Singing Through Transitions

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It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
So come over here, and lend me your ear
It’s time for a story today, hooray!
It’s time for a story today. (clap! clap!)

It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
It’s time for a story today! (clap! clap!)
Let’s take out a book and we’ll give it a look
It’s time for a story today, hooray!
It’s time for a story today. (clap! clap!)

(To the tune of Mexican Hat Dance)

How can you keep from singing when the tune is engaging and fun? The stress of transition time can be eased when the instructions are sung to a familiar tune. Singing slows down language, and gives young ones an opportunity focus. And since music engages both sides of the brain, singing together helps to reinforce important concepts. Songs with active movement, such as clapping or finger moving, help to keep children’s bodies occupied as they move from one activity to another.

To start the day with a warm welcome, I like to sing an easy tune which features each child’s name—this is a favorite, because clapping keeps everyone involved. Children are invited to dance in the circle after their verse:

Welcome song:

We’re all here today
We’re all here today!
Clap, clap, oh clap your hands
We’re all here today!

Jack is here today, Jack is here today!
Clap, clap, oh clap your hands
Jack is here today!
Go Jack, go Jack, go JACK, JACK, JACK!

(To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

Keep your transition songs simple enough for children to sing by themselves. You will hear children singing the songs on their own, reminding themselves of the steps to accomplish a job.

Washing song:

Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Make them nice and clean.
Wash the germs right down the drain,
Make them nice and clean.

(To the tune of Row, row, row your boat)

Walking song:

We’re walking down the hall, we’re walking down the hall,
Let’s keep together friends, we’re walking down the hall!
We’re walking up the steps, we’re walking up the steps,
Hold on to the railing friends, be careful not to fall!

(To the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

Singing a tune lends a light touch to instruction—especially when there is humor involved. Gather the children with a smile using this little song.

Gathering song:

Everybody take a seat, take a seat, take a seat,
Everybody take a seat on the floor.
Not on the ceiling, not on the door!
Everybody take a seat on the floor!

(To the tune of Shorting Bread)

Active learning is an important part of childhood—so I like to give students an opportunity to really move when they need it! Here’s a little spoken chant to celebrate our wigglers and help them focus for the next task.

Wiggling song:

Wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes.
Wiggle them fast, wiggle them slow.
Wiggle them high, wiggle them low.
Wiggle them, wiggle them GO, GO, GO!
Wiggle them east, then wiggle them west,
Wiggle them together, then let them rest!

The NAEYC Position paper (2009) on Developmentally Appropriate Practice discusses the use of scaffolding to guide children’s behavior. Singing through transitions is an ideal example of this principle.

Scaffolding can take a variety of forms; for example, giving the child a hint, adding a cue, modeling the skill, or adapting the materials and activities. It can be provided in a variety of contexts, not only in planned learning experiences but also in play, daily routines, and outdoor activities.

Clean up songs:

Clean up time can be a challenge in any classroom. Some children might not be ready to give up their play time, and others just don’t seem inclined to be on the cleaning crew. My grandson Will’s class sings this version of "Twinkle, twinkle," which gets the job done and offers encouragement of fun the next time the children are together.

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Stop and clean up where you are.
It’s time to put the toys away,
We will play another day.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Stop and clean up where you are.

Here’s another clean up tune which is light and fun and tells the children just what is expected. Change the words to include cleaning up after play (for example: . . legos in the bin!) Make up your own variations.

Everybody clean up, clean up, clean up,
Everybody clean up, after lunch.
Trash in the trashcan—recycle in the bin
When we work together we all win!
Everybody clean up, clean up, clean up,
Everybody clean up, after lunch. (To the tune of Shortnin’ Bread)

Goodbye songs:

Saying goodbye at the end of the day offers particular challenges. Sometimes parents don’t all arrive at the same time, leaving children anxious. Here are a few tunes to lighten up the day.

Well it’s time to go, so we better check our cubbies
Singing doo-wah-ditty-ditty dum ditty doo
Well it’s time to go, so we better check our cubbies
Singinig doo-wah-ditty-ditty dum ditty doo
You look good (you look good)
You look fine (you look fine)
You look good, you look fine
We’ll see you another time!
Singing whooah, oh oh yeah!
Goodbye!

(To the tune of Do wah diddie)

(repeat with other getting ready to go chores—for example: Well it’s time to go so we better put on our coats . . . Well it’s time to go so we better put on our hats . . .)

I love watching little ones trying to wink when we do this tune!

It is time to say goodbye to all our friends (clap, clap) (2x)
It is time to say goodbye, give a nod, and wink your eye
It is time to say goodbye to all our friends. YEE HAH! (To She’ll be coming ’round the mountain)

Your turn!

What’s your most challenging transition? Don’t know a song for your situation? YOU be the song writer! Choose a familiar tune—Here we go ’round the mulberry bush, Shortening bread, The Farmer in the Dell, Row, row, row your boat, are all good choices. Then make up a rhyme—one concept per verse. You will usually need 8 beats to fit into the song—play around with it until your song is satisfying!

Here’s an example: The assignment—put on your boots, coat, hat and mittens when you go out to play in the snow.

The tune: The Farmer in the Dell

The lyrics:

We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
Winter is a time for fun,
We’re playing in the snow. Hurray!

Put on your snow boots—tug, tug
Put on your snow boots—tug, tug
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your snow boots—tug, tug

Put on your winter coat—zip, zip
Put on your winter coat—zip, zip
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your winter coat—zip, zip.

Put on your cozy hat—whoop!
Put on your cozy hat—whoop!
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your cozy hat—whoop!

Put on your mittens now—both hands!
Put on your mittens now—both hands!
Winter is a time for fun,
Put on your mittens now—both hands!

We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
We’re playing in the snow, Hurray!
Winter is a time for fun,
We’re playing in the snow. Hurray!

See how easy it is to add new words to a familiar tune? I like to jazz it up a bit with fun sounds like hurray! zip! or whoop! to add more fun.

Some other scenarios to consider are tooth brushing, setting the table, putting on a paint smock, choosing a station in the classroom to play. You will notice that these are all tasks which move children toward independence, and singing the instructions provides a tool to help. Please add your tune in the comment box! And most importantly, have fun singing!

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About the Author Margaret Hooton

Margaret Hooton

Early childhood music teacher, Margaret Hooton, has been sharing her love of music with children for more than 25 years.  At the 2004 NAEYC Conference in Anaheim, California, she was honored with the “Early Childhood Professional Award,” given by Scholastic Publishing to only five teachers nationally.

Margaret is a teaching artist with Gateway to the Arts, working with Head Start teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Margaret is a music specialist at St. Paul’s Nursery School and Shady Lane School in Pittsburgh. She is an adjunct professor in the School of Education at Duquesne University and she is a Pennsylvania Early Learning Quality Assurance System (PQAS) Professional Development Instructor.

A graduate of the University of Iowa, Margaret studied early childhood music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. She is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) the Children’s Music Network, and Early Childhood Music and Movement Association (ECMMA).

You may contact Margaret at mbhooton@aol.com

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  • Susanne

    When we are on the playground and it is time to go inside, I sing a little jingle that goes: Meet me at the gate, meet me at the gate, meet me at the gate, so we won't be late.

  • Debra Hoffmann

    This is excellent advice especially for new teachers who may not have had this as part of their college training. I always said."Put a song in your pocket." , and you can always guide the children to do what is needed.Sing as much of the day as possible. The children will feel the joy and learn more too!

  • Angela Russ-Ayon

    I loved your article and plan to share it with my mailing list. I have been speaking on the value of musical games forever. I would love to send you some complimentary music CDs to share with your children.

View Comments 3
Close

Comments (3)

Leave a Comment
  • Susanne

    When we are on the playground and it is time to go inside, I sing a little jingle that goes: Meet me at the gate, meet me at the gate, meet me at the gate, so we won't be late.

  • Debra Hoffmann

    This is excellent advice especially for new teachers who may not have had this as part of their college training. I always said."Put a song in your pocket." , and you can always guide the children to do what is needed.Sing as much of the day as possible. The children will feel the joy and learn more too!

  • Angela Russ-Ayon

    I loved your article and plan to share it with my mailing list. I have been speaking on the value of musical games forever. I would love to send you some complimentary music CDs to share with your children.

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