Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seventy Six Trombones Led The Big Parade

I love a good parade!  And this Memorial Day weekend there were tons!  There is so much movement involved in a parade even if you don't see a single dance step. 

Here is what I saw:
  • People walking in unison
  • People keeping a specific formation
  • A group following a leader
  • A group focusing on their spatial relationships
Here are other things I saw:
  • Flags, banners, hats, instruments 
  • Waving, smiling, marching, skipping, hand holding, hugging, clapping
  • Pictures being taken, posing, freezing ( in a shape for a picture)
 Create Your Own Parade!
  1. Make banners, hats or flags:  Decide what your parade is celebrating.  Maybe it is the end of the year party, the arrival of warm weather, a big dance achievement like everyone remembering to go to the bathroom before class.  It does not matter.  However, have the kids decide.  They will have a much bigger sense of ownership surrounding the parade.  Once, you have decided then create your banners, hats or flags.  These are great props!
  2. Create instruments: Fill Tupperware with rice or pasta and shake to your hearts content. Empty tissue boxes with rubber bands around them make great string instruments, and let's not forget the old standby - pots, pans and cooking spoons!
  3. Decide on your Pathway:  Are you going to walk in straight lines, curves or in angles?  Will you turn around at some point? 
  4. Decide on how you will move through the space: Will you walk, skip, jump, turn, gallop or spin in your parade?  Will you follow a leader, move in unison as a group or move as a group doing your own thing?
  5. Take a picture:  Come up with a few poses or shapes before the parade starts.  Then when you say "picture please" have the kids get into their shapes!  Either take real pictures or pretend to with a big gesture.
  6. Have a real parade!  Once all the different variables are worked out, have real parade.  Invite parents to line up against the walls, or see if your class can parade through the halls of the school.  Parents, see if you can create a parade in your neighborhood or invite some neighbors to stand outside their houses and wave!
There is always something to celebrate.  And every celebration is better with a few trombones or better yet a few pots and pans!

Have fun parading about with the children in your life!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head

I love the rain.  And it has been raining a lot in the northeast.  A lot might be an understatement.  It has been raining every day!  I hear many people complaining that they can't wait for the sun to come out or they are so tired of the gloomy weather.  I sympathize with how they feel.  I also see all this rain as a learning opportunity!

The next time it rains have your kids/students lie on the floor.  Turn the lights off.  Ask them to listen closely.  Ask them to concentrate on what they hear.  Do this for a few minutes.  Ask them what they heard.  Write down their answers. (The more descriptive the better.)

Have them look out the window. Ask them to focus on the rain.  What does it look like if you focus far away?  What does it look like up close?  How does it look on the window.  Again, write down what they say.

Ask them what rain feels like.  ( If you have an opportunity to take them outside or open a window that would be great but not necessary. They can remember what it feels like as well.)  What does it feel like on your nose, tongue, hands, feet?  Write down their answers.

Ask them what rain tastes like.  (Again they can draw on past experiences.)  Ask them about the temperature of the rain as well.  Write down what they tell you.

Does rain have a smell? If so, what does it smell like? Record their answers.

This exercise works on the children's observation skills.  They are challenged to explore with all of their senses.  We take in so much of the world with our eyes.  It is great to take in our surroundings with the other senses as well.

Ask them to dance using their observations as inspiration.  Have the rain be their orchestra!

Keep this exercise up your sleeve for a rainy day.  Instead of asking the students to stop looking outside at the rain, encourage them to do so.  Encourage them to be aware of their surroundings and how their surroundings effect them.

Have fun with the little ones in your life exploring the world with all of their senses!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Puppy Dog Tails

Have you ever tried to teach your students/children about their bottoms?   What I mean of course is the bottom of their spines.  We have a top (our heads) and a bottom (our tails).  Kids have an easier time moving and leading with body parts they can see.  How can you teach them about their tails -by making tails of course!!

Three Different Ways to Make Tails
  1. Draw tails out of paper.  Have the kids cut out the tails and color them.  Tape them to their leotards or clothes and have them explore how they can make the tail move.
  2. Collect old stockings or tights.  Cut them down the middle and stuff them with stuffing/toilet paper (anything that will give it a shape.)  Pin, tape, glue or sew them on the children's leotards and have them explore moving with a tail.  This type of tail will have more swing!
  3. Take scarves and pin/sew/ glue them on - and create a bottom dance.
Make sure when applying the tail that it is by the end of the spine. (Don't tie it to the children's waists or near their waist.)

To make it even MORE fun have the children explore their heads and tails!

Heads and Tails
  1. Create ears!  Buy some headbands.  Have the children color and cut ears out of paper.  It can be cat, dog, elephant, tiger ears - what ever they like.  It can match their tails or not.  Tape them to the head bands and let the children explore how their heads can create and lead movement. ( You can also try attaching the ears to clips or bobby pins.)
  2. Now add the tails.  How can the children dance moving their heads and tails toward each other and away from each other.  Can they move their heads and tails to the right, to the left, up and down?
Read Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The wild things in the book have tops that don't match their bottoms.  See if you can create elephant ears with a monkey tail.  How would this animal move?  What about cat ears with a bird tail?  What about puppy dog ears with a fisth tail?  Have a wild rumpus.  The sillier the better!

Exploring movement with themes and props/costumes can help children visualize what they can not see!

Have fun shaking, wiggling and swinging your tail with the children in your life!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Lean on Me!

In honor of Mother's Day I would like to share with you a story, a song and an activity. 

First the story:
A few days after writing my blog post in March my mother, who has multiple scelrosis, became quite ill.  Through the care of doctors, support from family and friends and my mother's strength, tenacity, positive thinking and willingness to work hard, she is on the road to recovery. 

Mothers never stop teaching and I learned a lot about my mom, about myself and the role I play as a mom and teacher through observing my mom as she fought back from her illness.  We learn by watching others not only when they know we are watching but more importantly when they don't.  My mom greets each new day with a song and a smile and I now do the same!

Second the song:

The power of music and song was instrumental in my mom's recovery.  Song and music enabled my mom as well as my family to express through music what we could not say in words.   Sometimes we needed the right song to start a dialogue, to share feelings or to start a dance.

Lean On Me

(Songwriter: Bill Withers)

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tommorow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand (Chorus)
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on


If there is a load you need to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

I heard this song when I was driving home from visiting my mom.  I started to sing a long with the radio and by the time I reached my destination I was singing at the top of my lungs.  (and I do not sing like a songbird!)

Last but not least the dance:

For me, music and dance are intertwined. I hear music and see the dance. So here is the activity that will hopefully inspire you and your little ones to dance!  Read your students the lyrics  to the song Lean on Me or have them listen to the song.

Ask your students:
  • What does it mean to lean on someone?
  • How can you support someone with your body?  (hold hands, lift someone, lean on them, smile, dance for them, dance with them, carry them, etc.)
  • Can you create a dance showing these ideas?
This exercise promotes problem solving, creativity, working together, music appreciation and dance making!

Have fun with your little ones exploring what "lean on me" means to them and to you too!