Archive for the ‘Learning Centers’ Category


One Prop, Many Uses

July 20, 2014

I’m surfacing from the depths of new motherhood for a moment to type up this post. The idea has been floating around in my head for a while, but I have been trapped under a baby for the past 11 weeks. OK, maybe not literally the entire 11 weeks, but it can sure feel like that! (But what a beautiful little dictator she is!)


When I started work at my current job two years ago, I spent many days during the summer culling through years of materials and flotsam. Some of it was brilliant (Orff instruments!), some of it was rubbish (crumbling and broken rhythm sticks), and some of it I was unsure how I would put to use. One such item was a set of about 20 wooden hoops, about three feet across. I believe they are part of the Kindermusic materials.

Over the past two years I have found these to be such a wonderful addition to my teaching arsenal. They are so versatile! Here are just a few ways in which I use the hoops in class.

1) Movement Idea the First: For the little ones in PreK and Kindergarten, it can be challenging to participate in movement activities without bumping into one another and maintaining personal space. This can be a safety issue, or can just be a cause of classroom chaos. Easy peasy fix! I lay the hoops on floor around the room. Each student stands within a hoop. Instant “perfect spot/personal space!” They can jump, wiggle, spin, sway, show melodic contour, stomp rhythms, etc. and no one can complain that So-and-So is touching them. Darn, So-and-So, always causing trouble!

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2) Movement Idea the Second: Prepositions Through Movement. Students use the hoops during movement activities to show the Space concepts of over, under, around, inside, and through. (Space is one of the elements of movement, and part of BEST-Body Energy Space Time.) This movement can be done to a musical selection. Encourage the children to move with the same mood (Energy) and tempo (Time) that is expressed by the music. Pause the music and call out one of the prepositions. The students might leap over their hoop. They might hold it aloft and dance under the hoop. Perhaps they will crawl through the hoop. The kids come up with far more creative ideas than I do! You can draw a parallel between the prepositions they demonstrated with movement to part-work in music. A descant is sung above the melody. A bordun is a repeated do-so pattern played under the folk song.



3) Music Centers: I like to have learning centers about once a month in each grade level. It is a great way to give the students multiple activities to practice an element. It can also provide a great opportunity for individual and small group performance assessment, without the rest of the students growing restless as they wait their turn. One aspect of learning centers that I had found to be a challenge was organization. How do I keep the centers contained and tidy? I set a hoop out around the room for each center. All materials for that center are placed inside the hoop. When it is time for the children to rotate to the next center, they know that all materials must be gathered and put neatly back into the hoop. This sets parameters and expectations for where they are supposed to be located, what they can use, and when they can move on. No one rotates centers until all of them are tidy.

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4) Hula Hoop Conducting: This one I found on Pintrest. All of the students are given an instrument, usually small hand percussion. When the teacher steps into the hoop, the children may play their instrument. When the teacher steps out of the hoop, SILENCE! This is great for very young children. It allows them to explore a new-to-them instrument, and helps to develop attention and self-control. For older students, this could be an opportunity to improvise in a safe environment (everyone is doing it and no one is listening to you.) Once they get the hang of it, I call on volunteers to be the “conductor.” The kids LOVE being in charge, stepping or jumping in and out of the hoop. Similarly, this works for inner hearing. The students sing a known song. When the teacher/conductor is inside the hoop, the class sings out loud.  When they step out of the hoop, the class sings “inside their head.” It is great to hop in and out of the hoop a couple of times to see if they are truly continuing the song internally.


So how have you used hoops like these? I would love to expand my milage with these great props. Please, share with us!


Butterfly Rhythms: ta, ta-ti (ti-ti), and rest

April 19, 2013

I had acquired a number of foam pieces shaped like butterflies on a visit to my local the dollar store. I had a couple of different ideas of how I might use them, but just didn’t feel very happy with any of it. They sat in the extra bedroom languishing until about a week and a half ago.  I was doing some last minute lesson planning and needed a quick opening activity that I could also use during the next class for learning centers. I also wanted a way to see if individuals in my kindergarten and 1st grade classes were able to identify patterns of rhythms.  As Spring is finally upon us in New Jersey, I decided the butterflies had found their time.

I took eight butterflies and, using a permanent marker, wrote a four beat rhythm pattern across the shape. For Kindergarten I made a set using quarter notes and eighth notes. The 1st grade set included the same rhythms, plus quarter rest. I had this grand idea of getting a butterfly net and asking the kids to “capture” the butterfly I performed.  As with many grand plans, practicality won the day. Hence, Bop the Butterfly was born.


Bop the Butterfly, a rhythm identification game

•Place the rhythm butterflies on the floor or on a table, randomly spread out.
•Choose one student to be the “entomologist” or “lepidopterist.” Give them a mallet.
•The “expedition leader” (at first the teacher, but later on a student) reads one of the rhythm patterns aloud.
•The “lepidopterist” needs to search/hunt for the correct butterfly. They can “bop” the butterfly by tapping it with the mallet.
•The “lepidopterist” can ask their assistants (the rest of the class) for helpful hints. (ie. “It starts with a ta.” “It is near the door.”)
My students loved this activity.  It is so simple, yet effective. In fact, during the next class the students had a chance to play Bop the Butterfly as part of learning centers. They took turns being the expedition leader. Some groups even made the game competitive by seeing who could discover the butterfly first.  Just last night my school held a curriculum fair for the families. I included Bop the Butterfly at my table. The children taught their parents how to play.  Many were impressed to see the children playing together, reading and identifying the rhythms.
Check out my TeacherPayTeachers store to download the game and rhythm cards for FREE! While you are there, check out the other items I have created.  There aren’t that many right now, but I would love to hear what you think.
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