Tuesday, 7 November 2017

'WAKE UP!' ~ Be Kind, Be Grateful

Two important dates occur at this time of year: World Kindness Day (November 13th) and Thanksgiving, a national holiday celebrated in October or November, depending on the country celebrating.

The English Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Kindness’ as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. ‘Gratitude’ is defined as the quality of being thankful.

If you are a teacher looking for a creative and effective resource for encouraging these virtues in your students, our curriculum-aligned song package, ‘Wake Up!’ (Grades 2-6) is perfect (I can personally vouch for this, as I use it myself in my own classroom lessons)! 

The song's narrative-style lyrics, combined with my
 colleague and 'partner in rhyme', Kathryn's beautiful, reflective-style music provide a powerful, engaging tool for eliciting empathy, compassion, and gratitude.

The flow on from this, is a desire, in the students, to respond positively towards others, with kindness, empathy, compassion, and consideration.  

The lyrics also highlight the importance of making responsible choices and taking responsibility for those choices, focusing student attention on these and other positive behaviours. 

Here is a sample of the lyrics:
Every day when I awake,
There’ll be choices I must make,
‘Cause once my eyes are open, I will see.
So whether I give or I just take,
The choice is mine for goodness sake!
There are other people in this world and not just me.

Verse 3
Then the T.V. caught my eye, 
Children poor, sick and hungry, 
Eyes so sad and homes all gone, 
My own life flashed before me.
It made me feel so ashamed
That tears trickled from my eyes,
I said ‘Sorry’ to my mother
And she turned and looked surprised.

Now my eyes are open I can see 

Verse 5
Let’s all make the most of life,
There’s so much to be explored.
Every day’s a special gift,
To be opened, not ignored.
Give our thanks for everyone,
Make a difference every day;
Try to be the best we can,
Share the things that come our way.

Now my eyes are open I can see.
©Lyrics: Nuala O'Hanlon, B.Ed; Cert Teaching
Music: Kathryn Radloff, B.A. (Hons) Psych.
Click here to Preview song sample.

As parents and educators we endeavour to model and express kindness and gratitude with the children in our care, and to reinforce these values and positive behaviours throughout the day. We’re mindful of behaving kindly towards others, and expressing our thanks, because, in the words of William Arthur Ward:
‘Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.’ 
As a ‘vintage’ teacher, I firmly believe in the power of song as a medium for helping children learn, and take every opportunity to utilise it in my own teaching. 

As a lyricist, I write lyrics that target outcomes and learning sequences of curriculum documents, making our songs perfect for kick starting class discussions, extending literacy, and summarizing unit content, etc. 

Kathryn has a gift for making these lyrics come alive! Once she has worked her usual musical magic, they become powerful tools for achieving outcomes, supporting & integrating classroom learning, and aiding recall of important information, etc. (
FYI: Our curriculum-aligned songs also solve the problem of what to perform at school assemblies!) 

Here are are a few simple, practical suggestions for reinforcing kindness & gratitude in the classroom: 
  • Start the day with a happy, kindness song to help create unity and a positive attitude
  • Incorporate manners songs to reinforce kindness, consideration for others, and other courteous behaviours
  • Brainstorm things for which we are grateful
  • Keep a daily Gratitude Journal of 5 things for which to be thankful...
  • Brainstorm ways we can show kindness to others at home/school/team sports…
  • Write a ‘Thank You’ card to parents & family members / school helpers / school crossing person / a neighbour
  • Celebrate / write about happy experiences and express gratitude for them
  • List great things that happened today
  • Research kindness and gratitude quotes
  • Compile a class 'Kindness & Gratitude Quotes' book
I'll leave you with a quote from Frederick William Faber:
'Kind words are the music of the world.'  
Here’s to being kind and grateful every day!

Yours in singing to learn,

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What Makes A GREAT Teacher?

There is a lot of discussion these days around education and the teaching profession.  

It got me thinking about the true value of teachers, and the difference they make in so many lives.
What is it that makes a truly great teacher?

                                                                     Image: Facebook/Thought For Teachers

Professor Robert Lee Madison, Institute Founder of Western Carolina University believes that 
‘The true value of a teacher is determined not by what he knows, nor his ability to impart what he knows, but by his ability to stimulate in others a desire to know.’
This is true of all good teachers. However, I believe that what makes teachers great, is not only about what they do, it's about who they are.

Great teachers are those who have developed and mastered an ability for drawing out the strengths and talents of their students, inspiring them to want to learn.

These teachers are passionate about their calling and dedicated to enabling their students to be the best that they can be. They have a way of making each student feel valued and that somebody believes in them.


Astronaut, Sally Ride, shares this story, ‘ When I was a girl, I had a teacher who encouraged my interest in science. She challenged me to be curious, to ask questions, and to think about things for myself. She helped build my self-confidence. All of these things helped me to become a scientist and an astronaut.’

What a wonderful tribute to an inspirational teacher!

I have always believed, that great teaching is about relationship ~ if students know that their teachers are interested in them and care about them, the learning will follow.

If I were to name one truly inspirational teacher who influenced the course of my own life, I would say, without a moment’s hesitation, that I would look no further than my own father, Francis Joseph O'Hanlon, a high school Head of English Department (pictured below).

As with all great teachers, he taught by example.

Dad was kind, patient and loving. A humble academic, in possession of a fine mind and rapier-sharp wit, he instilled in me a life-long love for singing, writing, and the beauty of the English language.

A man of simple means, he shared everything he had - his time, his knowledge, and his love of learning (not to mention his humour!). As with all great teachers, he inspired his students to settle for nothing less than their best.

'Every child deserves a champion - an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.' ~ Rita Pierson

Great teachers care, and it shows. The impact and influence of their caring extends far beyond the classroom.

Dad would sit down with me before exams to help me with my revision, and I would always manage to remember the information (I attribute this to the interest and care that accompanied it)!

Each year, when the School Leaving Certificates rolled around, our house would become a veritable drop-in classroom for Dad's high school students (for whom he provided – gratis - last minute coaching lessons).

The love and gratitude of his students were evidenced by the smiling, triumphant faces that would roll up to our door on exam results day, excitedly waving their bits of paper – proof that their extra work had, indeed, paid off.

The student guard of honour at his Irish funeral, to celebrate his 64-year life, was a very moving and fitting tribute to a truly great teacher.

He loved his work and his students, and, even though he cautioned his 5 children against entering the teaching profession (3 of us did), he was the first one at school every morning, and the last one to leave in the afternoon!

My daughter, TNT (The New Teacher), below, has taken up the mantle. A born teacher, she wants to make a difference.

She has loved her work as a volunteer teacher in a South American orphanage, her years teaching in London schools (in mainstream and in the area of special needs, with students from Grades K-12), her work in local, mainstream primary schools, and is now on another teaching stint overseas. 

Having had the incredible privilege of working alongside TNT at the same school for nearly 3 years, and having witnessed, firsthand, the love, time, effort and commitment she puts into her teaching, something tells me she already is making a difference! 

Here's to my Dad, daughter, sisters, aunties and nieces, my colleagues & teacher friends - past and present, and to all teachers, everywhere ~ I salute you! 

Ours is a privileged profession ~ keep making a difference in children's lives, and remember,
'A teacher affects eternity; (s)he can never tell where his/her influence stops.' Henry Brooks Adams
Yours in Teaching,

Nuala :-)

Q: What do you consider to be traits of a great teacher?



*KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs 'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

A Review:
'In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers, they rate a tick in every box.' ~ Brendan Hitchens, Teacher, Music In Action: A Magazine for Educators
*Downloadablecurriculum-aligned songs & lesson materials that support & integrate classroom learning across key subject areas. 

 'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

CURRICULUM KARAOKE™ ~ Integrating Classroom Learning Through Song

 'Your students can learn the arts as well as learn through the arts.' ~ Andrew Miller, Educator
Kathryn and I are very excited to bring you our latest, innovative classroom teaching resource line ~ CURRICULUM KARAOKE™!

When I mentioned this concept to a few teacher friends a while back, their amused response was, 'Do you mean to tell us we're going to be singing the  curriculum?!'. 

Well, singing curriculum content, yes, that's exactly what I meant to tell them! That is to say, this highly motivational, interactive resource, with its illustrated, read, sing & learn along video format supports, enhances and integrates classroom learning across key subject areasthrough song.

Our downloadable curriculum-aligned songs extend literacy and add another dimension to the way our students learn curriculum content, themes and concepts ~ all at the touch of a button!  

Not musical ~ NO worries!
  • Just download the MP4 file and play on your classroom whiteboard or computer!
  • Students read/sing & learn along as the song plays and the lyrics display on the screen.
  • No need to print out lyrics or create a power point - the Mp4 does it all for you, making it easy for the whole class or school to follow the lyrics on any screen and read/sing along together.

‘Because when kids are learning through the arts, they end up getting a deeper understanding and the concepts end up sticking much better…’ ~ Elizabeth Peterson 
Music is a very powerful and effective medium for helping young people to connect with learning content ~ it's a language they understand. It makes perfect sense to utilise song as a learning tool in our classrooms. 

Singer-songwriter, Bruce Springsteen illustrates perfectly the powerful effect of music on memory, in a line from one of his songs, 'Surrender': 

  • Comprises curriculum-aligned songs that target outcomes & learning sequences of curriculum documents. There's 'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®
  • Supports, enhances  and integrates classroom learning across key subject areas
  • Plays on your classroom whiteboard and other devices to help students learn curriculum-aligned content, themes and concepts
  • Extends literacy ~ reading(students read / sing along with the lyrics, as if they are reading a book), comprehension, grammar, punctuation, poetry text type study...
  • Energizes classroom discussions
  • Enables students to take a more active role in their learning and have a better understanding and memory of content
  • Aids recall
  • Reinforces learning content
  • Hones listening skills
  • Contributes to a positive learning environment
  • Creates and promotes unity
  • Makes learning fun... 

Here's a preview sample of 'Four Seasons' (Grades Pre K-3):

Here's a preview sample of 'Busy Bodies' (Grades 3-7)

  • Students take turns reading the text, while the rest of the class follows the rhythm ~ brains and bodies work together to garner meaning.
  • Pause the power point at any time to choose new readers, clarify meaning, make a point, question the class on a line of text for comprehension, define key words, etc.
  • Students sing along with the vocal track (this aids accurate singing of melody and lyrics)
  • Divide the class into groups for chorus, verses, etc.
  • Create a cloze passage to assess comprehension of content
  • Perform as a class item for school assemblies
  • Project lyrics onto screen for whole school participation!  
CURRICULUM KARAOKE™ is a growing line of MP4 song & lyrics videos, including:


                                                    ‘OneWorld’ (*Illustrated)


                                                    ‘Bully-FreeZone!’ (*Illustrated)

                                                    ‘Our Class Rules!’


  'Busy Bodies'

                                                          'Keep It Clean!'

                                                          'Our Solar System'

                                                          'Summer Sunday'

Sample Slides:

FYI: More CURRICULUM KARAOKE™ song videos have been added since this blog post was written! 

Until next time!

Yours in Singing to Learn,

Nuala ♫

         Nuala O'Hanlon
         Teacher; Lyricist; Director,
         'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

         A Review: ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for Educators
**FYI: Our curriculum-aligned teaching resources are available as: 

                                                                'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®