Monday, January 16, 2012

Music and Movement

There are few things that perk up patron interest as much as a music and movement class--especially if it's geared to very young children. I don't know why, but there you have it.

There are a few options for creating a program like this. You could hire someone. You could incorporate more rhythm instruments into your storytimes. You could also take the brave step of creating a class all on your own.

I love music. I think everyone should be encouraged to make music. I also think it's a blast to host music and movement classes. They're not particularly expensive, especially if you already have some rhythm instruments on hand, and you'll likely attract people who are new to your library.

Here are some considerations before you begin:
  1. A good class leader knows at least something about music and has confidence in his/her musical abilities (even if they're rudimentary abilities).
  2. Rhythm instruments are a must. Egg shakers, rhythm sticks, and scarves are a great core collection of instruments. Jingle bells, tambourines, drums, and other items are things you can grow into as the budget (and interest) allows.
  3. A good supply of recorded music to play, sing, and dance to is highly recommended. Some people like music with built-in instructions, others don't. Do what's comfortable for you.
  4. You need room for kids and parents to bounce and dance around without hurting themselves. You want a space where they can be noisy. Very noisy.
  5. You need to be ok with limiting the class size.  You probably don't have an unlimited supply of rhythm instruments, and it's difficult to effectively lead the class as attendance increases.  Whether you require registration or cap a drop-in class, have a plan for keeping the size manageable.
Intrigued? Read on!
Here's the basic layout of my weekly music and movement class for 0-4 year-olds.  My preferred class size is 30-ish people (kids + parents), but I've had as many as 50 (yikes) and as few as 10.  The times indicated in parentheses refer to the length of CD track I usually look for.  This class typically lasts 30 to 35 minutes, and I'll throw in extra fingerplays, actions songs, or movement activities on the fly if I've accidentally underplanned.

  1. Announcements 
  2. A welcome song
  3. A song for marching/walking/dancing in a circle (1.5 to 2.5 minutes)
  4. Sing a familiar song together
  5. Egg shakers or maracas (2-ish minutes)
  6. Fingerplay or another familiar song
  7. Rhythm sticks (3-ish minutes)
  8. Scarves (2.5 to 3-ish minutes)
  9. Lullaby (sung or listened to by snuggled families)
  10. A goodbye song
A lot of time is taken up by distributing and returning the rhythm instruments.  Surprisingly, my kids return the instruments just as enthusiastically as they take them.  Be sure to either clean everything after every program, or ask adults and kids to sequester instruments that have gone into mouths.  It helps to have a special basket set aside for wet instruments.

My mother passed her ukulele along to me, and it's awesome for any of the songs that don't use a CD track (numbers 4, 6, and 9 as I run the program).  You can play pretty much every familiar children's song if you learn three guitar/uke chords and buy a capo.  No joke.  The learning curve is ridiculously low.  You could use other instruments, too, but I like being able to provide music and still sing/talk along.

I watched an established music & movement class before trying this on my own, and that leader was perfectly happy to swap CDs in and out of her portable stereo.  That was more hassle than I wanted, so I repurposed an old iPod and create new playlists each week.  I also built playlists for each type of activity (circle songs, egg shakers, sticks, scarves, lullabies, and some fingerplays or action songs), so it's easy-peasy to build the playlists.  

There are a number of books that will give you ideas for using each type of rhythm instrument creatively. One of my favorites is 101 Rhythm Instrument Activities, by Abigail Flesch Connors.  

Bottom line: this program requires a lot of energy, but not a huge amount of money, planning, or hassle once you find a flow that works for you.  Go for it!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4/01/2012

    Awesome ideas...and the collection of instruments begins!