Saturday, August 4, 2012

Music, Movement, and Herding Cats...

In about a week I will be celebrating the one year anniversary of moving from Arizona to Long Island, NY. I spent the past year as a  K-2 music sub followed by being a music curriculum writer at the same school for a few months. And then, God bless them, they decided to keep me. The charter school at which I worked is opening a 2nd campus which will copy the programs in the original school and I will be the K-1 music teacher this year. (Starts with 2 K and 2 first grade classes. A grade will be added each year till school is K-5). Students at this charter school get music every day, but to fill my schedule so I can be full-time I will also be teaching separate movement classes throughout the week.

Having no idea what my schedule will be like this year and having not seen my classroom yet (They're still renovating the space), I am both really excited and slightly anxious. How long will these movement classes be? How often? Please, God, tell me movement time will not be tacked on to the end of the already ridonkulously long 1 hour music class for the kinder and 1st grade kiddies who have the attention spans of gnats to start with! The principal says the room is really big and has lots of storage, but "big" to a principal and big to a music teacher who needs space for kids to move around without killing one another can be two completely different things.

So anyway...I have movement on my mind right now. So, I'm inspired to include some movement-oriented activities in the blog this time. Any music teacher will tell you that teaching kindergarteners at the beginning of the school year is a little akin to herding a large group of cats. So, I'm going to share some of movement activities that I often use to get the youngest students moving, and that also help teach body control and classroom management at the same time.

One of the first things I work on with young students is their ability to stop and start any given movement, and the ability to move in their own self space without hitting those around them. Students in my classes get an assigned seat, either a square on the carpet or a velcro number on which to sit, which helps to confine the area in which they can move (feet must stay in your square or on your number). I always begin with non-locomotor movement first, of course.

I usually begin the year, and continue throughout the year, with students copying teacher beat movements and I follow the sequence by Phyllis Weikart as far as what types and difficulties of motions I use and then progress through. After much practice with simple beat movement follow the leader, I move to various other activities. I made these body beat cards- head, shoulders, clap, waist, pat, stomp- to use with my classes (Find the whole set of cards in PDF form on my web page, linked at the right).

These cards can be used in many ways. Before beginning I always go through the cards in order (Head to feet or feet to head, not jumping around) and ask students to show me where they would put the beat if I show them that card. Then I play recorded music with a strong beat and show one card at a time, only switching with long phrases or chunks of the song to the next card. Students may not talk throughout. I make a big joke of catching students who are in "la la Land" and don't switch movement when the card changes. On another day I instruct that we will do the same, but when students see that all cards are down, they must stop all motion and freeze like a statue until a new card is shown. Again, I joke that I "tricked" some students who don't stop immediately when cards go down, or forget to change motions when a card changes. Students are getting lots of beat practice, and learning to follow some basic conducting (stop/start, change motions with phrases).

For further challenge, on another day I ask students what would happen if I showed two cards at once, such as head AND shoulders. "Show me what you would do." Some students naturally show head, shoulders, head, shoulders. Others pat head with one hand and shoulders with the other hand. At this point I accept either movement as fine. I worry about refining movements based on Weikart's levels at a later time. Even harder, on another day I switch the order of the motions- if we went top down originally, we go bottom to top. OR I scramble the cards and warn students that I'm being "sneaky" and trying my hardest to trick them.

This seems like such a simplistic, non-locomotor movement that students might get bored. However, I have found that because one level of difficulty is added on at a time (there's something new happening), students do fine. Also, some good old music teacher acting and dramaticism and a healthy dose of "I bet I'm going to trick you!" and "You are so smart. I can't believe you did it!" go a long way in encouraging enthusiasm. If the teacher is bored or BORING, the students will react in kind.  :-)

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