Dancing Merrily Away

The class started off very well with two kids up dancing merrily away.  We sang and clapped through songs that included “Sticky Bubblegum”, “Old McDonald”, “Put Your Finger in the Air”, and “Roly Poly”.  And even though not all the mothers came over to join the group, they could be heard clearly singing back-up to “Twist ‘n’ Shout”.  As usual, the parachute proved to be popular with older and younger alike.

“Let’s Play Pretend!”

There were a couple of new faces at Birkdale this morning, so after some introductions we sang Hello.

We started with the finger chant “My Thumbs”, a new song that practices wiggling each body part one at a time, beginning with the thumbs, arms, toes and finally whole body. I saw a couple big yawns and was feeling a little sleepy myself, so I said to the class “Let’s play pretend and re-wake up all over again!?” This brought about a number of responses like, “tuck me in mom!” and “turn out of the lights!”. It was hilarious to see the kids role play! After waking up, I asked the kids “what should we do next?!”, to which one child yelled out “BRUSH THE TEETH!”. Great answer! We sang “Brush Your Teeth” and hopped on the bus (Wheels On The Bus) to get to “school” on time. Once at school, I asked “what are some of the things we learn at school?” Some of the answers were math, science, writing, reading, days of the week and colours. I took two of those answers and quickly incorporated them into our very own Rainbow Song lesson plan! Together we sang “Days Of The Week” and “What Are You Wearing”.

IOTW was the Cabasa, a percussion instrument that is constructed with loops of steel ball chain wrapped around a wide cylinder. The cylinder is fixed to a long, narrow wooden or plastic handle. The player places his non-dominant hand on the metal chain, to provide pressure, while holding the wooden handle with the other hand and twisting the instrument back and forth as per the rhythmic pattern desired. Another interesting piece of information that I shared with the group is that the Cabasa is frequently used in music therapy, particularly with individuals who have physical/neurological disabilities as it requires minimal hand movement to produce a sound. I taught them all the signs to “Clean-O” and we sang it slowly all together, using the Cabasa to mimic the sound of us scrubbing each body part. It was really fun to hear a new layer of tone color provided by the Cabasa.

We jammed to “Clean-O” to reinforce the learning of the lyrics and signs, and to have an opportunity to pass the IOTW around the circle. Considering how beautiful the weather is today, I was also inspired to sing one of my favourites, “Mr. Sun!” We brought out the parachute and danced around to “Some Like It Hot” and sang goodbye all together. My time at Birkdale is FLYING by! It crazy to think we are about half way through the spring session.

“Ka-shee-shee, say it with me!”

Oh boy, everyone was very sleepy in class today! I think the gloomy weather and allergy season was to blame for the absence of the majority of participants today, however, the rest of us soldiered on and I was VERY excited to sing some new songs with the group today.

We started with a review, singing “Roly Poly”, and “Where Is Thumbkin”. Then I introduced a new finger chant called “One Little Finger”. It focuses on using the whole hand to count to the number 5. We began by tapping the pointer fingers together, then putting them up in the air, down to the ground and in our laps. We did the same with two, three, etc. It was fun to see even the littlest ones trying to find three fingers on each hand. What a challenge! To follow, we woke up all our body parts with “I Wake Up My Hands”. I asked the group to spread their arms out as wide as they could, and taught them another new song called “I Shut The Door”. Once we shut the doors, we pretended to climb the bus steps for “Wheels On The Bus”. (LOTS of non-locomotor movement today!). We took the bus to Old MacDonald’s farm, where I asked the children, “What animals do you see?” Remembering that I had “quizzed” them on animal sounds and signs last week, I wanted to see what they could come up with on their own. Some of the answers were frog, cat, dog, pig, chicken, bird, crocodile, mouse, bug, rooster and cow…WHEW! After singing through ALL the animal verses, we stood up and sang one of my favourite songs, “Elephants Have Wrinkles”. It was a great time for me to assess which children were able to find specific body parts (feet, knees, hips, ears, nose and teeth), and it was nice to stretch our bodies after sitting (and focusing) on the floor for longer than usual.

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I am constantly amazed at what innate and natural rhythm these ladies at June Callwood Center have. They consistently show me that they can pick up the most difficult of rhythms (ie: holding a clave rhythm beat while I demonstrated the guiro rhythm) and they have even amazed me by coming up with their own tambourine and drum rhythms while we are in our jam session. We had a lot of fun today and the energy was REALLY high in the group which made me come alive even more!!

The women were really focused and into the session today. I was thankful for the focus, energy and enthusiasm. We had 8 babies and 10 moms there this week. We are getting consistently higher numbers lately which is really nice as well. We had a new mom and dad with their baby and it was nice having a dads energy in the group.

Dancing in the Cafeteria

We had a lot of fun this week. We worked with rapping and word plays. Having started off with “Boom Chicka Boom”, where the group repeats after me in a variety of different voices and ways. We headed into a few songs before standing up and doing the “Monkey” and the “Freeze”. I brought out the Guiro (a percussion instrument with ridges that you scrape). As usual the instrument made its way into everyone’s hands.

We had children and mothers with 1 to 3 staff in the room with us. Our regular location was unavailable due to a staff meeting in our regular space so we set up our program in the cafeteria. As a result, we started promptly at 6:30 as many of the participants had just finished their supper and were ready and waiting.

The energy is wonderfully boisterous. I find I have to change gears and move onto new activities quite quickly to keep the children engaged.

Practice Makes Better

I was looking forward to repeating a couple of songs and activities this week; mainly the Meringue movement portion of the class.

After singing the “Hello Song”, we practiced counting and clapping to “Clap Clap Clap Your Hands” and woke up all our body parts with “I Wake Up My Hands”. Using the hands, we rolled ’round and ’round to break down the opposite actions to “Roly Poly”. It was amazing to see that ALL the children knew the words and were able to sing along, further developing their small motor locomotive skills. One little girl yelled out “What about Hands Together, Hands Apart? It has opposites too!” It was awesome to see them make the connection between opposites in both the songs.

I decided to repeat a couple of animal songs from last week. First thing was to review animal sounds, so I made a bunch and asked the children yell out the answers; pig, cat, chicken, dog, duck, cow, etc. Then we sang “Old MacDonald”, using the sounds to reinforce the learning. I then asked the group “What sound does a frog make?” After hearing some “ribbit ribbit”, I asked the group, “How does the frog move from lily pad to lily pad?” One of the older children demonstrated leaping up and down, and encouraged the younger participants to try. Some of the moms/shelter workers were laughing SO hard that it was hard to get through the “Little Green Frog”.

Standing up, we practiced bending the knees and swaying our hips side to side. I put on the Meringue track and we dancing around for the duration of the song (marching in a circle, socials – in towards to the middle and back out again, turning on the spot, etc). Then, I brought out a pair of Clave Sticks and the Agogo and again demonstrated how to play different rhythms (both beginner and more advanced). I made sure to hand each instrument to a grownup and encouraged the grownups to share with their neighbor. I realize that because the children are so enthusiastic, the grownups sometimes miss out on the IOTW, and its important for them to have an opportunity to imitate and improvise on the instrument independently. Then, I brought out the Jam Bag and we sang “All De’ Nations” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

After a loud and rather demanding request for the parachute (they know who they are! LOL), I played a couple of Latin tracks and we practiced shaking the parachute up and down, and all around! It is always fun to lie down all together and look up at the colorful sky. Some kids wanted to cuddle and hug under the parachute, which I find SO sweet!

Singing goodbye was uneventful and yet some of the children were rather upset that the class was over! It is always flattering when this happens, but I had to help dry and few tears and give some reassuring hugs that I would return next week; same time, same place!