Friday, 7 November 2014


'The only way to have a friend is to be one.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


I’m pretty sure most people value strong, healthy relationships.

These come in many different guises, from family members, neighbours and friends, to a host of significant others, who cross our paths along the journey of life.

However, relationships are not always smooth sailing, and a little help from a friend may be just what’s needed to help steer them back on course.

The focus of today's post is friendships during the 'tweeny' years, and I’m delighted to welcome a friend to children everywhere, Annie Fox, M.Ed., as a guest on my blog! 

Annie is an internationally respected parenting expert, family coach and trusted online adviser for teens.

Her latest book, The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, for girls ages 8–12, with its unique, Q&A format, is sure to be a hit, not only with ‘tweeny’ girls, themselves, but also with their parents, teachers and carers.

Having navigated these childhood years myself, and mediated many a student conflict, in my role as a teacher, I was only too happy to oblige, when approached to review Annie’s latest, wonderful offering!

Annie champions the cause of young girls everywhere with this delightfully illustrated, insightful publication!
‘The Girls’ Q & A Book on Friendship’ provides the perfect, resource for opening up dialogue between teachers, parents, and the ‘tweenies’ in their care.
Annie’s genius for getting into the minds of today’s youth, combined with her warmth, wisdom and practical, expert advice, helps them to navigate the very difficult and often challenging field of adolescent relationships.

Her friendly voice validates the girls’ feelings, then provides skills and helpful suggestions for making responsible choices for resolving the conflict situation.

She manages to do all this, while at the same time, reinforcing the need to act with kindness, respect, honesty, empathy, and to maintain the dignity of all concerned.

As a teacher and a parent, I see the enormous benefits of owning such a timely publication. It is a definitive guide for equipping girls for building strong, healthy relationships, now and in the future.

It’s the book we’ve all been waiting for. WELL DONE, Annie!


I was also given the opportunity to pose some questions to Annie, in regard to student friendship issues encountered over the years. Here, Annie answers those questions:

Nuala: As a teacher, I see how mean and hurtful girls can be to each other at this age. How would you go about dealing with girls who are in the same class, can’t stand each other, and are mean to each other at every opportunity?

Annie: You haven’t said how old the girls are, but if they are at least 2nd grade, the first step would be to have a community circle with all the girls in the class… those who you see as “part of the problem” as well as those who are not contributing to the nastiness. The goal of this meeting is NOT to vent about past hurts. As facilitator, you must make sure that doesn’t happen. The goal is to engage girls in the process of finding solutions moving forward. You might open your meeting by saying, “I’ve been noticing certain behaviors in our class that make me very sad. I see girls not letting other girls play or sit with them at lunch. I see girls pushing other girls away with their words and with certain expressions. I see girls talking in unfriendly ways about girls behind their backs. This is a problem for everyone in the class. Because I know you girls are very smart, I thought I’d ask for your ideas of how we can make our classroom a friendlier place.”

Be patient. Be calm. Exude confidence in the girls’ ability to be creative-problem solvers. Make sure you provide every girl a chance to share ideas for making things more peaceful. Take notes on a white board as the girls brainstorm. End the meeting with action steps to begin the next day.

If this doesn’t improve the situation, I’d suggest you get parents involved along with the school counselor.

Nuala: We live in a period of high migration what advice would you give to girls who arrive from other countries, and find themselves being excluded by the other girls, who have been friends for years and already formed their friendship groups?

Annie: Stories are a wonderful way to engage students in ‘big’ topics. There are many excellent early and middle grade titles that focus on being the “New Kid” whether from a different city, state, or country. It is also a common theme in YA fiction (for tweens and middle schoolers). Get recommendations from your school librarian or the children’s librarian at your public library.
After you’ve chosen your book(s) read the book as a class. Lead book-group discussions that explore the points of view of different characters. “How did ____ feel about not being able to speak English?” “How did _______ feel when her teacher asked her to be the New Girl’s ‘buddy’ for the day?” Give your students plenty of opportunities to think, talk and write about their own experiences (past or present) being an Insider vs. an Outsider. Be creative with a project-based learning assignment to research other cultures that are represented in your overall community and present that research to the class.

When we lead students with our own inclusive attitude toward “new kids” by modeling friendship and empathy, we help our students develop into people of good character.

Nuala: What advice would you give to parents of girls in this age group, so that they and their daughters are able to navigate the friendship minefield together? (Owning a copy of your book is a given, of course!)

Annie: Thanks for the shout-out to The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship. I wrote the book in a simple Q&A format with the idea that any 8-12 year old girl could read it on her own, with a friend, and/or with a parent. Using the book’s Q&A as a discussion driver, girls can really learn practical strategies for calming down and finding the courage to speak up for themselves in a friendship, (not something that comes easily to most girls.) I’d also advise parents who have daughters dealing with friendship drama, that Mom and Dad follow the book’s advice and calm down too! LOL. Seriously, we don’t do our best parenting or mentoring when we are “down in the trenches” with our upset girls! Modeling self-control is key as we talk about friendship issues and as we listen to our daughters. After all, managing our destructive emotions (anger, hurt, frustration, jealousy, etc.) is imperative to effective communication, especially in the age of Social Media where so many friendship dramas play out!

Nuala: There is a lot of talk about bullying these days. Do you think it is more prevalent, or are we just not as prepared to ignore it, as happened when we were at school?

Annie: Without a doubt we live in a faster, edgier, louder and less civil society than when we were children. Social media and the prevalence of media in general has brought our kids face to face with lots of negative role models when it comes to being “nice” and treating other people with respect and compassion. As a result, kids watch what passes for entertainment and political discourse and take away the message that “To be a grown up means to be aggressive and disrespectful to anyone who gets in your way OR does not agree with you.” It’s sad and sometimes scary when I see how kids are adversely affected by our culture of cruelty. But I wouldn’t be a character educator if I didn’t believe that parents and teachers have a lot of positive influence on kids and teens.  We have more work to do than our parents and teachers had in the area of re-enforcing core values in kids. We need to make it a daily priority to help kids develop into adults of good character. My parenting book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People is a good starting place.

Nuala: There are many positive measures in place, in schools these days. There are programs such as Peer Support, where older students lead sessions to mentor younger students, helping them to resolve conflict and develop resilience. What else would you like to see happening in schools?

Annie: I’d like to see more schools embrace the model of Restorative Justice. It is an active process, involving students in acknowledging harm done (through peer conflicts) and repairing the damage done. When done consistently and with integrity, restorative justice can have an enormously powerful impact on individual students, groups, and school culture.


Thanks Annie, a true friend indeed!

Keep up your wonderful work and all the best with this and all of your  publications.

**The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship is available on Amazon 


In closing, permit me to quote a verse from one of our songs:


‘Together, friends weather the storms of life,
And whether clouds gather, or the sun shines bright,
It’s great to have true friends, to call your own.
It’s good to know, that we’re not alone, no, we’re not alone.’
©Lyrics: Nuala O’Hanlon, B.Ed; Cert.Teaching / Music: Kathryn Radloff, B.Arts (Hons) Psych.

Here's to Friendship,

Nuala ⊱╮

Monday, 3 June 2013



‘When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.’
~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Rules are the mark of any civilized society.

Children are not born knowing rules, they learn these by degrees - rules of the home, the family car, public transport, public places, sports grounds, places of worship, and so on.

School communities are no exception. School and classroom rules exist to ensure harmony for all, serving as a reminder that, among other things, teachers have a right to teach and students have a right to learn - in a happy, safe, and secure environment.

When it comes to protecting the rights of the members belonging to these learning communities, the rules and responsibilities, as well as the consequences for not adhering to these, need to be clearly stated, understood and respected.


Children learn in many different ways – I’m a huge fan of helping them to learn through song - if it can be learned, it can be sung, and vice versa.

Music is not only highly effective for motivating and engaging young learners, but, because it activates different parts of the brain, it is also invaluable for aiding recall - ensuring that lyrical content will have more chance of being remembered.

With that in mind, I wrote some basic classroom rules and behaviours, in lyrical form, which, together with colleague, Kathryn Radloff's, catchy melody, helps students to learn, remember, and take responsibility for classroom rules and behaviours – through the enjoyable medium of song.

I, myself, use ‘OUR CLASS RULES – OK!’ in schools, to establish and reinforce classroom practices, and my daughter, TNT (The New Teacher) reports using the song throughout the school day, as a handy point of reference.

TNT tells me that she has only to mention a line from the song, and students are reminded of correct/safe classroom behaviour and practices (e.g. chair legs on floor; hands up in the air; point scissors to the ground…).

Sometimes, a quizzical look in their direction is all it takes, for students to remember the rule – enabling them to take personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others within the classroom.


Below, you will find sample song lyrics and a few tips and suggestions for using this, or any other song about classroom rules: 


We have rules and responsibilities,
To keep us safe and happy
And we take these very seriously,
We care for everybody!

Put –
Hands up in the air,
If we have something to share,
Knowing it’s the right way;
Try to be polite,
Try to never fuss or fight
And then we’ll have a good day.
©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff

SONG SAMPLE (Track 3):


  • Discuss why rules are important (if we don’t follow rules, there are consequences, for ourselves and othersDiscuss the need to feel safe and happy – what can WE do to ensure this happens/we all have the right to… but we also have a personal responsibility
  • Good choices /not so good – consequences of both and the need for accountability
  • Brainstorm ways in which we can show we care and respect
  • Students listen to song and list rules mentioned
  • Unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g:
  • Why do we have rules and responsibilities?
  • What does ‘rule’/ ‘responsibility’ mean?

VERSE 2: Lines 1 & 2: 
  • Why do you think it is important to raise hands if we want to speak?

  • Identify and record rules mentioned in song
  • Brainstorm other class rules to add to list and continue to add as term progresses
  • Display rules around the room and refer to them often (use these for performance – see below)
  • Create a chart of class RULES / RESPONSIBILITIES / display these in classroom
  • Each student chooses a rule to be used to caption illustration (ref. ART, below)
  • Research rules for various communities/institutions and compare similarities/differences, e.g. home; school; sport clubs; public transport, etc.
  • Discuss the reasons for these various rules

  • Create a class graph, recording different groups to which the students belong (students write out rules of these groups, giving reasons these are important)

  • Students illustrate/paint their chosen rule (see above)
  • Create cartoons with speech bubbles, illustrating consequences of breaking rules, e.g. student falling off chair, after leaning too far back…

  • Display students’ artwork (see above) around stage, and dramatize the song, pointing to the words: *RULES *RESPONSIBILITIES, during each chorus

FYI: ‘OUR CLASS RULES – OK!’  is available as a digital mp3 download (Track 3):

Yours in Singing to Learn,
Nuala  ♫

P.S. Please feel free to share ways in which you have used song to help children learn.
♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫

N.B. Lyrics and Suggestions for use: 
©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff
KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs:

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


‘A healthy outside starts from the inside.’ ~ Robert Urich

Image Source: ~ VIA

The ancient Roman poet, Virgil, was 'right on the money' when he stated that ‘the greatest wealth is health’. 

It is a very sad fact of modern day life that a preventable disease such as childhood obesity is not only on the increase, but that it is increasing at such an alarming rate.

There are many reasons for this, but our main concern as educators, is to do what we can to address this, by equipping children with information, skills and experiences  to enable them to develop healthy habits and lifestyle choices.

Thinking back through the centuries to when I was a child, exercise was a natural part of our daily lives, and the foods on offer were very close to their original state. 

Speaking for my own family, we did not have a car until we came to Australia, so we walked everywhere, including quite a distance to and from the nearest bus stops. 

We made our own entertainment, which meant we played outside a lot, and foods were closer to their original state, making choices much simpler and healthier, when it came to what we put in our mouths.
Image Source: ~ via

‘Fast food’ meant just that - something that would quickly satisfy our hunger: fruit, vegetables, home made bread, etc. If we complained of hunger between meals, we were given sticks of celery, carrots or a piece of fruit.

‘Sometimes foods’ (treats), in our house, were reserved for special times, such as family holidays, birthday parties, Easter, Christmas - and once a month on paydays, when Dad would arrive home from school with ‘crisps’ and confection for all.

I can still taste those almond toffees and coconut-covered mushroom cup sweets - Mmm!

Of course, being children, we still did what children do - my siblings and I were very fond of sneaking sugar cubes from the silver sugar bowl on the dresser, when Mum wasn’t looking!

We’d keep those blissful morsels in our mouths for as long as possible, savouring the syrupy sweetness, as they slowly dissolved on our grateful tongues, before trickling down our happy throats.

And we are still getting great mileage out of an incident that occurred on my 5th birthday...

I’d awoken that morning, covered in measles spots, leaving Mum with no alternative but to cancel my birthday party (suffice to say, I'm still looking for the right support group, but that's another story :-)!

My fun-loving, best friend (let’s call her ‘X’), saved the day by turning up to help us eat the party food, her mother explaining that she was more than happy for her daughter to catch the measles sooner rather than later, to get them out of the way!

We were playing Hide ‘n’ Seek, and no one could find ‘X’ anywhere!  She was eventually discovered, hiding, crouched in a corner, stuffing her face with chocolate crackles as though there were no tomorrow!

It wasn’t long before her mother had to take her home, green around the gills and suffering, not from the early stages of measles, but from chocolate crackle overload!

Image: wiltedporcelain.tumblr

There is no denying it - we all love our ‘sometimes foods', and there is certainly a time and place to enjoy them - it's all about balance.  

It is our role to educate children about finding this balance, and to make sure that their  environments support healthy habits and choices.

Many schools are already addressing this issue, with the introduction of healthier food canteens, and programs to promote physical exercise and healthy food consumption - ‘fruit breaks’, ‘brain breaks’ and  activity sessions built into the day, to enable students to engage in some kind of physical movement activity.
Image Source: Facebook/Bedemmpled Brain

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, addressed this issue by writing a song, ‘HEALTHY KIDS’, to provide primary schools with an enjoyable, practical resource for helping students learn basic health facts, and understand the link between healthy lifestyle choices and general wellbeing.
The song, with its catchy, melody and content-laden lyrics, discusses everything from the five food groups to the need for daily exercise, providing the perfect vehicle for kick starting a discussion about healthy living.
Below, you will find sample song lyrics, as well as some simple suggestions for using this or any other song about health. 
Image: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
Artwork: Hayden Williams

©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music
Happy, happy, healthy kids!
Happy, happy, healthy! (X2)

We’re happy, happy, healthy kids,
It’s how we’d like to stay.
We eat nutritious, healthy food
At every meal each day.
We know that there are five food
So, now we can’t go wrong;
’Cause we know what we must do
To grow up healthy, fit and strong.

Vitamins, minerals, good fats,
Proteins, carbohydrates,
Help keep bodies healthy, so –
Put good food on your plates.
Bodies are like fine machines, let’s
Eat the things we’re meant to.
Fruit is beaut, go use your loaf AND
Choose what you chomp into!
Do do do do, da da da.
Do do do do do.
©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music
Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
- How many food groups are there?
     - What does the word ‘nutritious’ mean?

·      Lines 1 & 2: Define the terms: ‘vitamins’, minerals, etc.
·      Line 7: - What do ‘fruit is beaut’, and ‘use your loaf’ mean?        What do we call this play on words? 
·      Line 8: - Brainstorm ‘healthy choices’ for daily meals/snacks
        - What does it mean, to ‘chomp’ into something?

·      Create a class/individual ‘HEALTHY KIDS’ acrostic poem
·      Brainstorm, create and record health slogans, e.g. ‘RICE IS NICE’
·      Students work in groups to write own verses for song, and perform for class
·      Students create a recipe and write a procedural text for making a healthy sandwich
·      Student groups create shopping lists of ‘Health Foods’/Sometimes Foods’
·      Collect favourite family recipes and publish a class recipe book (sell these through the school, to raise funds for a charity)
·      Students paste pictures from magazines into correct trolley
·      Students create a painting of a person – using only fruits and vegetables
·      Students paint health slogans on paper plates and attach to rulers
·      Use the above props for an assembly performance of song
·      Get physical - Older students choreograph movements to accompany the song, and teach to other students, at assembly

 FYI: 'HEALTH KIDS' is available as a digital mp3 download: 

Yours in Singing to Learn,

Nuala  ♫


 # SCHOOLS & HEALTHY KIDS by HEALTHY KIDS - eat well get active:


 ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫  ♫  ♫ ♫  ♫

N.B. Lyrics and Suggestions for use: 
©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff
KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Image: Facebook/Foundation For A Better Life 

‘It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.'
~ Roy E. Disney

We do not come into the world with a set of values, we learn them in childhood from those around us.

These values are handed down from generation to generation, guiding their  development along the journey into adulthood.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet either of my grandfathers, but their memories were kept alive with the many stories Mum and Dad shared with us, throughout our lives.

One of my favourite stories of Mum’s father, Grandpa Edward, lodges in my memory, as a perfect example of love in action.

The story goes:

One very cold Irish morning, Grandpa cleaned and polished 8 pairs of shoes (yes, that’s right cleaned and polished EIGHT pairs of shoes – his, and those of his 7 children), then set off for work, resplendent in the new jacket my grandmother, Elizabeth, had recently bought for him.

He bravely returned home that evening - MINUS the new jacket!

When questioned by Nanna, my grandfather explained that he had given it away to someone who needed it more than he, saying, ‘Sure it was freezing cold, and the gentleman had no jacket at all to his name, and I had another one waiting for me in the wardrobe at home.’

Image: Facebook/You they and me 

It warms my heart to be a granddaughter of this man who was able to see beyond himself, to empathize with a fellow human being, in such a respectful and loving way. 

Edward met a fellow traveller on the road, cold, and down on his luck, and was able to do something about it, so he did  – simple as that.

The values by which Edward lived his life certainly contributed to influencing the values and behaviour of his 7 children. My mum and her six brothers were kindness itself, as they lived their lives, serving the needs of their families and those around them.

Their legacy continues, as I witness those same values in my own siblings, our children, and their cousins.

Albert Schweitzer was correct in saying, ‘Leading by example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing’, and we cannot ever afford to underestimate the influence we have on the young people around us. Our guidance and support are paramount in helping them to develop strong moral compasses and firm foundations, for becoming strong global citizens of the future.

Image: Facebook / Character Counts – Official page 

Schools often treat values as a separate, add-on subject, but, as Jean Paul Satre once stated, ‘Childhood decides’, so it is imperative for positive values to be not only modelled and affirmed in schools, but to be also integrated into daily classroom practice and timetables.

When it comes to specific lessons on values, song can be a very practical, non-threatening resource for kickstarting discussion, and a most invaluable tool for integrating learning across other subject areas.

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, recently released an international version of our popular values song, ‘LIVING VALUES’ which does just that.

‘LIVING VALUES’ is a whole school, anthem-style song, encapsulating the values set out by the Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling' document.

Below, you’ll find a sample of our song lyrics, the values targeted, and some simple suggestions for integrating this, or any values song you may have at your disposal.

The Australian government’s nine 'Values For Australian Schooling': 

·      Care & Compassion
·      Doing your best
·      Responsibility
·      Freedom
·      Integrity
·      Respect
·      Fair Go
·      Honesty & Trustworthiness
·      Understanding, Tolerance & Inclusion

 Image: Facebook/Healing with Art 


Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
  • Line 1, Verse 1: How do we demonstrate care for ourselves and others – at school/home/on the sports field/socially, etc?.
  • Line 5, Verse 1: What does it mean ‘building character is our destiny’? 
  • Line 3, Verse 3: Name someone who comes to mind when you hear the word ‘integrity’
  • Line 3, Verse 4: In what context is ‘sister’ brother’ used?
  • Line 8, Verse 3: What are some of the qualities/values demonstrated by a team?
  • Q: How can we work together as a class team?
  • Q: How can we demonstrate these and other positive values in our dealings with classmates, teachers, parents, siblings, social groups, etc.

(Depending on age of students)
  • Discuss each value in the song and invite students to share examples from their own experiences
  • Write definitions for each of these values
  • Use values words in sentences

Image: Facebook / Michael Josephson

Study the lives of inspirational people such as Mother Teresa and martin Luther King, Jr,.. and discuss/ write about…values they demonstrated in their lives. 


Students paint each value word from the song, and attach to a ruler to form a placard (to be used in  a simple, assembly performance piece).


At school assembly, students file onto stage, hold up placard, state value and definition, the form a circle and move in circle singing song.

Image: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
(Kathryn Radloff (sitting) & Nuala O'Hanlon with students)

©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

Sample lyrics:

In our school, we have values
That show how much we care,

About giving all a fair go,

In this great land that we share.

Verse 1

Caring for ourselves and others,

Always aiming to do our best,

Treating everybody fairly,

With understanding and respect.

Building character is our destiny,

We are working for the good of all,

With sincerity and honesty,

Moving forward, walking tall.
©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics/Kathryn Radloff, music

FYI: 'LIVING VALUES' is available as a digital mp3 download.

Yours in Singing  to Learn,

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