helping children develop creative thinking



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TEMPO article

Posted by teachcreativity on October 23, 2013 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

The new issue of TEMPO, the magazine of the NJ Association for Music Education, features my article "Is It Ever Too Early to Start Learning Music? E-I-E-I-No!"


Infant and toddler educators should find ideas and inspiration for their young students!

Gotta love that kindergarten humor!

Posted by teachcreativity on October 2, 2013 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

A kindergarten student told me a joke today:

"When did the chicken cross the street?"

"When?" I asked.

"Get it?" he said, and then laughed uproariously.


The "Manifesto for Children"

Posted by teachcreativity on October 1, 2013 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

I've admired the educator and creativity researcher E. Paul Torrance for a long time. This article explores how his "Manifesto for Children" has influenced my teaching.





No more sore throats!

Posted by teachcreativity on September 8, 2013 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

My latest article in "Teachers Net Gazette" (teachersnetgazette.com) shares some of my hard-earned wisdom on preventing the bane of music teachers everywhere, sore throats!

A New School Year’s Resolution: Stop Getting Sore Throats! 10 Tips

By Abigail Flesch Connors

 You probably think this is a resolution you can’t keep, but you can. I’ve got tips for you that really work. Seriously. If they could work for me, they can work for anyone.

 These tips aren’t meant to take the place of medical advice. I’m not a doctor. So who am I to hand out advice on sore throats? Well, I’m a teacher who’s been there. I practically lived there. Try this for a sore-throat double whammy – I’m a music teacher, so I sing for hours every day, plus I teach kindergarteners and preschoolers, which at times is roughly analogous to teaching howler monkeys in a crowded bar. I’ve been teaching for more than twenty years, and until about a year and half ago, I was plagued by laryngitis – usually one or two bouts a year. It was tremendously frustrating. Not only did I miss days of work, but I had to answer the phone sounding like Donald Duck’s grandmother. And whenever one of my kids would call from upstairs (“MOM! Where’s my SOCCER SHIRT?”;), completely forgetting that I could not shout back, I’d have to trudge up the stairs to open his or her closet door and point.

 Maybe your voice problems aren’t as severe as mine were, but just about every teacher I know is prone to sore throats, especially in the fall and winter. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Over the years I’ve gathered a stockpile of tips from doctors, nurses, other teachers, and websites for singers, whose voices are their livelihood. Since the day I finally got serious about protecting my voice, and started following these rules, I haven’t had one sore throat (yes, I’m knocking on wood right now). So I’d like to share what I’ve learned – these tips really do help!

 1. Remember the three W’s. Water, water, water! Drinking water all through the day is the number-one best thing you can do for your throat. Have a water bottle on your desk and take a sip every few minutes. Keep a spare bottle in the teachers’ refrigerator for emergencies. If you aren’t yet in the habit of drinking lots of water, you will be amazed at how much better your throat feels.

 2. Use your indoor voice. Of course you don’t intentionally yell at your students, but there are times when you need to grab the attention of a noisy group and almost unconsciously, you raise your voice. Red alert! Every time you do this, it strains your vocal cords. Get creative and find new ways to focus children’s attention. You might try the rhythmic clapping method, where you clap out a rhythm and the class copies it. Or you could use an unusual sound – a maraca, a tambourine, or another sound that stands out from the chatter. But don’t raise your voice!

 3. Beware cold air! Cold air is bracing and brisk – and your throat’s worst enemy. It dries out your throat quickly. Whenever you go out in the cold, cover your mouth with a warm scarf and try not to talk.

 And a special note to football fans – show support for your home team with a pennant or a painted face, but NOT with cheering! I tend to get very excited at games - even watching them on TV – and it’s hard to keep myself from yelling encouragement (or just yelling). But at games outside, keep in mind – yelling + exposing your throat to cold air = a hoarse voice before the fourth quarter.

 4. Respect your voice’s limitations. If you teach young children, you probably read a lot of stories aloud. It’s fun to include funny sounds like quacks, oinks and fire-engine sirens when you read aloud, but watch out for sounds that strain your voice. This varies from person to person. I found that when I squeaked like a mouse, although it entertained the children, it made my throat hurt for the rest of the day. Monitor your vocal sounds and how they affect your throat. Funny sounds can cause not-so-funny pain.

 5. Watch out for whispering! An ear-nose-and-throat doctor told me this. It sounds counterintuitive, but whispering actually strains your vocal cords more than talking does.

 When your throat is starting to feel sore, it may seem like common sense to whisper, but this actually pulls on your vocal cords and dehydrates them, making the situation even worse. If it hurts to talk, don’t talk. Write things down.

 6. Swallowing a pill? Swallow lots of water, too. Whenever you take a pill, take it with water. Not just a sip or two, either - at least four or five ounces. Never take pills without water – this is very irritating to your throat.

 7. Some like it hot – but you shouldn’t. Food and drinks, that is. On a cold winter day, it’s tempting to have some piping-hot soup or coffee, but let it cool down a bit. Too-hot food and drinks can be irritating to your throat. 8. If you smoke, quit. I know it’s hard, but aside from the long-term benefits, you’ll notice that your throat feels better almost immediately. I smoked for several years, and when I quit one of the first things I noticed was that my throat felt more comfortable – no more coughing and throat-clearing. (Interesting trivia fact: Most smokers try to quit four or five times before kicking the habit for good – so keep trying!)

 9. Avoid the dreaded drip. I’d hoped to get through this article without mentioning post-nasal drip, but it is a major cause of sore throats. A cold, flu, allergy, or infection causes a buildup of mucus, which drips to the throat and irritates it. You can try pure saline nasal sprays to clear mucus - I’ve found these helpful. And of course, use hand sanitizers and wash hands with soap and water whenever possible. (This goes double for teachers of young children. Don’t let their cuteness fool you! They’re walking germ factories.)

 10. Consistency is key. You’ve got to be diligent about taking care of your throat and protecting your voice. Even one day without water, or one freezing night cheering in the stands, can do damage and cause days of discomfort.

 So if you’re prone to sore throats, you might want to give these tips a try. And I wish you a very healthy and happy school year!


About the author


Abby Connors is a teacher, author and presenter. Her latest book is “The Musical Toddler” (Whitmore Books, 2013).

Laughing makes him sneeze

Posted by teachcreativity on August 29, 2013 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

At the end of each music class I bring out a puppet who sometimes sings a song or tells a joke. Then I take the puppet around to individual children around the circle for them to feed the puppet. I forget where I learned this routine, long ago, but children respond to it very enthusiastically.

Yesterday I had an elephant puppet and I had a spontaneous inspiration to make him sing and speak in a deep, low voice with a Brtish accent - I don't know why. Anyway, the children loved it and laughed uproariously.

When I brought the elephant around to be fed, a little boy named Brandon said to me, "Tell your elephant not to talk in a funny voice! It makes me laugh too much and then I sneeze a lot!"

First of all, I thought it was interesting that Brandon told me to talk to my elephant, rather than talking to the elephant directly. It was like he thought of the elephant as my child.

Also, I thought this was a great example of the beginning of creative thinking. Brandon combined two ideas (laughing at funny things and sneezing, which had played a role in a story we had read that day) and created a silly idea (that laughing would make him sneeze a lot).

I'll have to talk to my elephant about this! 

Maybe it was a Miami Dolphin?

Posted by teachcreativity on August 16, 2013 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The other day we were playing a game where we were pretending our shakers were fish. After our fishes had been swimming, diving, swimming fast, swimming slow, etc., I asked the children (a group of four-year-olds) what else the fish could do. A little boy held the shaker up behind his shoulder and said, "Throw a football!" as he demonstrated the movement. The other children loved it and after that the fishes played tennis and other games!

This is the kind of "out of the box" thinking that young children do so well and with our encouragement, grows into real creativity.

"Never Say No to Creativity"

Posted by teachcreativity on July 31, 2013 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

My new article in Creativity Portal talks about practical, everyday ways we can encourage children's creative thinking:



A special trick

Posted by teachcreativity on July 24, 2013 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I was so happy today when a little girl named Allie showed some real creative thinking. Alllie, a four-year-old, is usually pretty quiet, but today when we were passing around the tom-tom drum for the children to play however they wished, Allie asked me if she could do a "special trick." I said of course. She said, "I have to stand up for it," which was already thinking outside the box since we always sat for this kind of activity.

Allie stood up, played the drum up high, then squatted low and played there, then stood again and played at waist level, or "in the middle," as she said. I thanked her for her idea and she was just beaming from showing us her "special trick."

Laurie Davis

Posted by teachcreativity on July 14, 2013 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Last night I went to a wonderful performance by my friend Laurie Davis. Last night Laurie sang pop music, including her original songs, but she also writes songs for young children, She's also a preschool teacher and a music teacher... busy lady! Her CD's are available on CD Baby and they are excellent. I've used them in my classes and kids love them.

The Pinocchio Effect

Posted by teachcreativity on July 6, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Here's my new article in Teacher's Net Gazette about bringing life to read-aloud stories: