Animal Week visit with Josh

This week Jessica was unable to make it to class, so I got the privilege of stepping in.  We have been doing animal themed classes all week at Rainbow Songs and this class was no exception.  I brought in a variety of puppets and animal shaped musical instruments and we sang songs about animals big and small.  Highlights included passing around the wooden frogs while singing “Little Green Frog”, “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” and “Joy to the World”  (Jeremiah was a bullfrog).  We got everyone moving to the groove of “5 Little Monkeys” and “Sleeping Bunnies”. Some of the prenatal moms came and everybody seemed to really enjoy our Animal themed class.

Listen to the Water

Today we focused on some animal themed songs as I am beginning to teach them some new material. Teaching new songs can be a challenge but “Little Green Frog” was a big hit with both the moms and babies! I demonstrated the Ocean Drum and we sang “Listen to the Water” while we passed it around. Everyone was mesmerized by the wave sounds that we all created and it calmed everyone right down. It was fun watching the moms and children all staring up at the bottom of the drum watching the tiny ball bearings run from one side of the drum to the other as they shifted the drum from side to side. This was the most focused and quiet I have ever seen the class!

We are in our last music class of the winter term. Today we had 6 babies and 7 moms (1 prenatal mom). I am happy to see a lot of familiar faces returning each week.

Clap Your Hands and Sing 1, 2, 3!

There was only one little girl there at 6:30, so the shelter worker took me upstairs to bring the children and their moms down. I led a musical procession to the room where the program takes place. By 6:45 the room was very full with both children and their moms. We had 17 children and 12 mothers in attendance with 1 to 2 staff members throughout the program.

This week we worked a bit with counting. The children were encouraged to sit in a circle while we counted to a beat. We then sang “Clap your Hands and Sing 123”. Eventually, the instrument of the week (ie. The Triangle) was revealed and each child had an opportunity to play the triangle, and ring the firebell while we sang “Hurry Hurry Drive the Firetruck”. We finished off with a great jam session and the parachute.


I was very excited to try a new movement activity in class today using an instrument called the Agogo. I decided to combine this with last week’s lesson on the clave sticks, and so as I set up the room and tuned my guitar, I made sure to prepare the group by saying “we are going to be doing a lot of dancing today, so get your dancing shoes ON!”

One thing that stood out to me today was that many of the children sang the “Hello Song” loudly and with confidence. It was wonderful to hear! I also noticed that singing the “Hello Song” takes longer and longer each week because we have more children and moms joining us. Word is spreading that Rainbow Songs is a GOOD time, so more and more people are joining us week to week. WOO!
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All Da’ People Sing Together

Upon my arrival at Birkdale this morning, I was surprised to see a line up of families outside the Family Resource Centre. They were waiting for the centre to open at 9:30 am and judging by the hugs and hellos, were very excited about starting class. YES! My friend and shelter worker Anne Marie made an announcement over the P.A. system, and as I set up and tuned my guitar, several familiar faces strolled into the room. The best part?!? LOTS of moms!! Woo!!

We started by counting our fingers and chanted “I Have Ten Little Fingers”. I decided to try a new song called “Two Bad Ants” and it went over really well with this group. Each verse was different (soft, LOUD, s l o w, and fast) and resulted in quite the giggle-fest. We then took both the left and right hands for the tune Some Like It Hot (clearly a favourite for this group…I hadn’t done it in a few weeks). We cleaned up our porridgy mess with Bath Time and then woke up all our body parts with I Wake Up My Hands and If You’re Happy And Your Know It. Taking the hands ’round and ’round, we sang Roly Poly, which led perfectly into ‘Roll The Ball’. Making sure to get some movement into the body, we stood up and hopped all aboard the Rainbow Song train (I’ve Been Working On The Railroad). This time I decided to use the entire room, weaving the train around various tables and chairs. The group was quite focused today and this was a challenge they could meet while singing loudly and moving around at the same time. We sat down in a circle and I brought out the IOTW. The CLAVES!

I told the group that the train had taken us all the way to CUBA where the CLAVES are originally from. I taught them the 5 beat clave rhythm and corresponding song All De’ Nations. Because this song requires a lot of interaction, I focused on the grownups, asking them each to think of a warm place where bananas grow. Each grownup had their own verse and here I saw something wonderful happen. Each woman seemed to have a twinkle in their eye when they yelled out “Antigua”, “Zimbabwe” etc. Then some excitedly began telling stories or singing melodies about where they were from. It was amazing to see the connection that was forming between them and their children as they were singing a song that they felt a apart of. It is a little hard to explain, but I am sure you can picture the group as I see them: 12 moms sitting together, laughing and singing with their children, kissing them, holding them and using the hands to keep the tricky beat. We were very successful with this, so when I asked them to change the lyric to “All De’ Children Like Bananas”, it was a piece of cake! We went all the way around the circle, making sure each child had their own verse. I will definitely be repeating this song for the next several weeks (along with Some Like It Hot).

We took the Jam to Jamaica and sang “Jamaica Farewell”. I showed them how to use the maracas on the additional lyric “forward, back, back”, encouraging a little bit of rhythmic imitation, and was surprised to see that not many people knew the words…so again, this song will be repeated next week. We ended with the parachute and unfortunately two children started to cry (knowing that class was coming to an end), and even though I didn’t want them to cry, I was happy to know that this is something they look forward to each week. And I must not lie, I ALWAYS go over in terms of time (maybe by about 10 minutes or so) because, I too, am having WAY too good of a time to stop! Until next week…

Monkeying Around (Ooh Ooh Ooh, Ah Ah!)

We started off by sitting in a circle with the “itsy bitsy spider” and “Bath time”. But we quickly got up and started moving around to a train themed medley of “Down by the Station” and “Working on the Railroad”. Soon afterwards, we got into working on the traditional clave rhythm. We started out by making monkey sounds to the beat and dancing to “5 Little Monkeys”. And then returned to our circle to clap it and drum it out on the floor. We played through some familiar songs which share the clave rhythm including “Bo Diddley” and “Alice the Camel”. The children did a wonderful job at passing around and sharing the clave.

The children are bursting with excitement. So, my main goal is to focus that energy into something we can all do together.

Hello Spring Session!

There were a couple of new faces at Birkdale Residence today, and I was very pleased to see that almost all the moms chose to stay and participate with their children for the entire class. After singing Hello, I decided to see how many children knew the English alphabet, as sometimes this is a good way of observing any language barriers. I assessed quite quickly that almost everyone could sing the entire song quite confidently, so I decided to put a little bit of my newly-discovered Orff training to use and asked the children to keep the beat of the song using different parts of the body. We started with the feet, and then transferred the beat to clapping the hands and to finish, slapping the knees. It was fun to see who had a good sense of beat and so I decided to then focus on something similar; rhythm. Rhythm relies more on the text and so when singing “I Wake Up My Hands,” we experiment with keeping a rhythm on “clap, clap, clap”. In the same way, we then transfer the rhythm to different parts of the body. The group was extremely attentive today (except for one or two children who were slightly more interested in other toys around the space), and so I was encouraged by the amount of participation. We used the hands to sing a familiar song about opposites (“Hands Together, Hands Apart”) and got sticky with “Sticky Sticky Bubblegum” (lots of body part work today!). Realizing that I had never done a song about “getting clean”, I taught the group Bath Time for the first time. I made sure to break down the chorus, showing them all the actions. It was fun to scrub away all the sticky bubblegum. Once we were all cleaned up, I told them we were going on a trip but we needed to take the bus (“Wheels On The Bus”), and when we hadn’t arrived, we sang “Hurry Hurry Drive The Firetruck” to help us get closer to our destination. When they found out we were indeed going to the MOON, we stood up and sang “Zoom Zoom Zoom!”

For the Instrument of the Week, I decided to briefly review the instruments from the Jam Bag (drum, tambourine, maracas). We started with a new jam song, but one I was hoping most of the grownups would know, “Brown Eyed Girl.” It was fairly successful but I found that most grownups did not know the lyrics to the first verse (I will break down the lyrics next week to encourage more participation; that was my error), and we sang two familiar songs to incorporate the instruments a little bit more “Three Little Birds” and “Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

All in all, it was a good starting part, and thank goodness because it felt like the last two weeks were a little crazy! I was happy to see the level of participation go up from the last two weeks and I was most thrilled about the number of moms who stayed and sang with us. I even spoke with one more who recommended a song from Barney! I love when moms throw suggestions my way, because it is a great way to get them engaged. One of the residence staff workers told me they are working hard to encourage the moms to stay, and I think they have been VERY successful thus far!

Upbeat Evening

We had a very upbeat and energetic program. Everyone started moving and shaking right away after the “Hello” song, so we got up and sang a bunch of dance songs including “Wake Up” and the “Hokey Pokey”.  The children were very excited to “Do the Monkey”. This week, I brought out the Chinese Gong as the instrument of the week and the children took turns banging the centre before finishing off with a rocking jam session and parachute shake.