Tell Me More: A Describing Song

Hey everybody! Before we dive in today’s song, I have a quick announcement: SongSwap Round 2 has officially begun but it’s not too late to jump in!

What is a song swap? In short, it’s a free challenge that will multiply your repertoire for working with kids. Get all the details and sign up here:

The Goal

Some time back I was asked if music therapy could support the following goal:

By the 2017 annual IEP meeting when given a picture of a familiar activity from home or school and no more than 2 verbal and/or visual prompts, student will dictate 7 simple sentences about the picture in 4 out of 5 trials over 3 consecutive data collection sessions.

That’s a mouthful.

And honestly, most goals from IEPs are quite long because 4 criteria must be present: Time Limit, Conditions, Goal/Action, & Criteria for Mastery. Plus every school has a different language or format that they wish for their teachers and staff to use in the IEP document.

When I first read this goal, no song in my repertoire immediately stood out as one that I could use so it was time to get creative.

That’s When Tell Me More was born. I needed a song that encouraged the student to describe a picture. Many of my students have become skilled in identifying the action from a picture (ex: He is eating.) but that is the only response I receive.

Tell Me More uses the sung repetitive phrase “tell me more, more, more about it.” to encourage the student to come up with something else to say.

Tips & Tricks

Picture Scenes. Use pictures that have quite several actions occurring with a background. My favorite resource for pictures is the app Bitsboard.

Use WH prompts. If the student is stuck, it might be helpful to go through the who, what, where, when, why, how questions during the activities.


Tell me more, more, more about it.
What you see, see, see describe it.
Yes it has a name but I proclaim
You can tell me more about it.

Instrumental chord playing to allow time for the child to describe the picture.



Once I began using this song with one student, I realized that many of my students could benefit from the song. Many have similar goals and describing is a skill that be a foundation for storytelling which can be so difficult because of its abstract nature.

Do you address describing or storytelling in your work? What works best for you?

Till Next Time,


Skip Counting Series: Count By 4s!

How is your week going? I always start the week off with determination to conquer my to do lists and by Friday am ready for a break. This week has been no exception. I have been planning our regional music therapy conference, scheduling meetings for a new contract, and making music to share with YOU!

Speaking of “to do” lists, thanks to Rachel Rambach over at Creative Business Breakdown, I am loving Trello to manage all my lists and projects. If you love lists like me and haven’t discovered this amazing (and free!) app, check it out.

It’s Math Time Again

Count by 4s is the second song in my skip counting and multiplication series. I have found that there are plenty of skip counting songs for 5s, 10s, and 2s but not as many exist for the other numbers.

I use this song much the same way as discussed in Count By 3s. Here is a review of my top tips and tricks.

Tips & Tricks

Sound Like a Broken Record. If you read the Count By 3s LINK post, many of the tips for using this song are the exact same. Repetition is key. Having many opportunities to learn and absorb information will help develop this skill most quickly.

Look, write, sing. We do all three of these with every song in this series. First I use a visual to help as we are learning the order of the numbers. Then I have the student write them out with the visual. Over time we fade out the use of visual or written components and rely on our memory to skip count by rote. We also use call and response (or “repeat after me”) to help the student chunk the numbers into phrases.


Here’s a little thing that I like to do.
I can count by 4s and you can too.
We’ll count by 4s. We’ll count by 4s.
4, 8, 12, 16
20, 24, 28, 32
36, 40, 44, 48
We’ll count by 4s. We’ll count by 4s

Once the skip counting is mastered, just change the words:

Here’s a little thing that I like to do.
I can multiply by 4s and you can too.
We’ll multiply by 4s. We’ll multiply by 4s.
1 times 4 is 4
2 times 4 is 8
3 times 4 is 12
We’ll multiply by 4s. We’ll multiply by 4s.



Two skip counting songs down…and a few more to go. I will be recording my 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s songs for future blogs. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Til Next Time,

P.S. Do you need a skip counting chart? Subscribe below and you’ll get a 4s chart plus a handy multiplication table.

Twelve Months (Plus!) of There Was an Old Lady

Wanna know a secret? I LOVE singable stories. Ok, it’s not really a secret at all. I have talked about them over and over again. I have also made super fun videos with them here, here and here.

I also love to use the same song for multiple themes and seasons of the year. For example my letters song. Change one sentence and BOOM! A song easily adaptable for the whole year round.

So I was thrilled when I discovered the Old Lady Series. I had no idea that so many existed until I sat down to do the research. I was so surprised. At the moment, my list is up to 20 books and I’m sure there are plenty more.

The most popular is the Scholastic Series written by Lucille Colando and illustrated by Jared Lee. So we’ll start there.

1. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

2. There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow

3. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Rose

4. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Clover

5. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Frog

6. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Chick

7. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Shell

8. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Desk

9. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed some Books

10. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed some Leaves

11. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Bat

12. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Turkey

13. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Bell

There are many others that aren’t necessarily a series but wonderful nonetheless.

14. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly

15. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed the Sea

16. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Trout

17. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Pie

18. There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Dreidel

19. There Was a Coyote who Swallowed a Flea

20. There Was an Old Texan who Swallowed a Fly

Why this series?

Kids love repetition, repetition, repetition. They just can’t get enough of the melody and format of these songs. It’s easy to transition from book to book because each book follows a predictable pattern. Once they have learned the melody and format, it easily transfers to the next book.

Vocabulary building. There are literally hundreds of opportunities to learn new words centered around themes in these books.

Sequencing. This format requires the reader to recall the presented items in a a certain order as it progresses. What better way to work on sequencing skills especially when paired with pictures!

Comprehension questions. Most of these books are perfect for answering “why” questions. Granted the “whys” are often silly but you will have ample opportunities to ask “Why did she swallow the ….?”

Perfect for all ability levels. Some of my clients are working on using a voice output device or just singing to fill in a repetitive line when the music stops to indicate his or her turn. For others, we are working on recall and comprehension as discussed above. I have also been able to turn this book into a tactile sensory experience for children with visual impairments and low cognitive functioning by making an old lady puppet and gathering the items that she swallows for them to feel as we sing.

Are you using these books?

If you are, which are your favorites? Are there other ways you have been integrating this series into your work? Leave me a comment and let me know. You can also get another 25 singable story recommendations (all my faves!) by subscribing below.

Til Next Time,


Skip Counting by 3s!

A lot has happened since I last published a blog post. Beautiful Lily Kate joined our family in October, and we moved to our brand new home just one week later.


It has taken some time but we have settled in and now that I have consistent daycare, I am able to jump back in to growing Music Therapy Kids and sharing songs with you!

I am super excited for what 2017 will bring.

Today’s song is one I’ve been singing for quite some time, and it is actually part of a series that I hope to publish as a songbook in the future. One of my students has been learning the multiplication table. She has access to a calculator and understands the processes behind skip counting and multiplication, but her team feels that quicker recall of those math facts will help as she is working through more complex word problems.

Because this student has an excellent propensity to retain information in musical context, it was only natural that I assist in writing songs to help her skip count and multiply.

The first song we worked on was Count By 3s. We have since gone on to learn 4s, 6s, 7s, 8s and now 9s. But this is where it all started. You’ll notice that I used a 3/4 time signature. It just seems to fit.

Tips & Tricks

Repeat often. I can’t stress this enough. If your child retains information embedded in music then you will want to create frequent opportunities for this process to occur.

Make it a multi-sensory experience. With my student we used a visual component with the numbers in front of her when she is first beginning to learn. Also, I add a tactile component by having her write the numbers as we go (first with a template and then by rote).




Count by 3s. We’ll count by 3s.
You can do it with ease. We’ll count by 3s.
3 6 9
12 15 18
21 24 27
30 33 36
We’ll count by 3s. We’ll Count by 3s.

Once the skip counting is mastered, just change the words:

We’ll multiply by 3s. We’ll multiply by 3s.
You can do it with ease. We’ll multiply by 3s.
1 times 3 is 3
2 times 3 is 6
3 times 3 is 9
We’ll multiply by 3s. We’ll multiply by 3s.

When your student has mastered both versions, mix up the order of the multiplication facts.

Get the Visual

And that’s it. I have had success with this song and I hope you will too. If you need a pre-made visual to go along with the song, download it free below.

Til Next Time,

Hello Everybody! {Songwriting Challenge 2.0}

This month I am super excited to participate again in Rachel Rambach’s Songwriting Challenge! I participated last year and shared a few of those songs right here at Music Therapy Kids. You can check them out below!

So what is the songwriting challenge?

Each week Rachel gives us a new prompt and we are to create/share a song for that category. Week one’s prompt was to write a greeting song. The greeting song I created last year turned out to be a big hit with my classrooms and to be honest I was feeling a little pressure to write another that would be just as good. But in the end, I threw caution to the wind and let the song turn out however it turned out because that’s when I write my best. Plus if it’s a dud, I can always write another!

I have used the song with a few individual clients so far but the real test will be when school starts again and I use it with groups! It’s growing on me though so I think it may just work.



Hello everybody, it’s music time.
It’s our time to sing & our time to shine.
We start our time together by saying hello.
Get ready, set, go!

Hello Jaxon, Hello.
Hello Ben, Hello.
Hello Mary, Hello.
Yeah, it’s music time.

(repeat as desired)

Tips & Tricks

I have already found myself adapting the words in various ways. For example, for some of my adapted piano students, we still use an opening greeting song. In this instance, I have sung:

Hello name, it’s piano time.
It’s our time to play and our time to shine.

Also, you can see above that I omitted “everybody” and just used the name when in an individual setting. You can do the same thing when it is time to practice saying hello and just use the individual’s name three times.

I’m sure that when I find myself in a group setting, I will also add an “echo” format where I sing “Hello Jaxon, Hello!” and then have the group repeat which will give a nice opportunity for each group member to practice verbalizing or using their communication device as well as imitating a waving gesture and possibly making eye contact.

Add it to your groups.

I know that if you are also participating in the songwriting challenge, then you have your own hello song to get started with, but feel free to add this one to your repertoire as well! In fact, I usually put my recordings over in the store, but you can get the free mp3 download and lead sheet just by signing up below. Enjoy!


Back on the Blog & A perspective from a future music therapist…Meet Kelsey!

I’m back…finally!

So where have I been? The past 4 months have been nothing short of tumultuous (and a bit exciting!). In mid-February I found out that I am expecting! I’m due October 25th, and we just had our mid-pregnancy ultrasound yesterday –  we are having a baby girl! I’m feeling SO much better now but up until about week 16, I was super sick and in survival mode. I still feel like I’m playing catch up, but it feels so good to be back on the blog. My current goal is a consistent 1-2 posts per month until I can really ramp my efforts back up. So thank you for hanging in there with me and going along with me on this journey!


Today I am excited to share with you a guest post from a future music therapist, Kelsey Clark. During the past year, Kelsey has shadowed me as part of a high school course and learned a great deal about music therapy. It has been a pleasure for me to mentor her! She also designed a very special project which we are excited so share with you for FREE. So keep reading!

Kelsey’s Journey

My name is Kelsey Clark and I am a senior (just graduated!) at McKinney High School. This past school year I was an Interdisciplinary Studies and Mentorship, program, where I chose to study music therapy. My passion for music therapy sprouted in the fourth and fifth grades, where I would spend my recess time in the PPCD classroom at my elementary school.

Every time I walked in the room, the children would light up, and I loved seeing the impact that I made on these children. From this point on, I began thinking about careers that involved helping children with special needs, so I decided early on that I wanted to be a PPCD teacher. Moving forward into sixth grade meant that I was unable to visit the children I had grown to love anymore; however, I was able to begin my music journey when I joined orchestra and started playing the cello. Soon, I fell in love with music, and my career path changed. I wanted to pursue a music degree.

While doing some research into music fields, I came across music therapy, and I knew that I wanted to pursue it as a career. The first semester of my class involved research and interviews in order to gain more knowledge about the field. Second semester involved shadowing a professional in the field and working with them to create a product.

(Here Kelsey is helping out at a special needs egg hunt this spring!)

Especially Needed Egg Hunt 3-2016

The idea for my product came from Mary. We decided to create Color Play, a book of adaptive piano songs for children with special needs. In some of the sessions I observed, I saw a client play a common children’s melody on the piano by corresponding the colored stars on the paper to the colored stars on the piano. For example, a purple star would represent a D on the piano, and a yellow star would represent A, and so forth. I helped Mary by making a digital book of these melodies.

By shadowing Mary, I have learned a lot about the field of music therapy and the diverse uses for it. All of the time she has dedicated to me has made me more prepared to major in music therapy at Sam Houston State University in the fall, and I could not be more grateful to have had the opportunity to shadow Mary over the last few months. The knowledge and skills I have acquired will put me a little ahead in my classes, and Mary will be a great asset to have in the later years of my studies.

Let’s hear it for Kelsey, you guys! She has been super all year and has already demonstrated her commitment to to music therapy…and she hasn’t even started college yet. The future of our field is bright!

And since I know you’re dying to have your very own copy of Color Play, just subscribe below. It will be instantly delivered to your inbox. You’ll receive one PowerPoint file that is editable (in case you have a different color system) and one pdf file. Get it now!

Singable Book of the Month: Every Little Thing

Welcome to another edition of Singable Book of the Month! This month I am sharing a recent favorite – Every Little Thing adapted by Cedella Marley. I began using this book in classrooms back in October and have loved every moment since.

Fun fact: I used this song frequently during my internship with adults in a variety of settings (hospitals, hospice, rehabilitation to name a few). So I was thrilled to find I could use it again with children who have Autism and special needs.

Every Little Thing (Is Gonna Be Alright)

Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella Marley adapted his beautiful song into an inspiring children’s book. This is how the official description reads:

Bob Marley’s songs are known the world over for their powerful message of love, peace, and harmony. Now a whole new generation can discover one of his most joyous songs in this reassuring picture book adaptation written by his daughter Cedella and exuberantly illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. This upbeat story reminds children that the sun will always come out after the rain and mistakes are easily forgiven with a hug. Every family will relate to this universal story of one boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three very special little birds. Including all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses, this cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages—because every little thing’s gonna be all right!

Video: Every Little Thing

I added a little extra this time – lyrics on the screen. I hope you find that helpful. I would love to have your feedback.  Enjoy!


Tips & Tricks

Talk about it. This is the perfect book to launch a discussion around the themes of feelings, safety, love, and making mistakes. You can adapt your discussions to be as simple or abstract as needed.

Answer WH questions. This goes hand in hand with our first tip, but you can specifically check for understanding by asking who, what, when, where questions from the text and from the pictures.

Repetition.  I love music for this quality! If you need to engage a child by having him sing a short phrase or by using a voice output device, there are a ton of opportunities for the child to fill in “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Perfect as a lullaby. Parents, this is especially for you. By reading this book with your child, you have a perfect opportunity to express your unconditional love. It’s an easy add to any bedtime routine! When I sang this book with one of my clients for the first time, he looked up at me and proudly said, “My mommy sings this song to me at night!”

There you have it. February’s singable book – Every Little Thing. I would love to hear if you have used this book before or if you have it as a part of your stash. I can’t believe I only discovered it his past year!

Sing on,

P.S. Want more singable book ideas? Sign up below and get our free guide to the top Singable Books!

Feeling Frustrated? This song and social story has you covered.

Low frustration tolerance is a huge struggle for many of my clients with Autism and special needs. How would you feel if you knew exactly what you wanted but lacked the skills to tell someone?? How do we deal help our children and students deal with frustration?

First let me say – This article is not intended to be a “fix-all” for frustration and the behaviors that result.  There are many, many other professionals out there that are more qualified to help with reducing frustration and negative behavior through an intervention plan.

I do, however, strongly believe that music therapy has a special role in assisting students with special needs in working through frustration and even in preventing it.

Several of my clients practice relaxation techniques in music therapy and learn/practice songs designed to help them remember to stay calm, take deep breaths, and ask for a break.  I actually wrote such a song here and it has worked beautifully.

This song is about 1) recognizing the feeling of frustration, 2) stating how you feel, and 3) knowing that is OK. Read More →

Here at Music Therapy Kids we’ve been celebrating music therapy all month long! We talked about the different roles that you might play as an advocate. I also shared how those roles fit into my life personally and professionally.

But today!!! Today I am excited because I thought it would be super fun to do an advocacy “round up” of sorts. If you’ve been following along, you can read every advocacy post from this month, by hopping on over to the full project where the lovely Kimberly Sena Moore has listed them all on behalf of CBMT and AMTA.

This past week I spent a few hours digging through these advocacy posts where I found lots of advocacy gems – which of course I am going to share with you today! Read More →

4 Quarters Make a Dollar – A Song for Counting by 25’s!

Welcome to Music Therapy Kids! Whether you’re having snow days with your family (if you are, I’m totally jealous by the way!) or trucking along with work as usual, I’m so glad you stopped by to hang out with me for a few minutes. I have a short and simple song to share!

Today’s tune happened by accident as many of my songs often do. As a music therapist, I often find my self improvising new songs in the moment. Sometimes those songs are just a connection with the child for that fleeting moment and other times the made up songs “stick.”

This one stuck.

It’s short, simple, and easy to remember. Best of all, it works! My client is doing well with counting dimes, nickels, and pennies given a mixed set of coins. However, he was having trouble remembering how to count by 25s when I tossed quarters into the mix.

So before we could count the mixed coins, he needed a method to remember how to count quarters. And thus this song was born! In just two sessions, this particular child has mastered the skill.  AND he gets bonus points because when I came back the following week he had also taught the song to his teacher! Totally made my day!

Tips & Tricks

Memorize. This song is a “carrier” of information. It is very straightforward. Once the song has been learned, you might consider removing the melody and practice speaking or chanting the lyrics.

Fill in the blank.  Again, offer the child plenty of opportunities to listen and repeat the tune. Then give her the opportunity to fill in the missing words.  Perhaps you sing the first part and the child fills in “25, 50, 75, 100.”

Use visuals. You can incorporate any type of visual for this song.  Real coins, pictures, a hundreds chart paired with coins to name a few.



Four quarters make a dollar.
Four quarters make a dollar.
And when we’re counting quarters,
This is what we’ll say:
25, 50, 75, 100
25, 50, 75, 100

And that’s it! Sometimes the most effective songs for our children with special needs are the simplest ones.

Sing on,


P.S. If you liked this song and want more, make sure to subscribe below!