School – Week 12

Hide & Seek: This game was definitely a hit across the majority of my classes. There was one person as the seeker and one person as the hider. The seeker stood at the front of the room with his/her back facing everyone (eyes closed, too!), then the hider took an egg shaker and walked somewhere in the room, shook the egg, and hid it somewhere. I made sure they were shaking the egg right before they hid it, so the person seeking could get a good idea of where it was in the room. Once the egg was hidden and the hider returned to his/her seat, the seeker had an opportunity to look around for the egg shaker. If it took the seeker a little while, I allowed the class to give hot/cold hints to help out a little. Some adaptations are to do this with two rounds: first one is just the egg shaker, and the second is an egg shaker and wrist bells. I also had some kids pair up, with each team listening for a different instrument sound to really work on teamwork. Otherwise this intervention works well for attention to task and following directions.

Drum Circle (Cont’d): So a few months ago I went to a Drumming & Autism training led by Jim Donovan. He demonstrated some really cool drumming interventions that I was really excited to incorporate with my kiddos, since I was already doing drum circle work with them! At the time, this class was especially having difficulty with some of their relationships/group cohesion, so I was hoping to use drumming to develop some positive interactions and relationships. One game I used from the training used the concept of “The Wave.” First you go around and everyone plays just one hit on their instrument. Then you incorporate what he called a “flurry,” which is just a quick drum roll. Then you can add passing it with eye contact, doing it backwards, adding vocalizations (names, animal noises, opera singing, random sounds, foods, literally anything!). I also like to add funny faces, and something I incorporated for this class was compliments, so they each went around and said something nice about the person sitting next to them. I also asked if they wanted to send anything around — I think at one point we did jokes. But this activity is super flexible for adaptations! It creates a safe environment where everyone can be silly, and also engage in positive interactions.

Boomwhackers: Jim Donovan also showed us some interventions with boomwhackers at the training. With my class, we did some call & response rhythms using different sounds (tapping the floor, tapping them together, tapping our legs), and then one thing I learned at the training was having the students close their eyes and listen to the different sounds and try to repeat my patterns with their eyes closed. Of course, I did not force anyone to close their eyes — I only offered for them to do it if they felt comfortable. Then I asked the students to play the boomwhackers in a scale as I pointed to the letters on the board. I previously worked on chords with this class, so we started building chords and doing different progressions with the boomwhackers. I’d like to try some sort of ensemble work with them some day but haven’t gotten around to it yet!

Ask-It Basket: This is an intervention I used a few times when I was in a mental health facility during my internship. I got the idea when I observed a drug and alcohol rehab group. The therapist asked everyone in the group to write down a question they had and put it in a basket. He then pulled each question out of the basket and the group talked about them. I adapted this idea for my patients, and ultimately used it here at the school for my older students. I gave each student a slip of paper and asked them to write something that was on their mind that day. I collected the slips of paper and redistributed them randomly to the group, so each person had someone else’s paper. Then I asked each student to read the slip of paper they had from another person and pick a song from my list for that person. I went through and played each song live, and I asked each person how they chose that song for that person. I also said at the beginning of the activity that if anyone felt comfortable sharing their thoughts on the song chosen for him/her, they certainly could, but I did not force them. This is a nice way to encourage some group cohesion, positive interaction, and empathy.

School – Week 9

Rhythm Ping Pong: The students LOVED this, no matter how old they were (I admit I haven’t tried it with my youngest class yet because I’m a little nervous how they’ll handle it…). I adapted the idea from this post on Pinterest. So I brought in a large tub that I had at home and conveniently had a box of ping pong balls in my room at school. I went ahead and drew different rhythms on the ping pong balls – whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, quarter rests, and half rests. I designated one student as the “thrower” and one as the “ball getter” (because ping pong balls are pesky and just roll all over the place). The thrower had a bag of maybe 15 or so ping pong balls and his/her goal was to toss or bounce them so that they landed in the bucket. The bucket I got was large enough so that a majority of the students were very successful at scoring ping pong balls. Once they were done throwing, the students took the ping pong balls they scored and wrote them down in any order on a sheet of paper. After everyone got an opportunity to throw, then they got to perform their rhythms on a drum. The only tricky part is that I included half notes and whole notes, which are a little tough to comprehend on an instrument that doesn’t necessarily hold out a sound. I just told them to let the drum ring out when they had rhythms with multiple beats. One adaptation I did for my younger classes was instead of focusing on the act of playing the rhythms, I focused on the note values. I had the kids spread out in a circle around the container and one by one they threw their ping pong balls in. Then I collected all the ones they scored and as a group we counted the total “points” based on the rhythmic values. Then we did it again (and even a speed round at the end because they loved the game so much) to see if we could beat our score. While this is certainly very educationally focused, it does address impulse control, following directions, and also frustration tolerance if they happen to miss a few in a row (however, as I said, I tried to set this up so that students would be successful).

Staff Word Game: I adapted this one a little bit depending on the age of the students. For my younger class, I set up 5 taped lines on the floor and labeled each line/space with the letters. I only happened to have one student in class that day, so her and I worked together to spell different words using A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. I told her the “high score” was 10 so she had something to work towards. Once we spelled a word, she had to walk over to the tape staff and mark where each of the notes would be with her hands and feet. With my older students, I put sheets of paper with a large staff on them inside sheet protectors. I also gave them little squares of paper that had the letters of the musical alphabet on them. These were supposed to be for the students to manipulate and move around to help them spell different words. They sort of just ended up being a source of confusion rather than helpful, and I just lost a lot of paper clips in the process, haha. I explained how the lines/spaces on the staff are labeled, and then let the students work on figuring out how to put the words on the staff. Each time a student got a word, he/she raised his hand for me to come over and check it. I kept a running list of the words from each class, and the highest score was 42!
Credit: I got the idea for the tape staff and marking the notes with hands/feet from my supervisor, Katie.

Magazine Articles: So, teenagers are tough to plan for. I tried thinking outside of the box to come up with something music-related but still cool that they would like. This idea came to mind and then I did a little searching on the internet to find stuff to help me. I thought it would be cool for them to use their favorite songs and write a music critic article about them. I found a list of questions to guide them in their writing somewhere online but I can’t find it right now /: It was from a project someone had about writing about bluegrass music. Anyway, I wrote the questions on the board and had the students take notes to answer the questions:

  • Name of the artist/band
  • Name of the song
  • Genre
  • Any background about the band
  • What do the lyrics mean?
  • Does the song fit with the artist’s typical sound?
  • Unique elements (instruments/sounds/etc)
  • Overall impressions – rate on a scale of 1-10 or letter grade

Those are just a few of the questions. I also asked them to reflect on the tempo, dynamics, voice, etc. Once they wrote out their notes, they got to type up their article in paragraph form on the computer. I put all the articles on my new handy dandy flash drive, and I am going to compile them into a magazine format (once I find some time…). I was nervous about this activity because I thought it might feel too much like “work” for them. Most of the students ended up completing it eventually. They didn’t go quite as in-depth as I hoped, but they did put some nice thought into it.

Song Challenge: If you Google “30 Day Song Challenge” you’ll find a list of questions that ask you to fill out different songs for different scenarios. That’s a bad explanation, but if you Google it, you’ll see what I mean. Basically I compiled a bunch of these questions and put them on a worksheet for the students to fill in their own answers. I used this mainly for my high school class because this classroom is acute, so the students are only there for a few weeks usually. This activity was a way for me to gain some rapport; we could just sit, be chill, and talk about what music they liked.

– Arianna (:

School – Week 8

Music Jeopardy: So here’s a fun little story about always being prepared with back-up strategies! A week or so ago I played a game with my classes, and whoever won got to pick what we did in music the next time. The student who won picked Jeopardy, so I spent a good chunk of time making this Jeopardy game, put it on the Google Drive because the powerpoint was too big to email, and planned to pull it up on the teacher’s computer once I got to class that day (My MacBook Pro doesn’t hook up to the SmartBoards, as far as I know). So that day I had brought a backup of mandalas that were divided into 4 quadrants. If the kids got a little too rowdy during Jeopardy and weren’t listening, I was going to switch to this activity. The plan was to have them pick 4 songs for me to play live, and then they had the opportunity to draw a picture that they thought reflected that song. So I go to log in to the Google Drive on the teacher’s computer in the morning, and lo and behold, the Google Drive is blocked on the school’s internet! Sooooooo I quickly switched to my backup. The next day I come in and spend my entire morning (I usually get to school around 45 minutes early to prep for the day) trying to figure out another file sharing website to use. I tried using DropBox but for some reason it wasn’t working. So after failing miserably to figure out a way to get this file onto another computer, I just brought another back-up to class (this day it was MadLibs songwriting). Finallllllly I went out and bought a flash drive that day so I could put the file on there and plug it into the teacher’s computer. It worked! And we got to do Jeopardy that day. Third time’s the charm, amirite? Pro Tip: Have a flash drive handy. Haha. ANYWAY. Here’s how I laid out Jeopardy:

Category 1: Emoji Lyrics (Shoutout to our intern, Allie, for helping with a lot of the emoji ones)
– These were popular song lyrics that I substituted emojis for certain words.
– Example:


Category 2: Guess The Song
– Just played clip from a popular song for the students to guess

Category 3: Fill In The Blank
– Example: Lately I’ve been, I’ve been ______ _______, dreaming about the _______ that we could be

Category 4: Genres
– Example: This genre of music became much more popular and mainstream in the 2000s and featured superstar artists like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Outkast, Eminem, and many others. (I got this question from a website somewhere)

Category 5: Multi-talented
– The questions here referred to musical artists that also have another talent (such as acting)
– Example: This actress and singer had the “best of both worlds” on her TV show.

I also put an additional twist on this one, because instead of having two teams where they have to ring in using an instrument or something (because that starts a lot of fights and hey sometimes I’m not perfect with who I say responded first), I made it more of a group cohesion experience. Each student got three lifelines (just written on index cards): ask the audience referred to getting help from another staff member in the room, phone a friend allowed them to ask a peer, and 50/50 gave them two options from which to choose for the correct answer. They could choose to hand in these lifelines if they didn’t know the answer, and the entire class was trying to reach a certain score (something I made up). The kids still got upset when they weren’t able to answer questions, so that definitely allowed for some processing of frustration tolerance there.

Music Class & Chill: (I didn’t call it this around my students, haha) This was another option for students to choose when they got to pick the next activity for music class. It was inspired by someone in my 8th grade class one day who exclaimed, “Can’t we just sit and listen to music?!?!” I understood where he was coming from, but obviously I can’t do that every day. So I decided to include it in the options for rewards. I was a little nervous as to how it was going to go, but the class that picked it actually did fairly well. A few of them had suggested songs to listen to, so I put those on a playlist mixed in with a few of my own selections. I really just played the songs while we all just “chilled” and chatted. Honestly, I think it was a good way to continue building rapport and just allowed the students to have some down time. I came in with a structured activity to use as backup (4-song mandalas) just in case things got too out of hand, but all was well! Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend this on a consistent basis, but it might be good for use as an incentive for following expectations.

Picture Songwriting: I really wanted to do songwriting with my little guys for some reason, but they’re not as independent with writing yet, so I tried thinking out of the box a little. Somewhere on the internet (I forget where, eek /:) I read that kids tell stories through drawing. I thought to myself that a song was like a story, so what if they drew a picture that was based on a story they made up, and then they could tell me the story. As they told me the story I would write it down and then sing it. This activity didn’t really turn out like this, but it was still neat to see the outcome. I ended up allowing the students to sing their stories that they drew/wrote. One student actually wrote about all the kids in the class, saying that they were all her friends. Although it wasn’t an original goal, that ended up being a great way to enhance group cohesion. I made sure to emphasize this and encourage interaction between her and her peers.
Credit: Stephenie helped me formulate this one! (:

Science of Sound: I found this experiment on Pinterest and thought it sounded cool! I won’t necessarily go into details here — just click the link for the directions. I’ve only done it with one class so far, and they did start to lose interest sort of quickly (they were more interested in taking the string and tying it around their waist to use as a “tail”). Ideally, I’d like to do a whole “Science of Sound Day” with multiple experiments, but I haven’t found others I’d like to include. A lot of the ones I come across seem to be messy… which is awesome, just probably not conducive to a school environment where I’m moving classroom to classroom. Really not too much therapeutic intention behind this one, but I did hope to reach some of my kids that might not directly be interested in music. I hoped this would be some what new and different for them. I also showed the class this video, because it is REALLY neat, and demonstrates a similar concept using music.

Unknown Songs: In preparation for an activity I’ll talk about in the future, I brought a list of songs that I assumed would be less familiar to my 8th graders and I had them pick ones to listen to. After we listened (recorded, not live), I asked them to share what they thought about the song — what about it did they like/not like, what would they change, etc. I was trying to get them to think critically and expand on their thoughts/explain themselves. Thinking about it now, it might’ve been better if I had a worksheet or something to accompany it. Another thing I would probably change would be to pick songs that sound more like what they listen to, like find rap/hip-hop/pop songs that they might not know, because they were pretty sick of listening to “old” songs by the end of the class period.

– Arianna (:

School – Week 7

Mad Libs: This is literally always a hit. With the older classes, I use the specific terms noun, verb, and adjective, but with younger classes I usually say “I need a random word” or “I need a word that is an action” and I’ll give an example. The songs I used for this were Airplanes (I usually start with that one, because I’ll do the chorus quickly and then demonstrate for the kids, which usually hooks anyone who wasn’t engaged once they hear how ridiculous it sounds), Roar, Best Day Of My Life, All About That Bass, and What Do You Mean. I didn’t do the whole song — just the first verse and chorus, usually. If you want it to lean more therapeutically, you could select the songs very purposefully and prompt for certain kinds of words (if you’re looking at emotions specifically or anything else). It does address creative thinking, and even impulse control (they usually get excited and yell out words — prompt for raising hands!). For the classes that were particularly interested, I even got some suggestions from them and they got to write their own with a song they enjoy. Some kids wanted to just keep the lyrics the same, which I personally didn’t push.

Vocal Exploration: This was an activity I did with my little guys. I brought in pipe cleaners and we talked about high and low sounds. They got to create their own patterns and we experimented with our voices as we traced the pipe cleaners. At the end, we even made one that linked all of our pipe cleaners together and we followed the whole thing. To keep the kids engaged, I tried making each one a challenge, “Who thinks they can do mine?!” and things like that.

I spent a lot of time doing MadLibs this week, so that’s really all I have!

– 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.).