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EARLY CHILDHOOD Jennifer Wetzel-Thomas, Chairperson


Be an Animal – Nurturing Creativity


After several weeks of teaching animal related lessons in kindergarten music, the lesson plans were diverting from an animal focus. As the music teacher wrote these plans, the lunch recess supervisors admitted their frustration with the same group of students and their play during indoor recess. T e children were play- ing “animals” and it was getting out of hand, so these adults banned any animal related play during recess. Following that conversation, the music teacher decided to continue teaching lessons with a focus on animals. T is plan would embrace the natural creative minds and interests of the students and incorporate them into learning opportunities centered on play- based learning.


One of the curricular foci in kinder- garten music is to understand musical opposites. Listening examples are played for the children and they identify which animals they hear. T en the students classify animals sounds into high and low groups. T ey experiment with making the sounds with their voices to experience vocal exploration. Several songs such as “When Cats Get Up in the Morning” incorporate these animal sounds. T e lyrics are created based on the animals students want to include in the song and the students use their high or low voices to produce the animal sounds.


Another lesson in musical opposites in- cludes the song “Grizzly Bear.” T is song incorporates quiet and loud through the lyrics. T e students learn to control their singing voices through using their air to sing diff erent dynamics. A focus is placed on singing loudly rather than shouting. T e students identify quiet and loud and then act out the role of the grizzly bear in


the song. Eventually the students learn the game accompanying the song by having one student sleep in the cave and another student secretly wake the bear. Games allow repetition for children to learn the song and experience the musical concept repeatedly in an engaging manner. Simi- larly to the method used to classify high and low animal sounds, the children can also group animals into quiet and loud sounds. Picture cue cards can be benefi cial to help direct students away from animals that make both quiet and loud sounds.


An additional area of opposites that lend themselves well to animals is fast and slow. Children categorize animals by speed. T ey imagine they are the animals and move around the room accordingly. Several songs that are useful for fast and slow are “See the Pony Galloping,” “Trot ‘Ol Joe,” and “T e Old Gray Cat.” T e students act out the animals in these songs and experience fast and slow through movement. After moving around the room, the students answer questions about their animal experiences by de- scribing how they moved. Fast and slow descriptors are connected with the music.


Melodic direction is also taught through animals. Children jump up and down like frogs to demonstrate a similar me- lodic pattern. T ey identify this melodic pattern by only jumping when they hear the pattern that moves up and down like a jumping frog. “Hop Ol’ Squirrel” is also a good song for melodic direction. After experiencing the song numerous times through playing the game, students ana- lyze the melody. Once the children learn the song, they use their bodies to show the direction “Eidle dum, eidle dum” and “Eidle dum dee” move and compare the


two patterns. Squirrels icons are used on a magnetic board to show the way the melody moves. Students compare which patterns are the same and diff erent.


Instruments are used experimentally to create animal sounds. Can you make a snake sound on your drum? Can your güiro sound like a monkey? How can this wood block sound like a bird? Soundscape stories can embrace the animal instrument sounds students dis- cover. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” by Eric Carle is a animal book that can be used with students’ created animal sounds. Songs such as “When Cats Get Up in the Morning” can also be used with these created instrument sounds.


After many classes of animal related mu- sical learning, the kindergarten classroom teachers reported multiple observations of these students creating animals songs in their classroom. Some of these songs were repetitions or similarities of those learned in the music room. T e information the teachers gave conveyed many songs diff ered from those taught in the music classroom. As teachers plan play-based lessons that focus on students’ interests, music learning becomes highly motivational and engaging. Students provided with musical experiences to develop their musical language and knowledge are equipped with the tools necessary to creatively express themselves through music. What will you do this year to nurture your students creativ- ity and captivate them in the very best musical learning experiences?


Jennifer Wetzel-T omas Mokena School District #159 thomasj@mokena159.org


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Illinois Music Educator | Volume 72 Number 1


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