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.).


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.


School – Week 1

So, it’s about 3 or 4 weeks into the school year (what?!), but I wanted to go back and reflect on the interventions and activities I’ve used so far.

I work in a school for children with emotional/behavioral disorders who essentially have difficulty in a regular mainstream classroom. I go room to room and bring my supplies. Many of the children have a very negative association with the word “therapy,” so some of the things I will share on here are a mixture of educational and therapeutic materials. Most can likely be adapted to suit therapeutic needs, and I will definitely share some of my own goal areas, but I wanted to mention that so help alleviate possible confusion.

ANYWHO! Here we go:

For the first week of school (or any first session in general), my main focus, of course, was building rapport! I found some activities online that I will link below that encouraged socialization and allowed me to get to know the students’ and their interests.

“Hot Potato” question ball: That’s how I worded it for my own sake in session plans. It’s super easy — I brought in a small to medium sized ball I purchased at the dollar store and had the kids throw it around to one another. When I paused the music, I asked whoever was holding the ball a question. I was originally going to write the questions on the ball and whatever their thumb landed on or was closest to would be the question they answered, but I wanted to be able to adapt this for younger classes who might have difficulty reading, so I just kept my own list of questions and read them out loud. Initially these questions were based on their music tastes (name 3 artists/bands you like, if you could see anyone in concert who would it be, etc.), but later I branched out and asked fun questions like “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” (kids loved this question, and I usually let everyone in the class answer it – not just the person holding the ball) and “what is your favorite food?” This was a fun activity that got the kids interacting with each other and me in a positive way. It went over well in all my classes.
Credit: This is a common icebreaker activity using general get to know you questions — I just added my own musical spin on it.

Rumble If: I like to use this with younger classes, because they essentially just get to make noise with instruments. I usually start off by asking for everyone to give me a “rumble” on their instruments, and I explain what that means. Then I’ll call out different things such as, “Rumble if you’re wearing blue,” “Rumble if you like pizza,” “Rumble if your favorite color is red.” It’s a good socialization activity because I usually point out similarities (“Ooh, look, your friend likes pizza too!”) and I acknowledge that it is okay not to rumble for something because we all have different likes/dislikes. After a little while, I let the kids each take turns offering a “Rumble if.” Again, this allows me to develop relationships with the kids through a fun activity.
Credit: To be honest, I’m not sure if I made this one up on my own or found it somewhere online, so if anyone comes across this somewhere, please let me know and I’ll add a link here!

Paper airplane name game: I also tried a name game with a few of my older classes, but they weren’t as into it. I had everyone write two questions on a piece of paper — one related to music, and one could just be general. Then they folded their paper into a paper airplane and threw them around the room for about a minute or two. Then they were supposed to pick up a random one and answer the questions. Perhaps I didn’t present this in the best way, but my particular kids weren’t as interested. The idea of getting to throw paper airplanes was kinda cool for them though.
Credit: click here

Person Scavenger Hunt: I found this neat musical scavenger hunt on Pinterest (click here), and I had some of my classes complete it. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but basically you have the students fill in their answers, and then roam about the room trying to find people with the same answers as them. Again, another great positive socialization activity, and it gives me something tangible to walk away with that has their preferences on it.

I’ll hopefully catch up on the rest of the weeks of school pretty soon!

– Arianna (: