School – Week 6

I Gotta Feeling: Here’s an intervention for some emotion work! I started out with the chorus from the song “I Gotta Feeling” and went around to each student asking how they were feeling that day. For example, “Henry has a feeling / that today is an okay day / that today is an okay day / he’s feeling” Then I had printed out some pictures of emojis that would address a variety of emotions. I had multiple copies of each one so that students could pick the same one as someone else if that’s what matched how they were feeling that day. Then, as you might guess, we played the different emotions on the drum. We talked about how each one would sound, and how that corresponded with our physiological response to emotions (of course, I did not use terminology even remotely close to that, haha). Each person had a chance to solo on the drum to represent their emoji. Then I busted out a blues song that filled in each feeling that the students selected and asked them what they do when they feel that way and put it in the song!

Chord Progressions: So. My hope with this one was that we could do mash-ups as a class one day, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that. Anyway, I started by teaching the students how to build chords. Instead of going into specifics about key signatures and roman numerals, I just taught them how to build them with half steps. I printed out worksheets with pianos on them (just like how I used to draw them on my theory tests), so they could count half steps to make major and minor chords. After we practiced this a little bit, I had them get into groups to make their own chord progressions using C, d minor, e minor, F, G, or a minor. Then they had to write down the note names that would belong in the chords that they chose. It was definitely a challenge to explain to them the concept of chords, and how a C major chord involves multiple notes. I actually talked with Stephenie about how it would’ve been good to have something for them to manipulate, like legos or play-doh to physically stack the notes on top of one another, but I never got around to doing that with them. Now, this intervention lasted a few days. After they made their chord progressions, I wheeled the keyboard into class so they could play them for one another! Since they were in groups, they split up playing the chords so one person didn’t have to play three notes at once. This took some time for them to practice. I also let them choose beats from the keyboard and write short lyrics to rap over what they were playing if they wanted to. Once they had some time to practice, they performed for the class! Always a nice opportunity to talk about respecting others and being a good audience member when their peers are performing in front of everyone.
Credit: This source was very helpful in designing a simplified way to teach chords.

Guess The Song: Some classes had earned days where they got to pick what we did in music the next day. It’s nice to come in with something light and fun every once in a while. This Guess The Song game formatted by decades. I wrote (and colored in) 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and Current on pieces of white paper. I then laid these on the floor and when it was someone’s turn, he or she tossed a crumpled up piece of paper (Ideally it would’ve been a bean bag, but ya gotta improvise sometimes) and whichever decade it landed closest to was the decade that the song selection would be from. I tried to pick very popular ones from each decade. If you would like the list of songs that I used for each decade, leave a comment and let me know! I actually also did a Guess The Song game with number categories. My supervisor found these great large foam dice at Five Below, and the students would roll to determine the level of song I would play. Rolling a 1 would be a Level 1 song, which is one I considered “easy,” and the difficulty increased all the way up to 6. The songs I chose for this game were generally pop songs from the last few years or so.

– Arianna (:


School – Week 5

Music Symbols: This intervention was two-fold, and it has a very education-heavy focus. Just wanted to put that out there right away, haha. So I started by introducing the kids to different symbols in music: whole, half, quarter, and eight notes/rests, treble clef, bass clef, sharp, flat, natural, fermata, crescendo, decrescendo, repeat sign. I brought in sheet protectors with sheets of paper in them to serve as “white boards” for the students to practice drawing the symbols individually. I printed out large copies of the symbols to hold up as a reference for the students. Then after practicing to draw them, we played a game. I bought mini play-doh cartons and we raced to see who could build the symbols with the play-doh the fastest. This ended up being a lot more subjective than I anticipated. Since we were racing, the kids took some shortcuts, so I started prompting them that if it wasn’t done neatly I wasn’t going to count it. I used a very specific procedure for the game to make it as fair as possible that went like this:
1) Everyone crumpled up their play-doh and placed it in the middle of their desk
2) I showed the picture of the symbol we were making for that round.
3) Everyone put their hands up in the air with elbows locked
4) When I said go, the students started crafting the symbol with the play-doh
5) When someone was finished, he/she yelled “done!” which prompted everyone else to stop and put their hands up
6) I went over to check their work — if they were correct, they got a point. If they were wrong, I told everyone to keep working.
Even though, as I said, this is very education-heavy, for the kids who weren’t as fast, some had a hard time coping with not being fully successful each round. I tried to still go around and check people’s work even if they didn’t “win.” I also had some side discussions about how it feels to not win each time and how we can deal with those types of situations.
One adaptation:
– For my younger classes, we didn’t do the game. Rather, I created a checklist with all the symbols (Didn’t do as many with them), so whenever they successfully made a symbol, they got to check it off on their list. A nice, simple incentive for them! I also added the school’s expectations on the checklist, so if they were behaving appropriately, they got reinforced for that also.
Credit: Here!

Musical Masterpiece: Got this idea straight from this source. It’s supposed to facilitate a discussion about acceptance, but it definitely resulted in more conflict than I anticipated. Here’s how I facilitated it: I gave everyone a piece of paper and explained that they were going to start drawing, and then when I paused the music, they would switch pictures with someone else and add something to theirs. What I quickly found out was the students did not want people drawing unwanted things on “THEIR” pictures. In my youngest class, they ended up doing fairly well and instead of just coping with whatever someone else added to the picture, they independently started asking each other what they wanted and they actually complied (for the most part). So I reinforced that and talked about being a good friend with them. Then when I did it with another class, they were not having it. Even when I tried to explain that no one really “owns” the pictures, that everyone is contributing, they still did not want people drawing on theirs. And when someone drew something they didn’t want, they were very upset. I did my best to facilitate this, and some of the students were supporting each other, so we talked about that, but at that point it was hard to bring it back. As soon as that class was over, I started thinking about changes I could’ve made, and here’s what I came up with: Perhaps if I came in with pictures that had different drawings and had them add to them, then they would have less ownership of the pictures. I could even say something like “I need you to help me finish these,” or something. Then from there it might set up the situation better for us to talk about how they each added something different, and maybe it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but that’s okay. Definitely a learning experience from that one.

Boom Chicka Boom: This is another heavily education-focused one. It’s basically using the chant “Boom Chicka Boom” to teach loud, medium, and soft dynamics. I didn’t go into the correct terms for these with my students on this day (forte, mezzo forte, piano). First I taught them the chant, and actually, I had some resistance initially. They basically thought it was lame, haha. But I turned it into a challenge (since some of the lines are a little tricky) to see who could say it, and luckily that brought them back into the activity. So what I did was made each line a different dynamic, and had them hold up index cards with the words “LOUD!” “Medium” and “soft” written on them to match how I played. Then I gave each student a chance to lead and prompted the students to hold up cards to match the leader.
Credit: Hereeeeee.

– Arianna (:

Teen Series #1: Movie Soundtrack

I’ve had some pretty interesting sessions with my teens. Throughout the summer and beginning of fall, I’d been playing around with different ways to build rapport, gain my clients’ trust, and encourage participation. With my specific population, they are very hesitant to actively participate in anything like instrument exploration or play, singing, and even lyric analysis. During the first handful of individual sessions, I couldn’t ask my teens many subjective questions without them shutting down (even “what about this song do you like?”). This really limited what we could do. The following intervention is one of the first ones that yielded active participation and awesome insight from each of my teen clients.

The prompt for this intervention was pretty extensive. I explained that the client was going to act as both the story designer and music director of a movie, and they would be creating a movie soundtrack for a story that they told. I asked them to think about a story that they wanted to tell, and gave them some time to think. I then broke down the process into parts (a storyboard) for the client, so they just focus on one piece of the story at a time. I showed them a visual representation of how the story would go, explained each piece, and drew connections to movies that they know.

The outline I created is as follows:

  1. Introduction of the main character – theme
  2. Event
  3. (Introduction of secondary character)*
  4. Conflict
  5. Event
  6. (Conflict)*
  7. (Event)*
  8. Event
  9. Resolution 

*I added these for one 16 year-old client who is very insightful and ready for more abstract and complex tasks

The actual intervention progressed piece by piece. I would say something like “Okay, so we need to introduce the main character. Tell me about your character.” As the client talked, I wrote down as much as I could. I asked as many follow-up questions as I could think of, including things like “How old is he/she? What does he/she look like? What’s their family like? Where do they live?” I was asking questions for two reasons: 1) I wanted to inform my own decision making process when selecting music for them to choose from, and 2) I knew that the more information I got from the story, the more I’d learn about their needs/wishes/thoughts, etc.

After they had exhausted the piece we were discussing, I would ask what they thought the music should sound like. In the case of the theme music, I would say “How does the music sound when the character first comes onto the screen?” Sometimes the clients would say they didn’t know, and sometimes they’d have an idea or a direction to point me to. This is where I used my own musical training to draw some conclusions. Based on what they had told me about their character and the direction they wanted to go, I would play three pieces from a Spotify Playlist I’d already prepared. I use a categorization system to help, especially as I’ve continued to add music to the playlist (I view it as an ongoing project). Here is an example of my reference sheet:

Happy: First Day (0:50); Eve; Thief

Sad: Angela’s Ashes; Lacrimosa; Message from Home; Katniss; Jacob’s Theme

Conflict: Barracuda; Thrust; Nevsky (1:50); Station Inspector

I have a lot of cross-categories to help me keep track, including: happy, sad, conflict, small event, big event, calm, tense, strings, electronic, atmospheric, etc. I would recommend just creating the categories in a way that helps you; I just used the sheet as a quick reference to make decisions as quickly as possible with the large amount of tracks I have in the playlist.

Note: I used pieces without words only, with the intent of allowing the client’s subjective understanding of emotion to guide us. I recommend that you create your own playlist using pieces from soundtracks that you are familiar with; this makes the categorization easier and  the selection process quicker. 

Together, the client and I would find a piece that suited the piece of their story (in this case, the theme music for the primary character). I used their reactions and an ongoing dialogue to gauge the fit of the piece to their story. For almost each piece, I asked them to close their eyes if they felt comfortable, imagine the character (or piece of the story) they had just described, and let me know if the music matched what they were seeing.

I did this for each part of the storyboard. I would ask them about the next piece of the storyboard, pose as many follow-up questions as possible, ask if they had anything else to add, what they thought the music should sound like, then played three selections for them to pick from. I often had to guide their storytelling, just because sometimes they got ahead into the conflict or next piece, or they’d get off topic, etc. I used the discussion to really hone in on the emotional aspects of the story or character that they wanted to highlight with the music. A lot of what I was doing verbally was trying to help them connect to the emotions the character was feeling, as well as break down the presented problem (conflict) into manageable pieces that could be resolved with music later.

After the client had decided on each piece of music, I put it in order in the playlist and played it back for them. While the music played, I retold their story, using the exact phrases the client and I had used in discussing the story. Afterwards, I started the discussion by asking how well the music fit their story, what they would change if they could, and what the process of matching music to the story (or emotions) was like for them.

There were some interesting things that came out of this intervention. I’ve done it four times, and each time, the main character’s gender matched that of the client telling the story. All four stories had an element of desire in the story; there was a piece, if not the entire story, that really seemed to be something that the client was yearning for. Interestingly, none of the stories were the clients’ own – these were not stories of what they’ve been through. These were stories of what the clients wanted. Only one client was able to realize the importance of the story she was telling and how it reflected her own desires. I could tell that the other clients either weren’t ready to  make that connection or didn’t want to talk about the connection, so we discussed the process of connecting made-up emotions to music instead.

I have found this intervention to be really helpful in building rapport and beginning some of that deeper emotion work. I also found that it influenced my work with the individuals because it helped focus my attention on where they were emotionally, as well as showed me what the clients want moving forward (sometimes it was a big house with a happy family, sometimes it was a happy relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.).


School – Week 4

Steady Beat Game: So I got this freebie TpT and used it with my younger classes to start talking about keeping a steady beat. I pretty much did it as is. With my older classes (4th & 5th graders) I didn’t necessarily show them the pdf, but the younger classes seemed to enjoy the visual and seeing whether they were right or wrong.

Simon Says: I also did this with my younger classes, because the steady beat game wouldn’t necessarily last an entire class period. It’s just like typical simon says, but I give everyone instruments and they have to repeat the short rhythmic phrases that I demonstrate. I also throw in random things like “stand up!” “spin around!” “put your instruments up in the air!” Then I let the kids be Simon. Younger classes generally are really big fans of this one! Great for following directions, obviously haha. And impulse control.

Chief: This is a game I played when I worked at a summer camp. One person is chosen to be the detective, whose role is to figure out who the chief is. The detective goes to stand off to the side with their back to the group. Then someone is chosen to be the chief — make sure you POINT to the kid who’s chief instead of calling their name, because then the detective will hear who it is (I’ve made this mistake tons of times). Everyone in the group follows the chief’s movements, who should change them every so often. We were using body percussion, and I prompted that they all had to keep a steady beat (since that was what we were working on) to make it harder for the detective to figure out who the chief was. The detective has 3 guesses to figure out who the chief is. Then whoever the chief was got to be the detective (if he or she wanted to) and I picked a new chief. I hope that explanation makes sense! I think this would also be cool to do if you had all of the kids with the same instruments — that would just make it a little more musical, and possibly reinforce the “steady beat” concept. Some goals here could be attention to a task/eye contact, following directions, and problem solving skills (how do you figure out who the chief is/how does the chief be as sneaky as possible?)

Find the Beat in the Song: This was the last “level” of my steady beat unit (if you want to call it a unit). I think I only did this with one class. First of all, I knew bringing instruments in would be pretty chaotic. In general, that class is pretty talkative, and just from experience I know how stimulating instruments can be. I can’t bring in 15 djembes, so we had to do some trading. I set up some rules before I handed out the instruments things like: 1) instruments must be quiet in between songs 2) we will be rotating with the instruments, so even if you don’t get what you want the first time, you will likely get it later 3) keep instruments at a reasonable volume. So, I gave them a list of songs to choose from, and I played their choices live while they played along to the song with the instruments, while continually prompting them to find the beat. This was really the main reason I did all this stuff about keeping a steady beat. I like to incorporate instruments, especially when I’m doing songs live, but I’ve noticed my kids don’t necessarily follow along to the beat of the song all the time. They like to do their own thing, which I totally support! However… it sometimes turns into kids getting aggravated at others because they’re disrupting the music. I hoped with this intervention they could improve their skills at playing along with songs. I played a few chords for an intro repeatedly until the group was on the same page, and sometimes in the middle I stopped to help them find the beat. As for the success of this intervention, I’m not too sure how well the concept sunk in. Maybe if I had worked on it longer with them, or even used live music, because I’ll admit that I can’t always keep a perfect tempo. I do hope to do a drum circle unit in the future, so maybe that will practice similar skills!

Pretty instrument-based week for ya!

– Arianna (:

School – Week 3

We are cruisin’ here!

Show & Tell: So, after I finished the AGT intervention with classes, I had the students write at least 3 songs that they would like to share with the class on their X pages that they made. I prompted them to keep it appropriate, but the reason I had them write them down was so I could go listen to them on my own and make judgment calls about whether or not they were, in fact, appropriate. At first, I was just making a playlist of the songs, bringing that in to class, and listening to them with the students, but I found a lot of the kids would just talk over the songs and not be focused. Sure, this brought up a chance to talk about being respectful, but it didn’t always work. So, I revised my plan for future classes. As I listened to each of the songs, I came up with a “challenge” for each one. Some examples are: count how many times the singer says a certain word, ask about a reference the song makes, list all the words that rhyme with something, explain what the song is about, etc. That way, when I played the songs in class, the students had something to focus on during the song, which minimized the talking. I also upped the ante by giving each challenge a certain point value. Whoever got the most points at the end of the class got to choose what we did next class (from a list that I created).

Here’s the list:
1) Have a chill day where we sit and talk while listening to music (Inspired by one of my 8th graders who, when confronted about talking to peers during the songs, said that’s how he usually listens to music – while hanging out and talking with friends. This was actually pretty enlightening, and it made total sense. I only offered this option to my oldest classes. I’m doing it next Monday with a class, so we’ll see how it goes.)
2) The Minute-to-win-it game I described in my post about week 2.
3) Jeopardy
4) Bingo
5) Guess The Song
6) Freeze Dance

I’ll talk about how each of these went in my Week 4 post. (:

Sound Songs: Found this gem on Pinterest and used it with my younger classes. I introduced it by asking them what sounds they could make with their bodies. I wrote down what they said on the whiteboard so they students had a reference point. After completing this with one class, I brought in a model that I had made for the second class to give them an idea of what their end result would be, because me explaining it in words didn’t quite do it for the first class. Make sure you make it clear that you’re going to make a key for the sounds and then write them in the boxes in different patterns. I gave them some time to draw their sound songs, and then at the end of class I let whoever wanted to perform the song for everyone. It was a great opportunity to work on goals such as self-expression, focus and attention to a task, allow for creativity, as well as respect others when they are performing.

Hip-Hop & Self-Expression: This intervention I used with my 8th graders. I created a worksheet that goes through several topics. I start with a condensed history of rap/hip-hop, and then I talk about the changes it has gone through, from being about illuminating issues of injustice, poverty, and being a way to express themselves about the hardships they face, to being about getting money, women, and fame as the influence of the music industry increased. I usually ask what the students think about rap music today and allow for them to be in a position to teach me, because I am definitely open about the fact that I do not know much rap music. I then show a few song clips to demonstrate these points. The songs I use are Not Afraid by Eminem (clean – sometimes even the clean versions are questionable, so I would consider doing this live or not using it if I didn’t think the class could handle it), The Show Goes On by Lupe Fiasco, and Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore. I also include a section on the bottom for them to write their own rap verse. I give them some things to consider (flow, lyric content, etc.) and some space to free write to get the juices flowing. I’ve never had a group actually complete this part, but I usually leave the worksheets if they want to work on it at another time. If you would like a copy of my worksheet, feel free to email us at!

For groups that are really passionate about rap and like to discuss, this is a great option. My students were very chatty that day, but not about this topic. Class ended in a large discussion about giving/getting respect.

Personal Playlists: For this intervention, I start class with a discussion about different places they hear music. Some examples include restaurants, car (radio), tv commercials, stores, video games, the gym, etc. I’ve had some classes come up with some pretty extensive lists. Then I give them a worksheet with 4 boxes on it. I tell them to pick 4 of the places we listed (or anything else they can come up with), and that they are going to make a playlist for that place/activity. A lot of times I’ll use an example like this, “Say you wanted to make the IDEAL playlist for elevator music, what would be on it?” Then, after answering any questions and clearing up confusions, I tell them I’m going to play short snippets of songs. While I’m playing the song, they should decide which playlist (of the 4 they chose) they would put it on, and then write it in that box. So I spend class going through short clips of songs of a WIDE variety of genres: classic rock, pop, hip-hop, classical (yes, classical), country, EDM, etc. Then towards the end of class I ask them if they want to share what playlists they made and what songs they included. I then ask them to go a little deeper and share what qualities in the songs prompted them to put them on certain playlists (I definitely would word that a little different when asking students, but that’s basically what I get at with that question). It turned out to be a great activity to discuss how people perceive things differently (“Oh, I put that song here and you put it there”) and really have them put some thought into their process. It overall was a hit with the classes!
Credit: So I’m pretty sure the seedlings for this idea came from this “graffiti board” concept and an interaction I overheard at Chipotle, interestingly enough. I just took the idea of using elements of music, and adapted it and made a graffiti board of different “playlists” in the classroom. The story behind Chipotle is that I was casually in line waiting to make my burrito, when the person in front of me commented on the music playing, and the guy working said, “I don’t make the playlists. If I did, it’d be a lot funkier.” So I was like, “What would my ideal Chipotle playlist sound like…?” and the idea developed from there!

– Arianna (:

School – Week 2

Just trying to catch up on all the weeks of school!

So we got our rapport (mostly) established week 1 – sweet! The next intervention that I moved on to went like this:

America’s Got Talent: So I came into the classes and asked if anyone had they had seen the show America’s Got Talent. Some had, so we talked about it briefly. I explained how the judges have buzzers that they hit if they don’t like an act, and a red X lights up. Then I told them that they were going to be the judges that day. I passed out paper and markers for the kids to design their own “X” signs. I told them they could decorate it however they want. Some also put a check mark on the back, but I told them if they liked what I played, they could just sit back and relax. So I made a playlist on Youtube beforehand of cover songs. I tried to find ones that had a pretty different feel than the original song. I explained that I would show the video, and if more than half the class held up an X, I would stop it. After we watched the videos, I asked for feedback. What did they like about it? What didn’t they like? Etc. So my goals essentially were
a) Working on forming opinions and supporting them with evidence — A lot of times I would ask the kids what they liked/didn’t like and they would just say “everything.” I worked hard to make them think a little deeper and pinpoint specific aspects to comment on. Sometimes I would offer suggestions (was it the singing? the instruments?), which helped. Something I would suggest for others or next time I do something like this is to talk beforehand about how to be a critic. What are things we can comment on? That sort of thing.

b) Presenting constructive criticism instead of just “being mean” — This sort of goes along with the first one. I was completely fine if the students didn’t like a video I played. I did, however, process with them on how they verbalized that. Did they have appropriate reasoning? Or did they just say “it sucked” or “I hated it.” This could even tie into social skills, and I’m sitting here now thinking about ways to expand this idea into how they talk to their peers (dang, seedlings can come from anywhere!).

c) Being open to something new — I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard “Can you just play the real song?” Yeah, I understand, but I wanted them to look at songs from a different perspective. That’s why I tried to choose covers that were in a different style than the original. I’ll talk a little more about this when I list the playlist below.

So I know those goals aren’t written perfectly, but those were the general ideas that I wanted to address and process with the students. As I’m sure you can imagine, each class had a different take on the songs and different opinions.

My AGT Playlist (and general responses from the kiddos):
1. Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake – Boyce Avenue Cover
– Common complaint was that it was “too slow” or it “got boring” (I personally love slowed down versions of songs like this, haha).

2. Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots – Tanner Patrick & Garrett Perales Cover
– Similar to the above one, sometimes it was too slow.

3. Sorry – Justin Bieber – Against the Current, Alex Goot, Kurt Hugo Schneider Cover
– This one was GREAT for discussing being open. A lot of the kids have a negative association with Justin Bieber, so as soon as they heard the opening riff, they immediately put up their X’s. This oftentimes got us into a conversation about giving it a chance. It’s not Justin Bieber singing, so it might be good to keep an open mind and listen for more than two seconds. I did have some kids say they liked this one better than the original.

4. One Call Away – Charlie Puth – Henry Gallagher Cover
– I picked this one because it was a kid singing. Some students commented on how he was so young and talented, while others said they weren’t fond of his voice.

5.Hello – Adele – Walk Off The Earth, Myles & Isaac Cover
– Um, so, Stephenie and I totally spent an entire afternoon one time just watching Walk Off The Earth covers. If you haven’t checked them out, I highly, highly recommend it. Some kids thought this one was boring. It was also a little bit quiet when played just from my laptop speakers, so that turned them off a bit. Usually I could keep their attention when I told him that the one guy on the side KICKS A CYMBAL UP BY HIS HEAD. No big deal.

6. Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars – Miranda Sings
– I had to. I just had to. Miranda sings is hilarious. I had mixed reactions from this one. My youngest class was watching it so seriously, and I was just sitting there like… what… Most of my middle classes would yell “UGH. TURN IT OFF. SHE’S SO BAD. WHY DOESN’T SHE KNOW HOW TO PUT LIPSTICK ON. EWWWW. SHE’S UGLY.” So then we got to talk about how looks can influence our opinions. And some classes had seen her before so they laughed along with me and wanted to watch the whole thing.

7. Happy – Pharrell Williams – Pentatonix Cover
– I don’t even really like the song Happy, personally, but this Pentatonix cover is pretty sweet. It got generally positive reviews from the kids, especially the ones who knew of Pentatonix already.

8. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Max Schneider and Kurt Hugo Schneider Cover
– The kids really liked this one. It’s super upbeat (and very similar to the original), and the video is really engaging.

9. Radioactive – Imagine Dragons – Vintage Jazz & Blake Lewis Cover
– Again, different style from the original. Kids weren’t too fond of it.

10. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift – Vintage Motown & Von Smith Cover
– Similar to the Radioactive cover

11. Send My Love – Adele – Kurt Hugo Schneider Patty Cake Cover
– I only showed this one to one class because a teacher brought it up, but they were pretty into it.

Credit: I think Stephenie and I talked about this at some point

Bear Hunt: I used this intervention with my youngest class. I taught the song “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” and asked the kids to pick instruments to represent the obstacles in the song (very reminiscent of Stephenie’s using-instruments-for-characters intervention!). I used tall grass, mud, and a lake. We set these up in groups around the room and walked around while we sang the song. When it came time to get through the tall grass, we played the instruments as a group briefly and then moved on. I let each kid take a turn to be the “bear” and hide behind the teacher’s desk (they obviously loved this). This activity worked on impulse control and following directions. I had one kid who had a hard time playing the right instrument, but other than that, the intervention seemed successful. This is one to be careful with because things are spread around the room and it involved a lot of moving around, so it can feel hectic.
Credit: here.

Minute to Win It: I call this Minute to Win It, but it’s honestly just a mixture of games in one. I split the class into two teams, and I have 5 categories that I go through.
1) Alphabet – I write each letter of the alphabet on an index card. The teams are to name an artist/band that starts with that letter (or their last name can start with that letter). When the team names an artist, they get a point. Whoever has the most points after we go through all the cards, wins that round.
2) 5 in 15 – This category I actually have to give credit to my friend Ryan, who used it on his radio show in college. I give them a category, such as female pop artists or rappers, and they have to name 5 in 15 seconds. Sometimes I have both groups yelling out at once, and other times I’ll let one team start and we go back and forth until someone doesn’t name 5 in 15.
3) Unscramble – I give three scrambled up song titles to each team (same song title, to keep difficulty the same for both). Whoever unscrambles it first, wins that round.
4) Pictionary – I give them a list of song titles to choose from, and they draw it on the board for their team to guess. I set a time limit – usually about a minute and a half or so. Sometimes I’ll give each team 3 tries to see who wins the round. If no one misses one, it’s a tie.
5) Heads Up – I write song titles on about 7 index cards. Just like the game Heads Up, one person holds the cards up on their head and tries to guess the song title while the rest of the team explains (without saying what’s on the card), sings/hums, and acts out to try to help their teammate guess. Whoever gets the most in about 2-3 minutes, winssssss.

Then whoever wins the most rounds is the ultimate winner! I’ve also done it where whoever wins the round gets to pick a song that I play (usually live).

This one is great for teamwork, problem solving skills, and frustration tolerance.

Whew, that was a lot. Hopefully that’s not all super overwhelming and it makes sense!

– Arianna (:


Healing Shakers

Last week, I experienced one of the most beautiful sessions in terms of energy sharing and shifting; I want to share the (unplanned) interventions that were used in the session.

I had a variety of interventions prepared for my 5/6-year-old (all male) group. I’ve seen them twice prior, and know that they respond really well to movement, instrument playing, and silly songs. My goal with the group was to continue increasing group cohesion and develop those ever-needed social skills. I work with each child individually as well, and keep their individual goals in the back of my mind during sessions. Some of the children need some behavioral modification, and all of them are actively seeking safe ways to tell their story and express themselves. They are all extremely energetic and goofy, and I had yet to see them do anything much below surface level energy or emotion work.

As it goes, I had to trash my entire plan when the two clients came in. They were both in extremely subdued and vulnerable spaces. They each shared something that had happened that day that had made them cry; apparently they had already talked about it together before coming in, and were encouraging the other to speak freely about crying. Because they are still learning to not interrupt each other, I use an egg shaker as the ‘magical speaking instrument.’ Whoever is holding the instrument can share, and to obtain the instrument, you have to raise your hand. Even while they were sharing and supporting each other, I had them use the shaker. When they were done sharing, they stared at me with these incredibly sad and vulnerable eyes. We of course processed some of the things they had talked about, but I could tell that they needed something extra. I gave each child two egg shakers, and prompted them to imagine that these were ‘healing shakers.’ The shakes were going to travel up our arms and make our scrapes stop hurting, travel to our chests and heads and body and everything else that hurt, and help it go away. The boys, who usually hate everything ‘cheesy,’ immediately grabbed onto the idea. I played guitar while they gently shook their instruments. We moved through different parts of our bodies that needed to heal, and eventually started to speed up our instruments to help us ‘feel better.’ We played until they started to relax, and then we played until they started to smile.

I then proceeded with a few of the interventions that I know they like, but significantly more subdued than usual.

Hot Potato: Using only one egg shaker, the clients face each other and toss the egg shaker back and forth while I played guitar. When the guitar stopped, whoever was holding the instrument had to answer a question that I asked. The clients really enjoy the actual tossing and catch part, so we spend a lot more time doing that than answering questions.
Credit: Arianna

Freeze: I had the clients pick an instrument each, as well as choose an instrument for me to play. Each of us took turns being the ‘leader.’ The leader is in charge of yelling “Go!” and “Stop!” or “Freeze!” During the ‘go’ portion, we ran around the room (safely) playing our instruments in any way we wanted. We of course had to stop when the leader told us to. This always results in raucous laughter, because someone inevitably starts yelling ‘gostopgostopgostopgo.’
Credit: Arianna 😉

Story Time w/ Instruments: This group has really started to enjoy assigning instruments to characters in books and playing them when the character is mentioned. Last week we used Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which was a really easy way to teach the concept of character/instrument associations. I had not planned to do this again, but the clients specifically requested the intervention. I used a book that I’ve used a lot recently for discussing anger, The Grouchies. We flipped through the book to find the characters (the boy, the sister, the mom, and the dad), and I let them pick one instrument per character. While I read the book, I simply left space after each mention of a character for the clients to play the appropriate instrument.

I had a few more active interventions planned, but the clients just weren’t in that space. I instead moved them over to my relaxation corner, which is complete with bean bag chairs and dim lighting. I attempted, for the first time in this setting, some guided imagery while playing meterless guitar. Because both clients had mentioned that physical pain had made them cry that day, I used a script from The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids: Help for Children to Cope with Stress, Anxiety, and Transition that is geared specifically towards pain. I had low expectations for the experience; both boys are very energetic and have a hard time sitting still. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the boys began answering the question prompts (What color do you see?). Both boys visibly relaxed and seemed to respond well to the script. And with that final shift in energy, we ended our session.

I’ve experienced some deep energy shifts in sessions, but never with clients so young. These clients were at the age where they are starting to let go of their magical thinking, but might try ‘healing shakers’ if you spin it just the right way, and they’re in just the right space. I know that the only thing I can expect is to be surprised, especially as a new professional. It was such a good reminder that I can’t ever expect my clients to act or respond a certain way, even if I’ve known them for a few months.