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 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 (:

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 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 (: