the songs we sing

On most days we end our morning work cycle at 11:15 with an optional group. The children can join the group, continue working or help set-up for lunch. My preference has always been towards a more informal group focusing on songs, storytelling and books. During the year we do weave geography, science discussions and lessons into group, but for the most part I just like to sing. Now, I truly have no talent or aptitude toward music, not at all, but I do have great enthusiasm and a knack for remembering the words, or making up words that work at the moment!

This list grew out of a few parent requests for “the songs we sing”; where possible I have linked to videos. Two of my favorite resources for new songs (other than listening to other teachers) are Music Together CDs/classes and Pandora Radio’s Family Folk Song station.

John the Rabbit

Little Bird, Little Bird – the children suggest the birds that we sing, and I don’t usually sing the “fly through my window my sugar lump…” until the last bird.


Five Days Old, Laurie Berkner Band


There’s a Little Wheel A-Turning in my Heart – The children suggest what is in their heart, and yes, we do have dinosaurs stomping in our hearts


There was a Little Turtle – don’t let the complete overuse of praise and the disembodied clapping hands scare you.


Clap Your Hands – use whatever movements you need to encourage at that moment!


A favorite one that I could not find a video of is The Little Alligator

(1)Here’s a little alligator on a log
Hold right hand in a puppet shape and bob up & down over left arm “log.”

(2) In a little pool
Hold hands together like holding a mug.

(2) He sees a little frog
Hold hands over eyes like eyeglasses

(3)Down goes the alligator,
Both hands start high and go down.

(3)’Round goes the log,
Spin arms around each other.

(4)Splash! Goes the water and away swims the frog.
Clap hands on SPLASH and then move arms like swimming

Now the numbers go with what I call magic lips, or silent lips. Which I explain as – we move our lips just like we are singing, but we don’t make any sound – and we of course keep doing the hand motions. Someone once told me this I great for developing a sense of rhythm and timing, but it is also just great fun. We end up singing the song a total of five times – first all the way through, then with section (1) as magic lips, next time sections (1) and (2) as magic lips and so on until on the fifth time through the whole song is silent (except for fits of giggles) and the CLAP. Magic/silent lips can be applied to most any song of this sort.

Last is one of my favorite poems. We start reciting this at the beginning of the year and by the end even the youngest knows it by heart.

Some one came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Some one came knocking
I’m sure-sure-sure;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But nought there was a-stirring
In the still dark night;
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech-owl’s call, (hoo, hoo)
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.

– Walter de la Mare

What are some of your favorite songs for children?

5 thoughts on “the songs we sing

  1. HA! Is there like a “Songs Montessori Teachers Live By” list? Because these are all absolutely my long-time favorites to use in the classroom (and with my own kids), too! The poem, however, is new to me, and so welcome! Printing it out tonight to try tomorrow. 🙂

  2. The Pandora station has really helped me change up my songs. So often I sat down for group and would just blank on new songs, but now I have new ones stuck in my head constantly (which isn’t always a positive)!

  3. Hi Aimee,
    I just finished reading your page and loved it! I came across this video which I thought you may enjoy.
    I am going to start teaching music at a Montessori school on Monday and was looking for ideas from other Montessori teachers. I have my own music CD you might enjoy. It is called Walk with Wonder by Constant Wonder and it is on iTunes.I wrote all the songs aside from the title track and the big favorites for kids seems to be Ladybug and Who Lays the Eggs? All the music is interactive and children love jumping to the “defense mechanism” part. Thanks for the wonderful ideas and I think the “magic lips” idea is very interesting. I liked to use that method with the song Deep and Wide but never tried it with any other song or poem.
    All the best,

  4. the green grass grows is a favorite of ours. jewel has a good version.

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