Engagement is Key!

Our kids had way too much screen time during lockdowns, and we are still seeing the effects. How do we keep children's attention in a classroom, when they are used to watching 6 second TikTok videos? Even Disney movies are moving at a pace that's much greater than they used to.  In this newsletter, I'm going to begin a discussion on increasing engagement in your music classes. This is too large a topic for just one newsletter, but this is very necessary for our tired, hard-working, dedicated music teachers.

 The six topics I'm going to cover in this series of newsletters follow:
  1. Get to know your students
  2. Use focus activities to set the tone
  3. Make Feedback matter! - Refine, reflect, question
  4. Keep the learning going during transitions
  5. Make Learning Relevant
  6. Encourage the Children to Take Responsibility for their own Learning
  7. Give ALL Students a voice

1. Get to Know Your Students  - Welcome students 

  • Singing a welcome song for K-2 (maybe even 3-4-5) gives a starting point to the lesson and lets them know when you’re done. (Welcome to Music, Welcome Welcome)
  • Give a high 5 or knuckles when they leave.  Let students choose.  Some teachers have a poster at the door - I think that's a great idea.
Build community 
  • Play name games.  Some kindergarten children don’t know the names of the kids in their class even at the end of the year. You can’t manage behaviors if you don’t know the names – and if I want to engage kids, I need to know who they are.
  • Play the Hello circle game with favorite food, animal, sport so you get to know the kids a little better.
  • In a community setting - introduce yourself to the person closest to you:  name, grade, school
  • Co-operative games – Can you keep a steady beat?  Concentration, Categories,
Embrace your time on supervision.  
  • Find a child you don’t know well and visit with them.  It’s a great time to review names and get to know your students.


Enter to a Listening Selection - then discuss it
  • Play a listening selection as students enter, and have them read the questions as they listen.  If it's short, finish it.  If it's too long, pause and discuss the questions.

Galliard Battaglia listening map

Physical warmups to relax and engage.  
  • 1-2-3-4-5 (shaking and jumping), Shake it up high, shake it down low, shake it up high – big yawn., Hands on knees. Other knees, hands on heads, elbows, lip brush, breathing
  • Brain Gym – both arms up, then rotate arms in opposite directions
  • Simon Says – always a quick refresher.
Body percussion warmups are fun.  
  • Mix them up.  Don’t clap everything!  Pat, stomp and for older kids, snap.  When they can echo 4 beats, try 8.  When they can do 8, try doing body percussion in canon.  
  • Play Poison rhythm – you don’t need a video – just play it!  Stretch them – they’ll be engaged by the challenge.  Avoid doing same old, same old.
Body Percussion Countdown

Manju Durairaj used this warmup at the Calgary Orff chapter recently.  Fun - and very engaging!
Snap - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Clap- 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Pat - - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Stomp - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
Snap - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
Clap-- 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
Pat - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
Stomp - 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
then... - to 6, then to 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1. 
Another Day -  change the order of the body percussion!

Play Watching Games
  • Tap one finger into the palm of your hand, then stop.  Have the kids do it with you.  Can they stop when you do?  Mix it up.  Tap your nose, head, ear, shoulders. 
  • When I’ve had kids who can’t watch for a whole song, I put a sticker on my nose.  And tell them I’m going to give it to someone that I’ve seen watching me for the whole song – and warn them ahead of time, that there might be 20 deserving students but I only have 1 sticker.  (no room on the nose for more)
  • Move hands in from sides, then clap!  Can kids clap with you?  Sometimes clap and sometimes don’t.
  • Finger fun echos:  RH pointer finger says “T T T T” LH pointer says – “KK KK K”
    Zip zip za!  Whoo whoo whoo!
Engaging Vocal warmups – include
  • Bobo - A tennis ball with googly eyes that sings patterns to the kids. Bobo
    The kids echo what Bobo sings - and they love Bobo!   
  • Bobo sometimes tells me if the kids sound great or if they are good listeners.  So Bobo helps with behaviors as well as being a fun warmup.
  • Solfa Poison Melody – great way to practice solfege.  Again, you don’t need a video – just play it.  Sing a pattern that will be the poison pattern.  Then sing a variety of patterns that the kids echo.  If you sing the poison pattern they don’t echo - and sit down because they’re poisoned.
  • Big kids like slide whistles too!   
  • Follow the flashlight - again, works well with littles - but older kids too like vocalising with the flashlight.
  • Toss a beanbag and make your voice go the way the bean bag goes
  • Shape cards - most effective when your students make them.  But use some of these for ideas. 

Decide what sounds to make for each card - lip trills, tongue trills, Zzzz, Vvvv, whooo, Ahhhh, oh..... think up more!  

You can also use these for compositions - sounds very avant garde!  Download these at Musicplayonline.com - Vocal Warmups - Vocalise


I'm going to continue this series of newsletters as time permits.  I hope this is helpful.
And I'll be doing a workshop session at the Artie and Denise Live in D.C./Austin and Virtual on this very important topic.  My other sessions will include a session on Planning - with the End in mind; Rhythm Instrument Fun; and Listen to Learn - Learn to Listen.

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