Summer Camp Week One: Theory Thursday

We’re getting crafty and making a rhythm chooser today.  This idea came to me after the kids picked up free fortune tellers from our excellent local library as part of their summer reading program.

All you’ll need are:Young children doing rhythm activity

  • 1 sheet of paper
  • scissors
  • pencil.

I was going to put together a step-by-step, but it really seemed unnecessary once I came this very clear explanation on good ol’ Wikipedia.

I put a semibreve (whole note), dotted minim (dotted half note), minim (half note) and crotchet (quarter note) on each corner of my chooser. Knowing the extent of my children’s musical knowledge I also wrote how many beats each of these was. If the kids were choosing I let them point or say how many beats they wanted and I then said, for example, ‘Ok, that’s a crotchet – the filled-in circle with a stalk – 1 beat’. If I was the one doing the choosing I would ask for the note by name, ‘Semibreve, please,’ and then if they looked quizzical I would point and say something like, ‘That’s the circle with no stalk, 4 beats’.

On the next section I put 8 simple rhythm patterns, making sure to have a good balance of even and odd. We tried clapping these to make our choices with varying levels of success. This was challenging for my younger two (ages 3 and 4) but they were able to count the number of claps and compare it with the number of dots even if they didn’t get to grips with the exact rhythms. With my eldest (age 6) I tried repeating with the Kodaly rhythm syllables (ta for a crotchet, titi for a pair of quavers etc – click here for a more complete guide) as I know she is familiar with that from her school music lessons.

We came up with a variety of musical activities to put as our surprises under the flaps – from conducting along with orchestral music to finding middle C on the keyboard to dancing to a favourite song.  I’m looking forward to making and decorating more choosers with the kids later. In the meantime I’ve uploaded a copy of the chooser we’ve been using; if you want to print this out you’ll need to cut off the bottom blank strip before you start folding.

Click here to see our rhythm chooser

This first chooser is pretty amateurish, but if anyone is interested I can try to put together something more polished to share in due course – let me know in the comments.

Summer Camp Week One: Working Wednesday

Yesterday’s turn-taking Tuesday activity sparked some interesting discussion in the Andrews household.

When I’m leading a song, am I:

  • a singer
  • a teacher
  • a conductor
  • ‘just’ Mama?

We talked about doing music for fun, and people who have jobs helping us to enjoy music. We also discussed the jobs I have done so far and what musical projects I have planned for the future. It was so interesting and encouraging to hear the thoughts of my small cheerleaders.

So, today’s musical idea – let’s talk about musical jobs.

Here are a few some discussion ideas I’m going to raise with my little lot.

  • Who is in charge of an orchestra?
  • What is your favourite music to listen to, and how did you get to hear it?
  • How do you think musicians make money?
  • Do grown-ups still make music even when it’s not their job?
  • Would you like to do musical job? If so, what would it be and what do you think it would involve?

Hopefully this will be an opportunity to do a little bit of education about how music comes together and reaches the public, but I’m hoping it will also reinforce our enthusiasm for music as a skill/interest/hobby for everyone.

More broadly, I’m hoping to pass on the lesson that I’ve only recently learnt for myself: that our passion, our life’s calling, might not always (or ever!) be our paying job – but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the urge to work, play and share our valuable talents and enthusiasm.  (But who am I kidding? I suspect this grand aim will be greeted with blank faces and a cry of, ‘Can we watch Spongebob now?’)

Summer Camp Week One: Turn-Taking Tuesday

Today we’re going to sing ‘Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me’. This is a favourite of ours to sing in the car – I’m interested to see what else the kids come up with when we give it a bit more attention.

If your kids don’t already know this song then you’ll be able to practise turn-taking as you sing the song and they join in with the sound/action you suggest. They can then take turns in suggesting what the action should be for the next verse (even if they aren’t quite ready to sing the whole thing).

The lyrics go like this:

Let everyone clap hands like me (clap, clap),
Let everyone clap hands like me (clap, clap),
Come on and join in with the game,
You’ll find that it’s always the same (clap, clap).

Further verses can include ideas like, ‘Let everyone sneeze like me (at-choo)’, ‘Let everyone laugh like me (hee, hee)’…

You can find various versions of this on YouTube; today I’m enjoying hearing the legendary Pete Seeger at work:

A few more ideas to explore:

‘Let everyone whistle like me (woo, woo)’ – young children will struggle with whistling but it’s really fun for them to try – they will be so excited the first time they make an actual whistle sound, and some of their alternatives to whistling are pretty cute!

Sharpen up their listening skills – try changing the verses without warning – do the kids still do the sound/action you sing? How about if you cue just one of the kids, ‘Let Emily clap hands like me,’ – who responds?

Working on beat, rhythm and the vestibular system – ‘Let everyone rock like me (rock, rock). Do a slow rock from foot to foot in time with the music, then a quick rock, rock at the end of lines 1, 2 and 4. Try getting little ones to stand facing you and holding your hands, with their feet on top of your feet for this – great fun for them and a good challenge to your core stability!

Older kids might be interested to learn a bit more about Pete Seeger. Fascinating life, fabulous music. His New York Times obituary is here.

Summer Camp Week One: Make Some Noise Monday

So, day number one and we’re already off course.  I had scheduled some shaker-making for today, but the kids had other ideas.

I spent last night setting up a mini keyboard studio in our basement (I’m offering free piano lessons to friends and neighbours over the summer) and when the kids saw the small semi-circle of keyboards they couldn’t resist having a go.  So, the three of them set the agenda experimenting with loud and soft (mostly loud!), turn-taking (hotly contested!) and many of the other functions of the various keyboards.  Then, as I disappeared upstairs to make the lunch (and escape the noise), I heard them making their own music for musical statues (aka ‘freeze-dance’ here in Canada).

You might not have a keyboard in your house, but why not round up whatever musical instruments you can find and just embrace the noise for a while – even if it’s just a very short while?

I took the kids on a hunt around the house and we found quite a collection of maracas, drums, recorders etc. thrown into various toy boxes (and hidden out of the children’s reach!).  The children were delighted to see them all and quickly put together a band – that classic combo of vocals, toy keyboard and maracas.

Today’s suggestion then, in a nutshell, grab some instruments and let those little noise-makers do their thing.

Here’s some noisy Disney fun for your little trolls. See you tomorrow… 🙂