Birkdale, the Fun House

Another great day at what should be called The Fun House. And that was very evident as we sang “Put Your Finger in the Air,” “Alice the Camel,” “I Shut the Door,” “Corner Grocery Store,” and marched to “Hurry, Hurry, Drive That Fire Truck.” There was excellent participation when we responsively sang “Funga Alfia.” All were fascinated by the Jaw Harp, and as usual the parachute produced squeals of delight. There were two new children and one new adult in the group today, joining six children and four adult returnees. Looking forward to seeing the results of the children’s efforts at the concert on Sunday when the mural quilt they made is unveiled.

Reunion at Robertson House

I was reunited with several participants this week and it was good to see some familiar faces!

The group seemed excited to begin, so after singing The Hello Song, I covered a bunch of songs including a new one appropriately titled What Are You Wearing? To help introduce the song I went around the room asking each child to name one colour that they were wearing. It was nice to have some of the older participants assist the younger ones in naming what colour their shirt/sock/sweater was. Following we sang through The Wheels On The Bus, Little Red Wagon, Old MacDonald, Sleeping Bunnies and The Ants Go Marching. 

To help focus I used both Roll The Ball and The Bean Bag activity this week. Both were successful in channeling the somewhat rambunctious energy of the group. It also gave me a chance to connect one-on-one with participants who seemed a bit more shy than usual today.

For the Instrument of the Week I decided to bring an instrument known as the Agogo. After demonstrating how to make two different sounds (both using the mallet inside the bell and tapping it on top of the bell) we stood on our feet and did a movement activity swaying our hips side to side and we marched around the room to one of my favourite songs, Sauvemente, performed by Elvis Crespo. It was fun to see how differently we all move and express ourselves while dancing to music and it sounded wonderful alongside the Agogo. 

Jam time was spent singing a couple of our favourites including Hot Hot Hot and Jamaica Farewell. The use of repetition week to week has seen everything come full circle here, and most, if not all of the grownups were singing the majority of the words with confidence.

We finished class with the parachute and The Goodbye Song which was met with more participation than ever before. I stayed a bit longer than usual after class today helping to hand out snacks and chat with the grownups. Many said that this was the best part of their week and hearing that always makes me feel lucky to do the work that I do.

Picture Day

Today was picture day, but most of the children didn’t seem to know, or care, which will make for some great candid shots! We had a few less people, but had just as much fun. We didn’t have anyone new, but there has been one adult and child who have attended every week. All told, eight children and five adults sang “I Have a Belly Button,” “Tickle Song,” “Everybody Knows That I Love My Toes,” and, “10 Little Fingers.” They also had fun bobbing up and down with “What Are You Wearing?” and marching to “Mama Don’ Allow/When the Kids Go Marching In.” Some of the children showed excellent timing on the chime bars, our instrument of the week. The mothers were really rocking on the tambourines during the jam session as we sang “Jamaica Farewell.” A personal thank-you I received from one mother on the way out the door shows how much the programme is appreciated.

An Introduction to RSF

Something interesting happened at Robertson House this week. Each mom who attended class was brand new! I did not see any familiar faces. Most of the staff were attending a meeting, so I was on my own by way of making introductions and explaining the details of the program. I realized that I was going to have to offer lots of encouragement and direction throughout the class due to the shy personalities on hand, and so as I handed out lyric sheets I made sure everyone understood what was expected of them. The majority seemed excited, while a few took some time to come around.

We started with the basics which included Roly Poly, I Wake Up My Hands, If You’re Happy And You Know It, The Wheels On The Bus, Little Red Wagon, Old MacDonald, Six Little Ducks, Little Green Frog and Ants Go Marching. We were able to try Rolling The Ball which was met with some success and I made sure to reiterate to the grownups from time to time that singing along was the most important thing to do, even if they felt like they didn’t know the words or melody.

For the instrument of the week I was glad I had decided to bring along the Cabasa, which is a very easy instrument to play for someone with little to no experience. It is 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 handle. It provides a metallic, rattling sound when shaken or twisted, similar to the sound of a rattlesnake. I showed the grownups how to hold their child’s hand against the bottom of the cylinder and twist the handle round and round to make a ch, ch, ch, ch sound. We then sang Clean-O, scrubbing all the different parts of the body.

For the jam I sensed the need to lighten things up a little more and taught them the actions and corresponding rhythms to one of my favourite jam songs, Hot! Hot! Hot! I saw lots of smiles, and even some dancing, so it was successful in bringing the group a little closer together. We finished with the parachute, shaking it out to my new favourite recording of Soul Man performed by Sam & Dave.

I am hopeful that some, if not all, of the moms return with their children next week, as I did sense a good time was had by all!

Singin’ Away Winter Blues

The nursery that we gather in at Jessie’s Centre has a number of windows that let in a great deal of warm sunshine. However, today’s gloomy weather brought us no sun. We certainly didn’t let that get us down, though! Perhaps because we had some really lovely and engaged mamas, or perhaps because it’s Valentine’s Day and there was a little extra love felt in the room, our class today was anything but cold and blue; it was ripe with warmth and decorated with Valentine love!
Our group was fairly small today due to a number of babies who were napping, but we sang with gusto just the same! The young women in our circle were eager to sing and play, use sign language, and get down with some wonderful rhythms. We learned how to use claves today and our moms were instant experts in manipulating the claves to provide a sharp, vibrant, beat to go along with the song Some Like it Hot. We also worked a lot on sign language for some animals: rooster, cow, cat and pig. This was especially helpful while singing The Rooster Song. All in all, today’s class was one of our most active and exciting. Looking forward to doing more with rhythms and sign language next week!

Going to the Zoo!

It was a special week at Robertson House as we celebrated Animal Week! This is a special theme week devoted to singing all of our favourite animal songs.

There are many to choose from so I decided to keep things simple and start of with The Turtle Song and Old MacDonald which allowed us to review some familiar song material while warming up our voices. I was working with a very excited, yet focused, group of participants today, so we were able to cover a lot of songs, some of which were new, including Johnny Didn’t Have Any Breakfast, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Six Little Ducks, Sleeping Bunnies, and The Ants Go Marching.

We also Rolled The Ball and followed that activity with Passing The Bean Bag. It was a real delight to see how each child could pass the bean bag and attempt to keep the beat WHILE sharing with their neighbor. Quite the multi-tasking activity!

I brought along three Wooden Frogs from Thailand for the Instrument of the Week and demonstrated how to use the instrument by rubbing the mallet along the spine to make a ribbit sound. It was fun to illustrate that as the frog shrinks in size the pitch changes, going up higher and higher. The baby frog was clearly the favourite as it made its way around the room pausing at each child for longer than the last.

After putting the frogs back in the pond, we went to the zoo (Going To The Zoo) for the jam session and saw all sorts of animals there including crocodiles, elephants, ducks, owls, bats, monkeys and black bears. We also went Down In The Valley taking all the instruments high up above our heads on the line “Rise, Sally Rise.”

We finished off with the parachute, and once we put it away someone from the staff yelled out “Ohhhh, are we done ALREADY?!” I laughed out loud and thought it was fabulous that the newest staff resident enjoyed the class so much. He assured me that he would return the next week and encourage more moms to attend with their little ones. I loved this enthusiasm and hope to see him and all my friends again next week for another amazing class!

Josh visits Jessie’s Centre

Most of the group was made up of newcomers to the RSF music program. We started with a quick explanation of what to expect and how to participate. Then we jumped right in with some singing and moving. I brought out my turtle puppet as well as the wooden frog which was passed around and accompanied by frog songs. We finished off with a rockin’ jam session and sang You are my sunshine as the great snow fell outside.

Animal Week at Birkdale

At RSF we had a farm — lots of wildness at Birkdale, and that’s not counting the animals. Six adults and eight children sang, laughed, danced, and clapped to a variety of songs on a trip through the animal kingdom, including, “Poor Little Bug on the Wall,” “Two Little Blackbirds,” “BINGO,”  “Six Little Ducks,” “Five Little Monkeys,” and “Sleeping Bunnies”.  A great benefit was to see how singing animal songs got the children talking about their favourite animals. Also, having two new adults and one new child at the session was wonderful. On the other end, three children have been there every week, and two adults have been there four of the five weeks. Finally, after not wanting anything to do with me last week, my hugger was back at it this week at the end of class. This time though, the child returned to their mother more easily. Children. Go figure.

Singing Makes You Hungry

This week I was excited to see some familiar faces and catch up with some residents from the previous session. They explained that they haven’t attended class this session because they have been busy preparing their families to move out in the coming weeks. Even though I will be sad to see them go, I realize that this is part of the journey as an RSF teacher. I also met a new resident who seemed quite nervous and shy. I noticed that her young boy was upset and crying so, after introducing myself, I showed him a turtle puppet that I had brought along. I showed him how to hide the turtle deep inside his shell and peek-a-boo on the count of 1… 2… 3… “Peek-A-Boo!” It was nice to see him smile. Other children seemed curious about my animal friend so after The Hello Song I began the class with The Turtle Song.

I kept the animal theme going with a review of Johnny Didn’t Have Any Breakfast and afterwards took an animal-themed boat ride with Row Row Row Row Your Boat, seeing crocodiles and tigers along the way. Keeping things moving with The Wheels On The Bus, I Wake Up My Hands, Shake Your Sillies Out and Zoom Zoom Zoom took some effort on my part, due to the lack of participation and discipline from the grownups (who seemed slightly distracted today,) but I was able to get everyone refocused with one of my favourite activities, Rolling The Ball. They did such a good job that I then brought out the Bean Bag and we practiced keeping the beat as we shared with our neighbour.

It was time for the instrument of the week, and I brought out the Gong with much fanfare. I found an amazing recording of the Chinese Orchestra that I used as background music to set the mood. As we passed the instrument around I had one mom exclaim, “This is so relaxing!” It was music to my ears! After a couple over-zealous gong players decided that it would be a good idea to play the gong as loud as possible, we put it away and brought out the big bag of instruments.

Prepare to get wild

We started with a small but energetic group, and it gradually grew until we had as many people as last week. Within the group were two new mothers and two new kids. To the returnees – thank-you for your support, especially the one mother who has been there for three weeks in a row. They got ready for Animal Week by learning “Crocky Crocodile,” “Little Green Frog,” “Poor Little Bug on the Wall,” and “Two Little Blackbirds.” And, to keep some people happy, we also sang “Sticky Bubblegum.” The children did a great job demonstrating how to play the Tingshaw Bells, and they continue to do an excellent job sharing the instruments during the jam session. Next week is Animal Week.  Time to get wild.