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.

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School – Week 11

Rhythm Squares: To set up this rhythm game, I got two white pieces of posterboard and divided them into 4 quadrants. Then I drew quarter notes, half notes, eighth notes, quarter rests, and half rests on index cards. I taped the notes to form different rhythms in each of the boxes, making sure that both posters had the same rhythms. I also put a piece of velcro in each quadrant, and then I took two yellow circles I previously made as tokens for another activity and put the other half of the velcro on the back of those. I asked for two students to come up to the board and gave each of them a token. Then I played one of the rhythms on a drum and the students raced to put their token on the correct rhythm. I’d usually ask the class who was on the right rhythm to keep everyone engaged. This one was really a hit across all my classes — even some of the students who initially said, “I’ll try it but I won’t be good at it,” found some enjoyment out of it. There was just enough of a competition to keep the kids having fun, but not fighting or getting upset over winning/losing.
Credit: Rhythm Squares. I would love to try this game as she actually describes it in her post, but I wanted to come up with an indoor activity, and the idea of the kiddos running didn’t really appeal to me, haha. But I might try it one day during the school summer program!

Grocery Rhythms: This activity I did with my younger classes, mostly. I took strips of paper and wrote different foods on them (mostly from my actual grocery list). I ended up with 1 syllable words (quarter note), 2 syllable words (2 eighth notes), 3 syllable words (2 eighths + 1 quarter), and 6 syllable words (4 eighth notes + 2 quarter notes). I put each rhythm on a paper plate, and the students’ job was to sort the foods on the correct plates. Even for my younger classes without much rhythmic knowledge, they were able to be successful in this activity by sorting by the number of syllables. Then I had them “go shopping” and pick 4 foods. Each person got a turn to play the rhythm of those foods on the drum. I almost made up a rap to go along with it, but never got around to it. Some kids added their own words, like saying “I like to eat” before they started and things like that.
Credit: Musical Groceries. You’ll see here that I took my own twist on this idea, but this is also a great way to go about it.

Pass the Ball: This was just a simple intervention I used with my younger classes. I put on some popular music and we worked on feeling a steady beat by passing a ball around. We started with slow songs (like Radioactive) and gradually worked up to faster songs (like Can’t Stop The Feeling).
Credit: I saw my supervisor use this once in a session.

Carnival of the Animals: For this intervention, I printed out cards that had each animal represented in Saint Saens “Carnival of the Animals.” Each student got a ziplock bag with the animal cards in it. They laid the cards out and listened to the music to guess which animal was being played. We also talked about certain qualities of the animals that were represented in each piece (e.g.: the cheetah was fast, elephant sounded like it was stomping, kangaroo sounded like it was jumping, turtle was slow, etc.)
Credit: This was also a suggestion from my supervisor that she used while she was at this facility!

Drum Circle: I started working on drum circle activities with some of my older classes around this time. I used Kalani’s Let’s All Play Our Drum to start the group, and then I used his Orbit – II game. First I did this by just sending one pattern around, and eventually I tried layering patterns at the same time. Layering the patterns was pretty tricky, so sometimes I stopped the group to process what we could do to make it easier. Some ideas they came up with were only paying attention to the person in front of you, making eye contact, and tuning me out (hello problem solving!). I’ll talk about more drum circle interventions that I learned at a training in my next post!

– Arianna (:

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 (:

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.

~Stephenie