Music and Special Needs @ Montgomery College

Hello, Friends! Thanks for spending your Friday afternoon before the long, holiday weekend exploring how we can use music in the classroom, especially with regard to supporting children who have special needs. The lyrics for the songs and chants we used are shown below. 

Some of you were concerned about whether you had my handout. I'm told that if you didn't get a paper copy at the workshop, you can request an electronic version through the college office. 

Also, let me encourage you to visit Wolf Trap's website for videos and lesson plans created by master teaching artists that demonstrate many strategies like the ones Maria and I showed you in our workshops.

Best wishes for the rest of your school year!



Thumb Piano     

(descending scale) 

Time to sing, time sing

All my friends it’s

(rising scale) time to sing



Give Me the Beat

Chant by Yvette Holt


1.    Set up: Leader taps knees in steady beat.  Everyone taps knees in steady beat.

  1. Leader chants:  

Give me the beat, beat, beat

Give me the beat, beat, beat

Give me the beat, give me the beat

Give me the beat, beat, beat


  1. Repeat; everyone joins the chant
  2. Change motion to clapping hands. Everyone chants.

Clap your hands, hands, hands

Clap your hands, hands, hands

Clap your hands, clap your hands

Clap your hands, hands, hands


  1. Change motion to tapping the head. Everyone chants.

Touch your head, head, head

Touch your head, head, head

Touch your head, touch your head

Touch your head, head, head


6. Use other parts of the body.


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual: Leader’s model, icons of possible choices, leader chair icon (“Bear Chair”), photos of students to choose from in picking next leader

Aural: Chant, leader’s cues and spoken choices (use children’s devices as appropriate)

Movement: Beat movement, change from sitting to standing position, change to bigger movements (jump, twist, punch, stomp), move through space (walk, tiptoe, gallop)

Tactile: Feeling of the beat, teddy bear (to designate the leader), everyone has a doll or a stuffed animal to keep the beat on

Imagination: Pat the baby, rock the baby, bounce the baby, jump the baby



Slide Whistle

Sequence by Sue Trainor



1.  Leader demonstrates the slide whistle.  


2. Everyone pretends to play a slide whistle. Pretend to hold the whistle and imitate the sound of the slide whistle vocally. (Discuss why the slide whistle is an instrument we can’t share.)


3. Everyone imitates the sound of the slide whistle and shows the high and low movement with their hands  Play low to high pitch, until everyone makes the connection between the vocal and physical representations. 


4.  Play high to low; everyone imitates the sound vocally and shows the movement of the sound with their hands. 


5. Play a sound; ask children if it is low or high. Ask them to show you with their hands and sing the answer in their voices. Repeat, alternating high and low.


6.Follow the sound with other parts of the body (not vocally). Elbows, head, feet, whole body, etc. Stop moving when the sound stops. Move quickly when the pitch changes quickly and slowly when the pitch changes slowly.


How can we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual: We see the manipulation of the whistle, we see how others move.  Other visuals. Leader should model the movements at first, but then stop so children have to move from listening and not from watching. Take a video of children so they can see themselves moving. Move in front of a mirror. Play with mirror movement: children face each other and move together to the whistle sound.

Aural: The sound of the slide whistle (or our voices) is the focus. NOTE: if children have sound sensitivity, this strategy should be used with a mellower, metal whistle rather than a plastic one.

Movement: Move to the sound of the whistle. Use a variety of body parts: hand, elbow, head, shoulder, knee, foot, whole body. Use the whistle to walk through general space: toot the whistle in steady beat as children take one step for each toot. If the pitch changes, children crouch as they walk or walk taller.

Tactile: Move an object to the sound of the whistle.

Imagination:Use slide whistle as accompaniment to movement in a role play.



Here’s What I Learned Chant 

By Sue Trainor

Here’s what I learned, oh yeah

Here’s what I learned, oh yeah

Here’s what I learned in our lesson today

Here’s what I learned, oh yeah

Here’s what I learned, oh yeah

Here’s what I learned in our lesson today


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Aural: Chant

Visual: Leader motions, icons for lesson concepts or segments

Movement: Create movements to go with it. I roll my arms and tap my knees

Tactile: Feel of the beat

Imagination: Recall of what we’ve done



Shake Those Eggs (streamers)

By Val Carroll

  1. Transition: Hand one egg to each child, singing a transition song such as (to “Skip to My Lou”) – “Here’s an egg for you and you, here’s an egg for you and you….”


  1. Slowly sing the song and model the motions described. Give children time to imitate.  Note the “C*” means C above middle C.


G          G          E    E      G       G        C*

Shake those eggs and shake them high


 F         F         F         F    A       G        D

Shake those eggs and shake them low


G          G          E    E      G       G       C*

Shake those eggs and shake them high


D            F     E            D   C        E   C    

Round and round and round we go


(same melody)

Shake and shake and shake and stop (3x) 

Then we’ll shake and shake some more


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual: We see the leader’s model, we could use a song icon

Aural: The song, the sound of the shakers or blocks 

Movement: Moving with the shakers (blocks, streamers, scarves). We could add other movements and spatial directions. (also, see tactile)

Tactile: The feeling of the shaker and the sensation of the movement inside the shaker. Could substitute other instruments (tap that drum or blocks and tap it fast, tap that drum and tap it slow….) or things like scarves.

Imagination: Could be adapted into storytelling. We could be retelling “Giraffes Can’t Dance,” for example:

Giraffes in the circle now, dance up high

Giraffes in the circle now, dance down low

Giraffes in the circle now, dance up high

Now round and round and round you go

Dance and dance and dance and stop (3x)

Then the giraffes can sit back down.


We’re Going Shopping


 C          C   D    E       G       D      G        E  C

We’re going shopping, shopping, shopping

C            C   D   E       G

We’re going shopping

D          D      G    C

What will we buy?


Use the same melody to give directions. 

“Juan buys two tomatoes” or

“Juan buys two red foods” etc. …

“And puts them in his bag”


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual: Show a picture of a market, show pictures of things we see in the market,  

Aural:  song

Movement: walk around the room

Tactile: Use food props, costumes, bags or baskets, plates to “serve” food back in the circle

Imagination:  Imagine that we’re going to the market; imagine that some children are (in the role of) grocers


Adaptation: This song can be adapted for any purpose involving moving through general space.

-Walking through the park, the hallway, to the bathroom, etc.

-Swimming through the ocean

-Exploring in the forest / walking to our seats


Funky Duck Chant

By Sue Trainor


I’m Funky Duck, hey hey

I’m Funky Duck, hey hey

I want to know 

Can you find my ___ today


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual:  Puppet duck (or other animal) to which Velcro will stick. The puppet is the visual to draw children’s attention to learning content, such as colors, shapes, letters. numbers, etc.

Aural:  the chant

Movement: Because children are being asked to focus on an object, movement is not part of this strategy, aside from the puppet moving from child to child.

Tactile: the child is asked to take a picture or shape from the duck and replace it.

Imagination: when children have learned the strategy, they can take the role of Funky Duck and take leadership with the puppet. 





Adapted from Katherine Lyons’ version


Dramatically, chant:


I have a box

The box has a top

Let’s oooooopen it    (open the box slowly and dramatically, pitch rising on “ooopen”

And STOP! (loudly close the box)


I have a box

The box has a top

Let’s oooooopen it 

And see what we’ve got


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual:  The box is dramatic visual play, based on what we can see and what we can’t. Notice that the presenter’s visual expression and expressive gesture are also part of this visual.

Aural:  the chant, the rising pitch corresponding with opening, excited tone of voice, the box may be shaken to see what the object sounds like.

Movement: Because children are being asked to focus on an object, children’s movement is not part of this strategy, although they may imitate the box gestures.

Tactile: The box may be passed around the circle so children can have a sense of its weight. A child may be asked to help open the box once the sequence is familiar. There may be objects inside for everyone to touch.

Imagination: Children may be  asked to predict what’s in the box. We may use imagination in connection with what comes out of the box.



 Hello Toes, How Do You Do?

Collected from Mary Gresock

Objectives:       Singing Voice

                                    Matching Pitch

                                    Creative movement

                                    Identify Body parts, clothing, other things





1. Set up the starting pitch and beat with a cue phrase like “Let’s all sing”


2. Sing the song. Children will join as they learn it.


G  G    E      G        G    G   E

Hello toes, how do you do? (tap toes)


G      G     E       A    A     G    E    C

I’m just fine and I’m dancing, too  (wiggle toes and sing in a character voice)


G     G     G     E

Ah doo doo doo  (make the toes dance and keep singing in character voice through the rest of the song)


G     G     E

Doo doo doo


G       G      E     A   A    G    E      C

Doo doo doo do-do doo doo doo


Model the first few times, then invite children to choose.

Hello knees…

Hello tummy….

Hello hands….

Hello tummy…..

Hello head….



  • Substitute clothing (Hello shoes, socks, pants, etc.)
  • Greet friends, puppets or animal props. How do they move?
  • Substitute people’s names (Hello Lee… and Lee gets to answer and lead a dance motion.)


How could we adapt this to use senses more?

Visual:  Visual model, or the puppet or the person to be focused on

Aural:  the song

Movement: Dancing movements

Tactile: tapping body parts

Imagination: Wbat should we do next?



Who’s a Good Watcher

Source:           by Mary Gresock, extension by Sue Trainor

Objectives:       Steady Beat 


                        Visual discrimination / Imitation

                        Recognizing body parts




1. Leader taps her head in steady beat and chants:


Who’s a good watcher, watcher, watcher

Who’s a good watcher, show me now



2. On “oops,” change the body part that’s being tapped – to shoulders, for example. (The strategy is more fun if “oops” is fast - NOT said in steady beat.)

3.  After several repetitions, the children should be able to join the chant and predict when the change will take place, but not necessarily predict what the new motion will be. 



  • First, begin tapping a body part (often head or shoulders), clearly keeping steady beat with a slow tempo and a big motion. Then, begin the chant. On “oops,” throw the lead to another person. That person ‘catches’ the throw and puts the beat on a new body part. On “oops” that person passes to someone new.  
  • Who’s a Good Listener (created by Mary Armstrong’s K class, VA):  Follow the chant pattern with “Who’s a good listener…. “ but finish with “touch your ___.” Leader says one body part buttouches a different body part.  Listeners have to touch what they hear, not what they see.



Source:  Sue Trainor

Objectives:           Retain the sequence of scientific thinking process

                  Singing voice



  G        G     F  G      D

Think like a scientist 

      (chant: what’s the question? Ask the question!)

  G        G     F  G      D

Think like a scientist

      (chant:  observe, measure, compare,  repeat – Hunh!)






Think like a scientist:  Move hands around the head

What’s the question?:  Shrug

Ask the question!    Point 

Think like a scientist:  Move hands around the head

Observe:  Hand horizontal above eyes (“look”)

Measure:  Hands apart, palms facing each other (demonstrating a distance)

Compare:   Hands palm up, alternating bounce, like weighing something

Repeat:  Roll hands

Hunh!:  Hands in fists, head high, then pull down (victory gesture)





1. We are going to be scientists.  In order to be scientists, we have to think like scientists.   

2. Sing song





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