Archive for the ‘Movement’ 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!


Reflections on Valentine’s Day

February 21, 2014

I am not a big Holiday In the Music Room person. Most of my career has been in schools where I only saw the kids once per week. To teach holiday themed songs and activities, I would spend the entirety of the month living Halloween or Thanksgiving.  While I adore the holidays, I never found a way to make this work without having it impact my curriculum in a negative way.

I am now teaching in a school where I see the students twice a week. I have been slowly, and judiciously, adding in holiday themed activities. With Valentine’s Day now a week behind us, I thought it was a good time to reflect on what worked (despite too many snow days to count.)

Last year I wrote a short little Valentine’s Day song that would work with a solfege identification activity I was planning to implement. It is very adaptable and can be used at just about any grade level, for both rhythmic and melodic assessment. Click on the image to see a larger, easily readable version of the song.

Hello, Valentine!

Melodic Identification:  The students enter the room to find hearts scattered around the floor. The hearts are about 6-12″ wide and have four beat phrases written on them with stick notation. Below the rhythms are the solfege pitches. The students take a seat and sing the song. When the song ends, I either sing or play a four beat melody that matches one of the hearts. The students must stay on their rug spot and try to find the matching heart. If it is located near them (their bottom does not have to leave the floor in order to reach the heart) then they can hold it up.   The song is in do-pentatonic, so any pattern with those pitches works well.

Rhythm Reading: I found a really cute “musical hearts” activity on Pintrest. It was basically just musical chairs while stepping on heart shapes, but I knew there had to be a way to make it educational. I found packs of 35 foam hearts at Target about a week before the holiday. On each heart I wrote a four beat rhythm pattern. Each pack came with four different colored hearts. This worked out great, as I color coded the patterns: aqua (quarter note, quarter rest, eighth notes, half note, and sixteenth notes); yellow (added ti-tika, eighth-two sixteenth); pink (added tike-ti, two sixteenth-one eighth); and purple (added syncopa.) My third graders each stood on a heart. As we sang the song, the kids walk around the circle, stepping the beat. When the song ended, they all read the rhythm pattern on which they stood. We did a few rounds where all kids read their pattern at the same time, then we did rounds where I called on specific students. This was a great way to very quickly assess their rhythm reading!

Rhythm ID: I created a rhythm clip chart with some super cute clip art I found on TpT. There are four patterns on the page, with a different color background behind each pattern. We first practiced each pattern. I would chant, “Read the yellow pattern please!” (or whichever color I wanted them to read.) Then the challenge began. We sang the song. I then sang, “Which pattern do you hear?” on so and mi. I performed one of the patterns from the card on my recorder. The students had to identify which pattern I performed and clip a clothes pin next to it. I was easily able to look around and assess who was correct.

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None of these ideas are terribly original or revolutionary, but I wanted to show how adaptable one song can be. Since the children learned the song this year I will really only need to review it next year. I did each of the activities with a different grade level, so the students will have a new musical challenge next February.

How have you made a song work for multiple activities and/or grade levels? How have you managed to fit in the holiday festivities without sacrificing concentrated curriculum?


Loud and Soft

February 9, 2014

In early childhood music class, we focus on exploring opposites in music: fast/slow, high/low, and loud/soft.  These are concepts that very young children can easily experience, demonstrate, and identify.

One of my students’ favorites is exploring soft and loud. We sing lullabies and talk about what might happen if you sang it too loudly. “The baby would wake up!” “He would start to scream!” (You can definitely tell which kids have little babies at home.)  We sing the song “Bye Lo, Baby, Oh” and rock our arms, as though cradling a baby. This helps to develop an internal sense of the beat, as well. This year, the song has a greater meaning for the kids as I am visibly pregnant. They love the idea that their song will be sung to my baby one day soon. Since the song only uses so and mi, we are able to explore high and low pitch. (I do so love when a song provides so many learning opportunities!)

Bye lo baby oh

Once we have talked about soft and loud, and what is appropriate for a lullaby, I share this gorgeous book with the students. They are transfixed by the illustrations as I sing All the Pretty Little Horses. The haunting melody is one of my favorites. It is so gratifying when you finish and the students start calling out, “Again! Again!”


The students are now ready for one of the best Sesame Street videos around. I have to admit to not being a big fan of Elmo. Sorry, that little red guy really gets on my nerves. That being said, when paired with Rick Gervais, I just have to giggle. This is such a great example of loud and soft, and exactly why we sing lullabies gently.

My husband, also an elementary school music teacher, shared a great extension activity with me for loud and soft. He tells the story of a great castle. If it is close to Halloween, he might say it is haunted. The students are going to explore the castle, but they don’t want anyone to know they are there. They must be VERY quiet! He puts on “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg and the students begin to tiptoe around the rug. At the end of each phrase, during the rest in the melody, the students put their fingers to their lips and shush each other. As the music gets louder and faster, so do the students! After the activity we sit and discuss what happened. I don’t talk about it beforehand. It is so much more powerful for them to experience it in their bodies!

What do you do to explore loud and soft? Do you have any go-to songs or activities?

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