A Small Classroom Activity That Supports Common Core Standards in a Big Way

Nature themed song and activity for the classroom

During a Yo Re Mi session, our classroom of two year-olds began talking about leaves. To support their curiosity and exploration, we created a song called “Leaves Change Color.” Then, I added some hand movements — turning the short song into an impactful classroom mindfulness activity.

Can such a short kids song support child development?

Our short song isn’t just great for children’s music development. It also supports motor skills and social and science learning! To understand how such a little song could support child development, let’s look at all of the elements within the song, “Leaves Change Color”.

First, the song itself:

  • Call and Response - this requires listening, memorization, recognizing the rhythm, and repeating.

  • Pitch - the melody moves between two notes, until we descend to a lower note for the lyrics, “All the way down.”

  • Ecology - we use the song to reinforce a growing awareness of trees. The lyrics “leaves change color,” “and fall down”, and “all the way down” were observations made by the two year-olds in their tree study.

Next, the movement of one hand:

  • Gross motor movement - the raising of one arm and turning over of one palm support eye-hand coordination

  • Focus - the song lyrics encourage the child to look at their own hand

  • Body awareness - “this is my hand” helps the child become aware of how their hand relates to the rest of the body

  • Rhythm and Tempo - we move our hand to a steady pulse during the song

Then, the movement of two hands:

  • Crossing the midline - we strengthen the corpus collosum (the connection between the two cerebral parts of the brain) when we do activities where two limbs coordinate alternating patterns of movement. This is beneficial for reading, writing, spelling, speech, attention, and math.

  • Eye tracking - as children move their eyes from one hand to the other, they are strengthen their eye muscles, attention span, and reading skills. Also, eye yoga is just plain fun!

  • Left and right coordination - a great introduction to motor planning, which supports advanced movement, being able to process verbal instructions, and the willingness to take on new tasks.

It’s a short, little song that makes a big difference!

Child playing with leaves

How to use a song like “Leaves Change Color” to support Common Core standards

We know that our “Leaves Change Color” song promotes music and movement in children. But, can it match Common Core standards in the classroom? Let’s take a deep dive and review some of the physical goals this song supports, based on New York State Pre-Kindergarten Foundations for the Common Core (PKFCC) standards. The elements of our song are denoted in parentheses.

Domain 2: Physical Development and Health

  • PDH.1 Uses senses to assist and guide learning.  (Looking at the hand)

  • PDH.2 Uses sensory information to plan and carry out movements. (Watching the hand turn over, matching the rhythm of the song to the speed of movement”)

  • PDH.3 Demonstrates coordination and control of large muscles. (Tall, seated posture strengthens large muscle groups including the core abdominals)

  • PDH.4 Combines a sequence of large motor skills with and without the use of equipment. (Raising the arm)

  • PDH.5 Demonstrates eye-hand coordination and dexterity needed to manipulate objects. (Eye tracking from one hand to the other)

This doesn’t even begin to enumerate all of the Social and Emotional Learning, Science and Music goals we are supporting, as well as the mindfulness, relaxation, and self-regulation benefits! From approaches to learning, and cognition and knowledge of the world (Domains 1 and 5, respectively) we can help children actively engage in exploration while observing nature and using music for self-expression.

Part of the Reggio Emilia approach is that children, adults and the environment are all educators.

In our class, the children made observations about what they saw in the environment (leaves), and the teacher took those ideas and shaped a collaborative activity that contributed to their social, cognitive, and physical development. That’s one of the things about Yo Re Mi that makes our program unique. Try our “Leaves Change Color” song in your class!


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About the author: Dan Costello is a professional musician, music educator and Children's Yoga Instructor specializing in early and elementary education. A music teacher for ten years, Dan has developed music education curriculum which combines movement-based activities, joyful sing-alongs, and songwriting.

Dan plays piano, guitar, clarinet, drums, ukulele, and just about anything he can find. He plays in bands and writes songs for children and adults. His favorite songs are the ones we sing together.