What’s New with Cantata Learning?



5 Fun & Engaging Ways to Display Cantata Learning January 13, 2018

contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


This is one of my most favorite times of year. Not only is it a new year, it is also time for us to celebrate lots of new books coming to our libraries and classrooms.


In fact, I couldn’t be more excited about the 32 new ones Cantata Learning has created for us. These sing-along stories with their lively illustrations hold a very special place in our libraries, classrooms, homes, and especially in the hearts of our children. They engage them in such unique ways as they learn coding and library skills, classic fairy tales, science concepts, colors, and so much more.  


As we bring Cantata Learning to our libraries and classrooms for the new year, let’s think of all the unique ways we can display them in our spaces too.



They could be displayed on the shelf in the Song and Music Section in Kim James’s library at Van Meter Community School in Iowa. I love how she added the musical notes to the spine labels to give the students an important visual when looking for Cantata Learning books.



I also like how Karyn Lewis displays the Cantata Learning books in her school library in Texas. She added the Cantata Learning logo on the bottom of the spine. This makes it very easy for students to identify the books.



And Tracy Ferguson, second grade teacher at Van Meter, uses a bookshelf with clear tubs to display her Cantata Learning library. This makes it handy for students to take the bins off of the shelf as they look for a book. They could even take the bins to different locations in the room, creating their very own Cantata Learning space.  


While these are terrific ideas, today I want to share five more ideas for displaying Cantata Learning in the new year!



1. Create a listening center in the library or classroom with Cantata Learning.  

All Cantata Learning books have a QR code on the back and inside of the book, which takes the readers to the music online where it can be streamed or downloaded. By adding a few iPads or other mobile devices to a listening center with the books, students will be able to scan the QR codes and listen with or without headphones as they sing and learn along.  


Also, create a poster like the one above to get your students excited about using the listening center. Adding a QR code to the poster will make it super easy for them to get to the music online. They can scan the QR code with a mobile device and be ready to go.


To extend the listening center into a research center, you can pair Cantata Learning with PebbleGo and other Capstone Interactive titles. For example, as they are listening to Wind and Water Shape the Land, include a QR code to PebbleGo with a few key words on what they can research in the PebbleGo Science database such as wind, water, and erosion, along with other earth science topics. Each article in PebbleGo has a Share What You Know Activity Sheet that can be printed off for them to record their learning through words and pictures. It is the perfect way to pair up Cantata Learning and bring learning to life!  


2. Pair up the Cantata Learning books with an instrument display in your library and classroom.

You can put simple instruments such as tambourines, cymbals, kazoos, and ukuleles in a colorful container or basket next to the Cantata Learning books on a shelf, table, or in a reading nook.  


You can even have instruments bagged up for the students to check out with the Cantata Learning books. Then they can take the instruments home with them to create a special musical experience with their families.  


As an extension, ask the music teacher if they would like to introduce the different instruments to the students during their time in music class. This could include history, techniques, and other things important to the instrument. Not only would this be a great way for them to learn more about each instrument, it is a wonderful opportunity for teacher collaboration.  



3. Display the Cantata Learning books in a musical makerspace where students can build their own instruments to play while listening, reading, and singing along.  

Students can make lots of instruments with simple and recycled materials. One favorite in our library was creating instruments out of recycled bottles or containers. With a few little things like dried beans, washers, popcorn, rice, and other materials, students can fill their bottles to create an instrument to play as they sang along to all of the books.  


I printed off directions for this activity and put them in plastic covers in our space. I have created a Musical Instruments to Make Pinterest Board where you will find lots of ideas to share in your musical makerspace. Students can have fun searching for ideas and inventing their own instruments, too.  



4. Display Cantata Learning books in organized and interesting ways online for your young readers to use at school and at home.  

I love organizing and displaying books online. This gives our readers access to discover and read them anywhere… in the library, classroom, home, and on the go.  


One of my favorite spots to display Cantata Learning books online is in Capstone Interactive. Within CI, you can create a Booklist which can include any Cantata Learning eBook that you want. For example, you could create a CI Booklist for the new books of the season, a particular unit you are collaborating on with a teacher, or even a student focused Booklist such as “Check Out the First Graders’ Favorite Cantata Learning Books!”  




5. Set up a Cantata Learning YouTube viewing station in your library or classroom for an alternative way to display the songs and stories online.   

Did you know that Cantata Learning has a fantastic YouTube Channel? You will find all of the books uploaded into series and season based playlists. Each video includes the song and a few of the illustrations from the book. This is a favorite of ours at home. It is always fun to sing along to a video online.  


In your classroom or library, set up a station with laptops, iPads, or other devices, where students can pop by to watch a little Cantata Learning story and sing or dance along. This would be a nice way to display Cantata Learning for an individual, a small group, or even a whole class activity.  


This will encourage your students to become excited about the books you have on display on YouTube. They can even follow along with the book as they listen to the YouTube video.  


As you can see there are so many awesome ways to display Cantata Learning. These are just a few to get you started and help you kick off the best year in your libraries, classrooms, communities, and homes.  


I can’t wait to see all of the creative ways you bring Cantata Learning to your community of readers too!  

10 Activities and Projects for Winter December 19, 2017

Contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


The holidays and winter months are one of my favorite times of the year. I love celebrating, spending time with my family and friends, and cherishing all of the traditions that we have made over the years.



A big part of our holiday growing up was singing carols and wintery songs. During the holidays, my sister Heather and I would get out the holiday albums and sing along to people like John Denver and Bing Crosby. I would play the piano as Heather sang. I even remember Heather and I singing as we made snowmen and snow forts behind our house. It was always so much fun!  


Now with my family, the second holiday songs begin to play on the radio, we have it on in the car and at home all season long. As we get ready for special family events, it is our tradition to listen to music, singing and dancing along.


With the winter holidays here, it is also the perfect time for us, as librarians and teachers, to find and bring together wonderful books, resources, songs, and activities to inspire students. We can pull in seasonal and holiday themes that will keep keep our students engaged and creating during this special, busy, and memorable time of the year.


Two of my favorite resources to use when planning for the winter season are Cantata Learning and PebbleGo. These two products work perfectly together by supporting important math, science, social studies, science, reading, and language arts standards while tying in so nicely across the curriculum with art, music, PE, library, and more.  


Today, I want to share 10 winter holiday activities and projects, using Cantata Learning and PebbleGo, that you can bring to your library and classroom now and throughout the winter months.  



1. Learning about and sharing the different ways our holidays are celebrated is so important! Use the new Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme series to introduce students to Christmas, Diwali, and Hanukkah alike through these beautiful stories, songs, and illustrations.


2. One of the most special and unique things about Cantata Learning is that each title has a song that goes with it. It is so much fun for students to sing along as they learn about the holidays. It is also an effective way to get those holidays wiggles worked outStudents will love to sing, dance, and move along to the songs.


You can bring instruments into the mix by setting up a holiday music maker station with simple materials. You will find lots of ideas for musical instruments to make on this Pinterest Board. These will be fun for them to use and to bring home to share with their families too.  



It would be helpful to have them glue a QR code onto their instrument that would take them right to the music. Also, you can download the instrumental version of each song from the Cantata Learning site. The students can use this as they create their own version of the song.


3. Within the back of each book, there are Guided Reading Activities that will promote connections, learning, and creating at school and at home too. Check them out!


4. Cantata Learning provides all series lesson plans for free on their site. You can download the Holidays in Rhythm and Rhyme lesson plan, which will give you all the steps and materials that you need when using the books.


One of my favorite parts of the lesson plans are the extensions. This series includes art, science and nutrition, and technology extensions, among others.


5. As you use the books, guided reading activities, and lesson plans, PebbleGo Social Studies is the perfect place for students to go as they continue researching the holidays. All three of these holidays are included, along with lots of other holidays.



You can print off the activity sheets included with each PebbleGo article and turn your students into little researchers. These are easy to include in a learning center, classroom activity, or something to send home over the holiday break.  


6. Within each of these books, traditions are shared such as food, art, and activities. This is a great opportunity for the librarian, teacher, and related classes such as music, art, and physical education to collaborate on wonderful activities and projects.


A recipe book or family traditions album could be created using Buncee and the different backgrounds, stickers, and animations available.  


Two years ago, over 250 schools around the world came together to create the Winter Around the World, Global Story 2015 project.We used Buncee, Flipsnack, Tellagami, Google Slides, and more to create this amazing winter story with friends around the world.



7. Cantata Learning has another new series perfect for celebrating the winter season called Winter Math. Throughout this series, students will practice math skills with wintery and holiday objects such as snowflakes, decorated trees, menorahs, snowmen, marshmallows, and more.


A simple station or class activity could be to have students create their own snowflakes.  There are lots of ways they can create snowflakes from paper as well as online with digital tools.



8. As they create snowflakes, have them go to PebbleGo Science to learn more about winter, including an entire section on Snowflakes and Winter Weather.     


9. Both of these series would be perfect to include in a winter concert or play. Students could even make up their own play with the books and lyrics.  


10. And of course, don’t forget about sending home links to the Cantata Learning eBooks and to PebbleGo over the holidays. These are wonderful resources to provide for students and their families so that learning, creating, and engagement can continue throughout the holiday break.


With PebbleGo being online and all of the Cantata Learning titles in print and eBook format, this is possible.  And of course, they can access all of the music from the Cantata Learning site at any time.



To make it super easy for you, I put together this Winter Symbaloo filled with the Cantata Learning titles I shared, along with PebbleGo, snowflake creators, crafts, the Pinterest board, Buncee, Storyboard, and other digital tools to inspire creativity throughout the season. Please feel free to share this with your students and families too!


And if you have any winter holiday activities and resources you use in your library and classroom, please share them with me at @shannonmmiller.  I would love to add them to this Symbaloo.  


I hope all of you have a beautiful holiday season.

5 Ways Music Can Increase Student Engagement November 27, 2017


By Shannon McClintock Miller


The more we sing together, together, together.
The more we sing together, the happier we’ll be.


I loved singing The More We Get Together when I was a little girl. I remember singing it at school, in the car, at home, and as we walked down the road to my grandma’s house. Then when I became a mom, I sang it to my three children. And when I became a teacher librarian, we sang it in our library too.  


As a mom and a teacher, I always thought we should add… The more we sing together, the more engaged we will be!


This is the magic that we see when music is part of our collections woven throughout our libraries, classrooms, communities, and homes.


By bringing music to our libraries, collections, and students, we can promote literacy skills, deepen learning, and increase student engagement in so many ways. In fact, music can be a vital element in the development of children’s literacy and emotional skills, especially in the younger years.  


Let’s look at 5 ways music can help to increase student engagement.


1. In the article “Learning Literacy Through Music,” Kelsey Tarbert states, “One area that a literacy program should emphasize is the development of auditory processes, and these are also stressed in a music program. Phoneme awareness, discrimination between similar auditory elements, speech signals, auditory memory and more. These auditory skills are an integral part of students’ literacy development, and they are all reinforced or enhanced within a music class.


As children begin to read and learn new things, music will help them learn and retain the information by acquiring and practicing these essential auditory skills. The lyrics and music set the stage for listening, learning, and a whole lot of meaningful fun along the way.  



Take a look at the Read, Sing, Learn: Homophones series from Cantata Learning.  This is such an important concept and one that music will help bring to life for our youngest learners.  


Listen very carefully. What do you hear?
Some little words can fool your ear!
Speak very carefully. What did you say?
Some little words you might not mean that way.


This series celebrates words that look and sound the same but have two different meanings.  Can’t you just picture how fun it will be for our students as they sing and clap to these familiar words in a brand new way?


2. As children are introduced to new materials, their vocabularies expand. When this information is put into musical context with rhythm and rhymes, children’s memories will retain the information.  Not only will they be learning how music is like poetry with these elements, but when paired with a catchy melody they will be learning so many new things in an effective and engaging way too.  



The Library Skills series from Cantata Learning is the perfect set for bringing important library skills to our students. There are new vocabulary words to learn such as fiction and nonfiction. Look how Fiction and Nonfiction can help them with these words and the meaning.  


Nonfiction means a book is true.
It’s filled with facts for you.
It might have dates and other stats:
cool things you never knew.


Fiction means it’s make-believe.
These books are meant for fun.
They entertain or tell a joke, a story, or a pun!


One suggestion is to use the ebook on a SMART Board or big screen with an overhead projector as students are checking out books. As they hear and sing about fiction and nonfiction, they will use and retain this information. By pairing this information with a catchy melody, they will always remember what fiction and nonfiction means.


3. When we use music to teach our students new skills and information at school, we are also arming them with words and tunes to carry home with them too.  I always loved it when my own children came home singing a song they learned at school. I remember my daughter Brianna singing a song as she memorized about the states and capitals and Hagan singing a little tune about nouns and verbs over and over on his way to bed.



Using a book such as Manners in the Library, will equip them with the skills they need for visiting the library at school, but will also be helpful as they visit public libraries with their families too.  


Collaborate, create and share.
Show the library that you care.
When we use good manners, it’s a safe place to be.
Explore the space. Let your mind be free.


With a quick scan of the QR code on the back of any Cantata Learning book, this special connection for children will carry through as they visit libraries everywhere forever.


4. Everywhere we go we hear and find music.  It is a universal language and one that embraces us from birth. As a social experience, music can bring comfort to children and reduce stress. While participating in musical experiences through singing, playing, and moving, they will gain confidence as they interact and work together to produce something beautiful and unique.  


With this sense of heightened sense of confidence and joy of learning, music can increase student engagement across the board in all subjects. Think about using it to inspire them in other aspects of the arts, such as drawing.  



Perhaps a child doesn’t feel confident about drawing and creating. By using the Sing and Draw series that focus on drawing skills and letter formation through lyrics and music, it will give students the confidence they need to not only sing with their classmates, but the directions will help them develop the skills they need to succeed at creating something with their hands too.   


We’re on an alphabet safari,
drawing the animals that we see.
We’re on an alphabet safari.

O is for Owl, hooting, “Hoo, hoo!”
Start by drawing the letter O.
For the ears, add two triangles,
Add a large one below.


Creativity and music work together in such an unique way and by bringing literacy into this partnership, we are giving our students such a terrific learning and creative experience.


5. Music helps children stay focused on the important topics that we are teaching them. It also helps us draw them in when perhaps we want them to refocus them too. We can use music to redirect students and get them excited about what they learning and reading.  


One topic that is very important to teach all of our students in digital citizenship. We want to make sure we keep their attention so they understand the importance and safety involved.  



With Staying Safe Online from the Library Skills series, we can do just that! The lyrics and music, along with the thought-provoking, colorful illustrations, adds a lot of interest to the topic as they sing…


Your name, your age, or where you live
is not info that you should give.
Keep special dates, and passwords too,
as secrets that are just for you.


As you can see, music will turn anything into a rich learning experience. It will add interest and life to your library, classroom and all of the learning, reading, creating, and moving going on around you and your students.  


And one that will bring great happiness and wonderful noise to your library, classroom, and outside of the four walls of your building too.


Water All Around Me November 13, 2017


Contributed by Sara Infante, Illustrator


Cantata Learning was the first client that I have met through the representation of Bright Agency. I was thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with a publisher based on a place so far away from home and working for a new public was a challenge that I was very happy to meet and overcome.


I was sought out as a potential illustrator for the Water All Around Us series due to a piece from my portfolio that had a marked graphic voice. You can see this style across the books – it is simple and straightforward and uses the non-printed white surface of the page as a pivotal color within the chosen palette. Although achieved by an overall digital technique it is inspired by screen printing.



I began this project in the way that I begin every book: by making a storyboard. It is an essential step to my work process and I love everything about it, from the endless notes (in English and Portuguese, it gets all mixed up and ends up kind of crazy!) to the funny little characters. It always amazes me to see how such tiny drawings can contain so many ideas and details.



When I’m happy with the direction the storyboard is taking I move to print-size sketches. That is the time when I really focus on composition and questions like: Where should I place this object in order to get maximum dramatic effect? How can I stretch this character’s legs in order to make the reader feel that he is running with exertion?


This time during the sketch-making phase I also had in mind one other thing: the musical aspect of the project (something that was new to me since I had never illustrated an audio book before!). I was told that the music style was inspired on Bluegrass sounds and instruments. Since this specific music is foreign to me and my own roots, I wanted to really dive into it and treat this inspiration with great respect. I started to listen a lot to bluegrass songs while I was working on the books and tried to imprint a sense of folk nostalgia to the images by developing spontaneous scenes characterized by family relationships and easiness.



After the sketches’ approval I moved on to the final illustrations. The majority of the painting work was digital with the exception of some details which were previously hand-drawn with soft pencils and then colored on digital medium. What most stands out regarding the painting is the limited yet colorful palette that was used – you can only find four colors throughout the four books. The chromatic chord begins with a cerulean blue in reference to the big hero of these series and is followed by a strong vermilion that makes us think of children’s energy and creativity. To balance these two bright colors with light and shadow we have the natural white tone of the paper and a dark brown hue.



It was a great joy to receive a copy of these four books. The nature of the publishing world is such that it only allows the illustrator to see the finished product with the images he created many months after the illustration process took place – after so much time it is impossible for me to look at my own work and don’t see many things that I would do differently and hopefully better nowadays. Nevertheless these books are filled with pictures that bring me much pride.


I would like to finish by thanking Cantata Learning for this opportunity and share that these books hold a very special place in my heart given that their execution coincided with the premature birth and early months of life of my first child (that baby was cradled many times at the sound of bluegrass songs, I can assure you!). A special thank you to two gentleman: my agent James Burns at Bright who got me this lovely project and Tim Palin who was a valuable art director always happy to answer any question that I might had and always ready to help me improve my illustration work.

Celebrating Global Maker Day October 23, 2017

contributed by Shannon McClintock Miller


With Global Maker Day happening TOMORROW, I wanted to share some ideas for ways to celebrate this special day with music and stories by focusing on the new Cantata Learning Sing and Draw  series, featuring the talents of author Blake Hoena and musician Emily Arrow. The series addresses the process of drawing through simple steps that are easy for young readers to replicate. Each shape, from aliens to animals, is created by starting with a basic letter, number, or shape!



According to the Cantata Learning website, “budding artists and musicians will love this series that brings a makerspace favorite to life! Students will get a chance to use their imaginations and celebrate each others’ ideas.”


Doesn’t that sound like fun?!


Of course it does! So let’s take a look at 5 ideas for bringing music, stories, and loads of creativity and fun to your library and classroom on Global Maker Day.



1. Start out your day by reading and singing any of the four books. The titles include Alphabet Safari: A Song about Drawing with Letters, Circles and Crescents: A Song about Drawing with Shapes, Monster Party: A Song about Drawing with Numbers, and Rectangles and Triangles: A Song about Drawing with Shapes.


As they are listening, reading, and singing, have students draw and paint what they are seeing and learning from the books with a variety of art materials. To make this a collaborative class project, students could all gather around a giant piece of craft paper and draw together as they are reading and singing. This could become a giant mural of circles, animals, letters, monsters, princesses, numbers, and more—for all of the students to contribute to and celebrate each others’ creativity.


2. Next, provide creative building materials such as pipe cleaners. Ss they are listening to the stories and singing along, encourage students to create create animals, monsters, and more using letters and shapes. They can use their drawings they created while listening to the books as their guides.


3. Now, take things digital. You can have the students turn their drawings into 3D models within seconds using the MakerBot PrintShop app, which is free from MakerBot. This is a fun, easy, and free way to create and 3D print anything that you draw.


If you don’t have a 3D printer, have the students use play dough or modeling clay to create their 3D model.


4. Students will gather up the models they created for a final project. . . a mini stop motion production using the drawings, wall murals, and 3D models they’ve already created. They can use the Lego Stop Motion Studio, Green Screen by Do Ink, iMovie, or another movie making app.


5. One last thing before we show off our projects to the world for Global Maker Day. How about if we create a new song or even a music video, like the one Emily Arrow did for the book, to go along with our production?



Each title includes not only the main music track you’ve already listened to, but it also includes an instrumental version. Your students could use this track to create their own lyrics for their little stop motion movie or video. They could even create their own instruments using paper recycled goods, string, buttons, marbles, and so on, and record their own version of the song.  The ideas for taking inspiration from these books and creating new works is quite endless!



When the drawings, paintings, sculpting, printing, movies, and recordings come together, your students will have something unique and wonderful to share with others.  


Also, Cantata Learning provides a FREE lesson plan to accompany this series, available for download on their site. With the series focusing on drawing, this would be a great collaborative lesson between classroom, library, and art.



Wouldn’t that be fun to share with others on YouTube Live or on Twitter through pictures on the things they have learned?


You can visit Global Maker Day for all of the information and details for the day.  


What will you do for Global Maker Day?  I can’t wait to find out! Please share using the #LoudLibraries and #cantatalearning hashtags. We would love to hear how you are using Cantata Learning stories and songs. And of course, use #GlobalMakerDay to celebrate along with everyone participating!