information, and watching them directly work with their children and help them reach milestones in music class!

Tip #2: GIVE THEM INSTRUMENTS! 

Or scarves, streamers, etc. Adults are ideal models for little kiddos, and because children often look to people who are familiar to them, they are the perfect people to model for their littles.

Beyond that, adults love to have fun in music class, too. How often do most adults have the chance to shake a maraca or blow a scarf off of their head?? It’s a treat for them to just have fun in a low-stress environment with their child, and in my opinion, it’s just wonderful that we can provide that for them!

Tip #3: Repetition is key! 

Repetition is absolutely essential for children, but it is also important for adults. By repeating songs, parents and caregivers are able to learn the lyrics and melodies and can sing along. 

In my experience, if parents and caregivers bring their kiddos to music class, it’s probably because they love music themselves, and will most likely jump on the chance to sing! I really enjoy hearing everyone singing along with their favorite songs, and listening intently when I throw a new one into the mix.

It can be a challenge to engage adults in music classes or music therapy sessions, but I hope these tips can help you ensure that everyone in your music classes or music therapy sessions is engaged, from the smallest kiddo to the most serious adult!

Let me know in the comments below: What has helped you engage parents and caregivers in music classes or music therapy sessions?

The post Keeping Caregivers Engaged in the Music appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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How innovative are you when it comes to instruments for music classes, music therapy, and classroom use? Well, I can tell you I’m not even a fraction as innovative as my colleague at Music Therapy Connections, Becky Waddell.

About a month ago, Becky sent me a Slack message: “I picked up tiny cupcakes that I’m turning into shakers for one of my classes if you get an itch to write a song about cupcakes! Ha!”

She also sent me a photographic evidence of her little DIY project, which looked like this:

Very rarely do I turn down a songwriting opportunity, especially when it involves a fun and novel instrument, so I got to work on a song especially for use with Becky’s DIY cupcake shakers.

I wanted this song to be catchy and lighthearted while still working on some concrete objectives, like following directions, directional awareness, vocalization (“sh” sound), and gross motor movement.

It didn’t take long for “Cupcake Shake” to come to fruition! I am suuuuper excited to try out these cute instruments and the new song with my kiddos in the coming weeks.

You can listen to the song in its entirety and download it for yourself right here. Let me know what you think!

Oh, and if you want to make your own DIY cupcake shakers, here’s the link. They are out of stock at the time of this writing, but hopefully they’ll be available soon so that you too can join in the cupcake craze ;)

The post DIY Cupcake Shakers + A Song for Shaking Along appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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This past week, I was on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, at Adam’s Camp New England. For the past three years, I have been one of the music therapists for Adam’s Camp. Every year, this camp has pushed me to the limits and taught me new skills, while creating incredible bonds with children, their families, and other therapists along the way. 

To say I love this camp would be a serious understatement! I look forward to my weeks at Adam’s Camp more than almost anything all year.

At Adam’s Camp, each therapist is on a “team”, broken up by age groups of the campers. Each “team” has 5 therapists, 5 campers, and 2 volunteers, and the camp runs for 5 days, with a culminating presentation for each child about the progress they’ve made during their intensive week at therapy camp. 

When I was told that I had to do music therapy “on-the-go”, I had no idea what that meant or what it looked like. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to adapt as a therapist or serve the clients. I was totally wrong!

Music has so many applicable uses, and It’s great to have that reminder every summer that music can be and do anything I need it to! 

Besides being the camp DJ, as the music therapist, I often serve the role of  “Queen of Transitions”. Every time the campers need to move to the next activity, I would sing a marching song to give them a musical cue, such as “When the Saints Go Marching In”.

Even better, when it was time to take a bathroom break, I would sing a special marching song with lyrics about marching to the bathroom. By using my songwriting skills, familiar songs, and my voice, I was able to help the campers transition through camp activities all week long!

At camp, we often take our campers out into the community, whether it is to the beach, out for ice cream, or visiting cool museums and sites. This can be stressful not only for our campers but also for the therapists. 

To help ease this stress, I always kept a calming song in my mind so that I could facilitate taking deep breaths or other calming strategies with the group so that everyone maintained or regained a regulated state, such as “Slow and In Control”

Of course, we also use music for fun at camp! The youngest campers are consistently motivated by the scarves, cabasa, and ocean drum. Each year, the clients are able to share with peers, use the ocean drum together, and make social connections through our structured music therapy time during camp. And every year, the campers are most successful at sitting and attending to task during music therapy (something that I take LOTS of pride in!). 

Music therapy has an important role to play for many children with special needs, and it’s important to think about not only what we can achieve during music therapy sessions with our clients and students, but also how we can apply music to our kiddo’s everyday lives. 

Adam’s Camp has taught me to look beyond the window of time during which I see my clients and students, and has shown me how I can be adaptable so that music can serve my kiddos every day of the week, whether they are at school, at home, or out in their communities.

The second week of Adam’s Camp New England is coming up soon, and I can’t wait to see how the week will unfold, and how music can make an impact for my next crew of campers. I have constantly been challenged by Adam’s Camp to think of music therapy in flexible ways, and I hope you can challenge yourself in that way, too! 

Let me know in the comments below: What is an on-the-go way that you can utilize music for your clients or students?

You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt these songs as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.

The post What It’s Like to be a Therapist at a Camp for Kids with Special Needs appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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Summer is usually a pretty laid-back time at my private practice, Music Therapy Connections. However, summer 2019 is a MAJOR exception to this rule, as it has been quite the whirlwind so far.

At the end of May, we welcomed a new music therapy intern, Emma, and then just a couple weeks later, we welcomed a new full-time music therapist, Molly. Then, one week after that, our long-time music therapist, Alisabeth, left us to have her baby.

So as you can imagine, there has been an overload of new client intake, new contracts beginning, and current clients being reassigned to different music therapists. Thankfully, we are at tail end of this shuffle, and now the real work begins.

Establishing goals in music therapy is an intricate process, and it’s different from setting to setting and from one individual to another. My therapists work in schools, mental health centers, senior living facilities, hospitals, and also see clients in our clinic, so we’ve had many conversations regarding setting and reassessing goals in each area.

But the common theme has been this: when an existing goal no longer makes sense or is not applicable, it’s time for a change.

One of the big advantages of having new therapists assigned to existing groups and clients is that they bring with them a new perspective. Yesterday during supervision, each of our therapists brought up scenarios with clients in which the established goals no longer seemed appropriate, and laid out their reasoning.

Not only that, but they were able to pinpoint which goals would be much more appropriate for the time being, and that still keep those clients on the path toward meeting the original (and much bigger) goals in the future.

Continuing to work on goals that no longer make sense is only going to cause frustration for both the therapist and the client. Continuing to do things the way another therapist was doing them, but does not seem to be working in the present, is not effective.

If you find yourself in this situation, use your knowledge and expertise to reassess the client or group and establish goals that are appropriate and attainable. Get input from other professionals who work with those individuals, and/or their families, so that you’re all on the same page.

Sometimes that looks like creating 12 smaller goals between where the client currently is and that original, seemingly unattainable goal. Working towards more realistic milestones not only increases a client’s motivation as he/she makes progress, but it also relieves the pressure that YOU as the music therapist may have been feeling when you felt stuck before.

Remember: goals are DYNAMIC. This is true for you personally, so why shouldn’t it be true for your clients? I have made some giant pivots from my original goals for 2019 — either scrapping them altogether, or adjusting them to better fit my current life situation.

You can do the same in your music therapy sessions, as long as all parties are on board and you are working in the best interest of your clients. Even those of us who have been at this for many years need such a reminder from time to time, myself included :)

The post #Goals (and When to Reassess) appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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One of my all-time favorite instruments in my music therapy arsenal is my collection of cabasas! I love them so much, and use them frequently in my music therapy sessions and music classes — probably every day.

When I pass out cabasas, people are often unsure how to use them and typically require some guidance. Because of this, the cabasa is a great instrument for children to explore, be creative, and practicing mimicking.

Beyond that, the cabasa is such a tactile instrument that many of my kiddos seek it out and actively request it. Often, my clients and students will brush the cabasa on their legs, arms, back, and feet.

Below, I’ve included two songs that are all about the cabasa, and how you can utilize them in your music therapy sessions and classes.

Some of the goals addressed in these songs:

  • Increase ability to utilize palmar grasp
  • Improve fine motor skills
  • Increase tactile awareness
  • Improve turn-taking skills

“Play the Cabasa” is an ideal song to use when introducing the cabasa. This song details a short history of the cabasa as well as some simple directions for how to play this unconventional instrument.

“Play the Cabasa” also has a built-in verse about passing your instrument to your neighbor, which can be challenging with such a motivating and interesting instrument, but my kiddos love sharing because they get a really wonderful long turn to explore the cabasa in this song.

“Cabasa Bossa Nova” is a relaxing and sweet song that pairs well with improvisational play, which makes it ideal for individual clients. It can also be used as a cool down song at the end of music therapy sessions.

“Cabasa Bossa Nova” is always highly requested not only by students and clients, but also teachers and parents who always report feeling calm after hearing it. This song includes short and sweet directions for how to use the cabasa and allows for exploration as well.

Both of these songs utilize the cabasa in similar ways, but have completely different vibes, which make them ideal for music therapy sessions and music classes in two different ways.

That’s the beauty of music; one song is a great introduction to an instrument and is nice and peppy, whereas the other is great for a relaxing moment before it’s time to say goodbye. How awesome is it that one instrument can be so versatile? Now that’s why the cabasa is one of my all-time favorites!

I’d love to hear from you: How do you use the cabasa in music therapy sessions or music classes?

You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt this song as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.

The post The Amazing Cabasa! appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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It’s official: I have a 6-year-old! When Parker turned 5 (remember his epic Batman birthday bash!?) it felt like he was entering the “big kid” years, and now it seems that he is firmly in that category.

After two years of hosting big backyard birthday parties, this mama was ready to keep it much more low-key. So we rented out our local gymnastics center, where Parker and 18 of his closest friends could run wild and use up all their summer energy.

The best part was that I didn’t have to do much at all, besides bring the cake and some decorations. The employees at the gym kept the kids busy throughout the party, though my husband did get in on the action a bit.

Parker has patiently been waiting to turn 6 and catch up with his classmates, almost all of whom are older than him. After attending birthday parties just about every weekend (or at least it seems!) through the school year, he was thrilled that it was finally his turn.

I have to say, 6 might be my favorite age so far. Parker has always been such a sweet, caring, and chill little boy (minus a few bumpy months during the transition into kindergarten), but right now, he is sweeter than ever.

He is a friend to EVERYONE, and the kindest big brother to his little sister, Mia Belle. He melts my heart multiple times a day by telling me things like “you’re the nicest mama on the whole earth!”.

I am so proud of the “big kid” Parker is becoming, and am savoring this sweet season of our life.

I’m also celebrating the fact that after weeks of birthdays and special days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we can get on with a relatively relaxed (and less expensive!) summer.

The post Parker’s 6th Birthday appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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As I was scrolling through Listen & Learn Music in search of a movement song, I stumbled upon “Move Your Body Along” — a true hidden gem in the L&L catalog.

I have to admit, I listen to so many songs because of my job, that sometimes I forget them. Other times, I have the best of intentions, set out to learn a song and incorporate it into my repertoire, and just never do it. THIS is one of those songs!

I love this song; it has a catchy melody, and working with my clients and students to brainstorm movement is so beneficial and motivating. “Move Your Body Along” is one of those flexible songs that can really be a staple in any music therapist’s or music teacher’s repertoire.

Some of the goals addressed in these songs:

  • Improve gross motor skills
  • Improve ability to imitate motor movements
  • Increase ability to follow clearly stated directions
  • Increase socialization through peer interaction

“Move Your Body Along” is seriously like the play-doh version of a song; It’s got great structure, and there is so much you can do with it. Ok, so maybe it’s the Lego version of a song…Either way, this song is just so adaptable!

So here are the basics: Each verse focuses on a movement, such as clapping or stomping. The lyrics are straightforward, and the melody is fun and easy to learn in a flash. Below, I’ve shared a few different adaptations that can really push our clients and students to listen, read, and brainstorm.

When I’ve introduced this song, I like to discuss all the ways our bodies can move. We can move slowly or very fast, stretch our arms or even wiggle our toes. I encourage my clients and students to think outside of the box. Can you wiggle your eyebrows? can you touch each finger to your thumb? Can your elbows touch each other? After our discussion, I like to include as many of the movements my kiddos suggested as I can.

For some of my kids who are beginning to read, I might print out visual aides with a picture of the movement and the action word and encourage the participants to read the visual aides before each verse begins. For many, reading the visual aides might be challenging, so the pictures of the movements may help children connect the dots from the word to the action.

My favorite adaptation for this song is changing up the music! For each verse, I play the guitar in a different way to mimic the movement. Often, it’s just a simple as fingerpicking, strumming only the beat or increasing my tempo. Once my clients and students have heard me do this, I will just play and omit the lyrics until they have figured out which movement I am mimicking in the music. It’s a fun but challenging adaptation but the kiddos love it, and it encourages them to brainstorm with peers and critically listen to the music.

I hope the fun adaptations I’ve shared about “Move Your Body Along” have inspired you to come up with a few of your own! With this song, and so many other L&L songs, the hard part has been done (the catchy melody and the lyrics), and it’s up to us to make it our own and fit the needs of our students and clients.

I’d love to hear from you: which Listen & Learn Music song is your “hidden gem”?

You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt this song as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.

The post Move Your Body Along appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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Although summer doesn’t officially begin for a few more days, it certainly feels like it! I’ve been putting my favorite summer-themed songs to use for the last few weeks, and will continue to do so when it comes to my July session plan.

At my private practice, we are facilitating music groups and music therapy in several summer camp sessions and other non-traditional settings, so I’m looking forward to implementing this session plan in ways that I don’t typically have the opportunity to during the school year.

For the month of July, I’m incorporating castanets, lollipop drums, and bean bags, along with plenty of opportunities for addressing fine and gross motor skills, seasonal awareness, directionality, following directions, color identification, hand-eye coordination, and more.

The July session plan includes 10 goal-based songs (mp3, instrumental track, lyrics/chords) along with a facilitation guide for each song, which will allow you to implement a cohesive 30-45 minute music experience. Grab it for yourself for just $10, or save even more by subscribing for an entire year.

   

The post The July Session Plan is Here! appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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Children just love books; it is a simple fact I have come to learn over the years. Whether it’s looking at the pictures, having a chance to turn the page, or snuggling in an adult’s lap, many children are highly motivated and engaged when it’s time to read a book.

I was always hesitant to incorporate books into my music therapy sessions and music classes, but I noticed that if I arrived a few minutes early or stayed a little later, many of my clients and students would ask if I would read them a book. For young children, I truly think it is a way for them to express that they want to share an experience with you and often, they are telling you that you are important to them.

For younger children and those with special needs, visually attending or engaging in a book might be hard work or just not interesting for them. When that’s the case, my solution (of course) is to sing the words of the story!

There are so many stories that are easily singable, and many even have songs or melodies written for them. Below, I’ve featured two singable stories you can find in the Listen & Learn Music catalog.

Some of the goals addressed in these songs:

  • Improve the transition to bedtime
  • Improve sequencing skills
  • Improve object identification
  • Increase sustained attention
  • Increase creative thinking
  • Improve fine motor skills

There’s no better time for a lullaby than bedtime, and the same goes for books! When you combine the two, you get “I’ll See You in the Morning”, a sweet lullaby that pairs with the books of the same title (find it here) by Mike Jolley.

When utilizing “I’ll See You in the Morning”, encourage children to look at the pages and identify what they see, fill in the blanks, or recall what they heard in the story. The singable story may also help them understand the transition from day to night, which can be confusing, and even scary for young children.

It can be hard for children, and even adults, to truly understand how big the world is. There are so many different cultures, languages, and sights to see, and “Around the World We Go” serves as a great introduction to the diversity of the world we live in! This singable story pairs with the book of the same title (find it here) by Margaret Wise Brown.

“Around the World We Go” can be utilized in many of the same ways as “I’ll See You in the Morning”, but because of the repetitive nature of this particular book, it provides the ideal opportunity to include sign language for improved fine motor skills.

“Around the World We Go” can also be used as a conversation starter with children about other people around the world. For children who are older, this could even be used as an opportunity to create their own verse for the singable story, and maybe even encourage the children to create illustrations for their verse.

All singable stories can be utilized to improve sustained focus and object identification, but it is easy to see that different singable stories can be utilized to target other goals, such as understanding the differences in the world or transitioning to bedtime. There are so many possibilities with singable stories, which makes them a priceless addition to any music therapy session or music class.

Let me know in the comments below: What singable stories do you incorporate into your music therapy sessions or classes?

You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt these songs as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.

The post Incorporating Singable Stories appeared first on Listen & Learn Music.

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