Pied Piper

Lesson Plan for nursery school, 30 – 50 month old, by Rania

Duration: approx 20 minutes

Scroll down for full lesson plan downloading options

Aim of Session: exercise the imagination of the children
Skill:  following, leading, responding to stimulus, imitating from memory and imitating someone directly, motor skills, listening, coordination, musical skills (pulse, rhythm, melody, form)
Knowledge: body parts, keeping a pulse, using a musical instrument, difference between sound and silence / movement and stopping

Description of Session

A form of “Pied the Piper” session, where through musical activities the children will follow your lead. It is a theatrical session where you become a different character and take the children on a magical musical journey.

(consider reading this, my thoughts between being a music entertainer or being yourself, if the thought on becoming another character is at least unpleasant)

1. Warm up – combine movements
2. Calming music and sway like trees
3a. March around the room and shake or tap the instrument when you make a step.
3b. Pretend to be ants marching in the forest [create movement sequences where you move and stop.
4. Leaders take turns
5. Nursery rhyme (Walking through the Jungle)
6. Goodbye song

Music Suggestions

  1. MARCHING ANTS: Kevin Alexander Wilson; Lick Twenty – 7 Blue
  2. SWAYING MUSIC: Lucy Hollingworth; I Lay Down By The Riverside And Dreamed

Classical music suggestions
For swaying or relaxing at the end of the session: Mademoiselle Bocquet; Allemande 

View full lesson plan including tips and explanations, covid-19 tips, and EYFS links Googls Docs here

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020, lesson plan for nursery schools music  

Timbre and Pulse

Lesson Plan for nursery school, 8 – 20 month old, by Rania

Duration: approx 20 minutes

Scroll down for downloading the full lesson plan options

Aim of Session: feel a steady pulse moving fast, or slow
Skill:  observation, listening to the music, being social, memory, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, spacial awareness, awareness of loudness, confidence
Knowledge: Learn about 2 qualities of sound: loudness and timbre; and 1 element of music: pulse

Description of Session

  1. Warm up
  2. Move with scarves to slow music
  3. Move with scarves to fast music
  4. Give small percussion instruments and allow some time for the children to explore them.
  5. Drum patterns (PDF download further down): create small 3 beat, 4 beat or 5 beat sequences with the drum where everyone is quiet until the last beat and they make some noise 
  6. Sing: Open Shut them – 1st time normal, 2nd time fast, 3rd time quiet
  7. Sing: A Sailor went to Sea, sea, sea – 1st time normal, 2nd time slow, 3rd time loud
  8. Sing: Roly – Poly – 1st time quiet and fast, 2nd time loud and slow, 3rd time normal but omit the ending of each line.
  9. Warm down music and goodbye

Music Suggestions

  1. Changing between faster and slower sections:
    Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Harp (movement 1) – Andy Scott performed by Polaris Duo
  2. Or try this one, What is joy to you? performed by Polaris Duo again and written by Esther Swift, there are more subtle changes between mellower and more energetic parts
  3. Slow music or for calming down music Unicorn in Rainbows by Alison Berry  Listen to Unicorn in Rainbows by Alison Berry on #SoundCloud

Classical music suggestions

  1. Fanny Mendelssohn – Piano Sonata in C minor (there are 3 movements that you can use for fast music – presto movement 3 – ; slow – Andante con moto – ; or the Allegro moderato con espressione that has little textural changes

View full lesson plan including tips and explanations, covid-19 tips, and EYFS links Googls Docs here or

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020, lesson plan for nursery schools music  

Sound Stories

There are a few different types of sound stories.

  1. You enact sound effects as you are telling the story with musical instruments (which are the example below)
  2. You sing a melody or a rhythmical pattern at specific cues in the story
  3. Old radio type stories (my grandad would listen to these)
  4. Stories that use sound words like in We’re going on a bear hunt (sound words: splash, boom, zap)
  5. Audio stories by Anna Christina  

These are 3 (+2) stories that fall in the 1st type. This series of articles focuses on music in nursery schools for ages starting from 4 to 6 months up to 40+ months. Sound stories are fascinating for any and all ages. An easy way to make them more advanced is to reform the language or use a theme that is more appealing to your students. You don’t have to sing for these stories and you can also play a recording of them if talking is considered a COVID-19 risk.

Instrumentation is open. (For nurseries) I would go for small percussive instruments. Tambourines work very well for these stories because of the variety of quality sounds that can be produced; you can tap on different areas of the drum, shake it, tap and shake, swish, use fingernails to gently scrape or fingertips. Plus, you can move around while holding it.

You can also use props for these stories, like a parachute, scarves, objects that are mentioned in the story. Just remember to keep them clean. Even better use objects you can find in the room you are in and minimise transfering germs to different nursery rooms. All children can hold instruments if it’s appropriate for the day’s lesson. Babies can also hold little maracas, egg maracas, bells or other shakers to copy you, the music practitioner. 

Showing pictures is lovely for babies and toddlers. For the older ones, the language you use should be sufficient for them to create the images in their head. I think that is very useful as it feeds their imagination. With babies you can discuss what is happening in the picture and then carry on with the story.

Once the children are familiar with a story and around the age of 2,5 to 3 (depending on the children), try saying it with as few words as possible and let the children take the lead in creating the sounds (might get noisy, but it will also get better in time).

You don’t have to narrate the whole story at once. You can build up to it gradually. There is no right or wrong way to add sounds. Use your voice as an additional instrument, and gestures and face expressions for impact. I will try to guide you with some questions but if you have a better idea go for it!

For me, the sounds don’t have to be literal, we are looking for the feeling and give a general idea of what is happening in the story through sound, more like sound effects. Also, don’t feel that every word has to have a sound, or a different sound. Simple and cute. A bit of a surreal and fantasy situation. These stories are made up. You can use these ones, make up your own, add your own embellishments.

The Water Cycle 

There was a Little Wave skipping across the surface of the sparkling river (what would that sound like?). The Little wave sailed happily. 
Suddenly the water stream was a bit too strong for Little Wave to handle (what changes in the waves movement? You can show that with sound). The current was getting stronger and stronger. The Little Wave was rapidly jumping over stones and swishing through rocks. Until… she slid down the biggest waterfall (maybe you hit and shake the tambourine to resemble a splashing sound?)
And splashed into the dazzling quiet lake.
Little Wave relaxed on the crystal-like surface of the lake.
It relaxed for so long under the hot sun that it slowly started transforming into tiny, tiny droplets of gas and evaporated into the sky. (perhaps tapping gently the tambourine while lifting it higher?)
Other waves started doing the same, evaporating into the sky. And it all formed a big cloud.
A strong wind started blowing and took the wave above the ocean. (simile)
There was a stroke of lightning, then a very loud thunder!
And rain started falling from the clouds. Heavy rain.
Eventually the raindrops were falling slower, and slower on the sea surface. 
Our little Wave was again part of the water. It was on the sea water. The little Wave loved sailing across the sea. It felt the wind blowing behind it and it would rise up, scout the horizon and dive back in the sea, carrying on her journey as a wave in the sea.

Photo by Henry Dick on Unsplash

The Water Cycle | Baby version 

There was a little wave sailing in the river. And suddenly it started moving faster and faster, smashing on rocks until it fell down the waterfall and splashed in the little calm pool. 
The sun was hot and it pulled the little wave up in the sky towards it. 
One quiet night in the forest it started to rain. At first the raindrops were very very light, but gradually there were more and rain got heavier and heavier. Until finally the little wave was back in her river sailing away… 

Sun and Moon

It’s morning. And the sun comes out to warm the earth. The first sun beam falls on a green leaf. And the second one on a slug. The third sun beam falls onto the branch of a tree and the fourth one on a ladybug. The ladybug’s wings spread and she flies to the waterlilies taking the sun with her to shine on the river. The sun rays are gently reflected to all of the forest’s plants. Along wakes up a frog. And with his loud ‘ribit’ he wakes up all the animals. 
The sun was happy. It was a marvelous energetic morning. 
The sun gradually started setting behind the mountains. It is a quiet night. Most animals in the forest have gone to bed, there goes the swan, the goldfish, the bear, the squirrel. The stars are twinkling in the dark sky while the moonlight skips over the river reflecting its glow across the forest. Some animals are still awake. You might hear the owl, the aye-aye, the tarsier, the koala. 

Cherry Tree from Stone to Tree 

Photo by Mike C. S. on Unsplash

A Magpie was sitting on a cherry tree eating its cherries for tea. She gathered a few more to take to her friends sitting over on another tree. They all had a lovely party celebrating spring while eating cherries and throwing the stones on the ground. In the morning there was a pile of stones piled up next to the tree they had their party. The wind started blowing and scattered the cherry stones all around the valley. Then it blew a bit more, and a bit harder and caused the dirt from the ground to cover up all the stones. 
Now it was time for the squiggly worms to get to work and start fertilising the soil around the cherry stones. They munched leaves, and grass and turned the soil upside down, created little pathways for water and air to come through too. This carried on all summer.
In autumn heavy rain began to fall in the valley, pouring rain all over the plants and soil and even the little cherry stones that were well tucked under the ground.
After a long, long time passed a worm saw little roots coming out of the cherry seeds.  Then a stem stretched out to reach above the ground to present the first little leaf of the next cherry tree. 

The (North) Wind and the Sun, Aesop’s fables

This is a fantastic story for all sorts of things. From a sound and music point of view is amazing as well. 
As always don’t be shy from adapting it to suit each group of babies, toddlers and preschoolers you’re working with. 
There is no right or wrong way to represent the sound of the Sun or the Wind. Whatever feels right for you. If I use only my tambourine again, I would use steady beats for the sun and for the wind swishes on the head of the tambourine. And a little shake when the traveller takes off the cloak. 

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020, lesson plan for nursery schools music 

What can babies do

A rough guide for first-time music practitioners / entertainers on what babies (18 months and under) can do physically and some tips and suggestions to making your session plans.

A useful guide to read is the EYFS, Early  Years Foundation Stage which lists what a child can do in every stage of their early life, and how an adult can help them to move on safely to the next developmental stage.In the book it states “Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways”. It lists the prime and specific Areas of Learning and Development such as making relations and building self confidence and self awareness to listening and attention to speaking, moving…etc. It would be good if you look through the book. It’s useful to focus every lesson plan around one developmental area and sub-area.

All children are different and develop at their own rates.

page 2 and footnotes

Use this as a rough guide and if you are not sure, ask and use your judgment. At about:

  1. 4 – 6 months they will be making sounds 
  2. 5 months start crawling – some children may skip crawling completely.
  3. 7 months start standing by holding on to things
  4. 12 months start walking on their own – and for some it may take longer
  5. 9 months clapping and gradually they perfect this. Although don’t expect that they can clap the beat to an entire song until much later
  6. 24 months (two years) to walk and clap at the same time
  7. 18 months will be saying some words
  8. 18 months will be very mobile, move around independently and through a ball (or let it fall from their hands)
  9. 20 months putting words together. Don’t expect them to sing you the whole song but they can shout out a word every now and then and may carry a tune
  10. 24 months their attention span is short so activities should be around 2 minutes long and gradually as they get older make them longer
  11. After two years of age expect children to be able to do controlled and simultaneous actions with all limbs, to cross their hands and place them on their thighs, or place one hand on their tummy and one hand on their heads. 
  12. Babies won’t be sharing until well after 30 months old (2,5 y.o.) but will know that some things belong to them and some to others from about 18 months. At this stage it is easier if they share a toy with their practitioners rather than with other children. 
  13. Play hiding games, show pictures, pretend vocabulary (let’s pretend we are frogs), use animals and make funny noises – These are always a hit!

FURTHERMORE:

If you are in doubt about what children can do, ask the nursery practitioner of the group you need clarification on.

You are building intention. They will not sing with you loud and clear or clap every time when the song says so but it shouldn’t stop you from working on this verbal and action vocabulary. There is no set date to start developing individuality and self awareness. Babies learn very fast so be patient, they are processing. 

The ratio of adults per babies in nurseries in the UK is 1 nursery practitioner for 3 babies – you should not be in the count. As they get older the ration changes.

Most nurseries will group the children according to their age (months) into different rooms. When a baby turns above a specific month and / or their physical, social and mental development exceeds expectations, then they move on to the “bigger” room. The room with older children. You may not be informed in advance. You will have to adjust your session plan to who you have there and accommodate to the majorities’ needs.

It’s useful to prepare a progression of your activities and how to break it down to something simpler. This way you can easily adjust according to who you have on the day. 

This is only a rough guide. You may know children that started walking at 10,5 months and others were still wobbly at 16 months, or could do simultaneous actions with both limbs earlier. Ask and be alert for changes sooner than expected.

Even if children can’t physically do something, they can’t do it YET. That means that you can build onto that skill. You can still ask the 20 month olds to put one hand on their tummy and one on their head. You will show them how to do it and move on to another activity, or break that activity down and allow each child to interpret it as they want. Be considerate. Don’t push them to do something they can’t do yet but guide them, show them and encourage them to do it when they are ready. Babies give feedback instantly, so if they feel frustrated about something you will know. Calmly congratulate them for what they have achieved and move on to something else that is more familiar.

During this designated music time with babies, you are building intention, perception, anticipation and expectations, feel safety and confidence in their abilities to carry on with their development. All this through music and sound exploration. So you are also offering an experience, the world through the auditory sense. All these qualities are invisible for a while but are there and are being cultivated through systematic and careful preparation.

I’d love to know your thoughts and how it goes for you!

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020