Variations and Recombinations – Part 4

Music Lesson Plan for nursery school

cover image: Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Ways to play with themes
and variations for different age groups,
from babies to preschoolers

This is the 3rd of a series of 4 posts, each covering different age groups, starting from babies all the way up to preschoolers. Each post builds onto the previous one.

As always, each group of children you have will respond differently so use these activities as a guide and modify them for your and your specific group’s needs.

And of course, prepare your session to fit in with health and safety regulations. Download my Pied Piper lesson plan for a list of recommendations of making a session Covid-19 safe

40– 60 month olds and older

Songs used previously

  1. Down by the station
  2. See the little bunnies sleeping 
  3. Twinkle Twinkle little star
  4. ABC song
  5. Ba ba Black sheep
  6. Make up words to fit the song. It doesn’t have to make perfect sense as long as the words match the main melody and rhythm

Same activities can apply but upgrade them to fit this age group’s abilities and needs. 

And here are some new ones with this space song!

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon

Sing the song Zoom, zoom, zooom, we’re going to the moon, altogether.

Game: Which Line of the Song Am I Playing?
(Zoom, zoom, zoom, or We’re going to the moon).

See if the children can identify which lyric you are playing while you tap the rhythm on a percussive instrument or clap it. Ask them to put their arms up if it’s the first line or spin around if it’s the second one. Try the same on different instruments.
At the end of this game, ask a child to play one of line of the song and everyone else will guess. 

Agree on the children’s favourite line
play it as many ways as you can think of inviting the children to suggest ways as well. Loud, quiet, fast, slow, on different instruments, singing it with one syllable, sing it with eyes closed, play it while hopping, etc… Think about changing movement as well as changing sound each time as well. 

Play the wrong melody

Play the agreed phrase (or if feeling brave play the other one) but this time you will play a wrong note or a wrong rhythm, or a sound that is out of the ordinary (you may be singing the phrase singing only la-la-la and replace one ‘la’ with ‘ta’ or something…). Tell them what they should do when they hear the “wrong” sound – i.e.: put their hands up

Sing the song but change the vowel for every word that has the ‘oo’ sound. The children can do it right away.

Polyrhythm (sort of)

Repeat one of the lines and stress a different word / syllable of the sentence in every repetition. You can clap that word and the first word of the sentence every time (polyrhythmic sequence will emerge). Invite the children to join in with clapping or singing.

Use blocks to represent each word

One word will have 3 blocks that are exactly the same (the word ‘zoom’).
After you have laid the blocks on the floor and sang the song a few times by pointing on each block for every word, you can ask the children to rearrange the blocks. Each child can have a go making a different pattern. You can just enjoy making different colourful patterns or…

In case the children remember what word is assigned to every block, try saying aloud the new formed sentences. It doesn’t matter at this point if the sentence doens’t make sense at this point.

If not, they (and you) will definitely remember which block was for the word ‘zoom’. By keeping a steady beat, point to each block and when you reach the ‘zoom’ block say the word out loud and be quiet/ say ‘sh’/ clap for the other blocks.

Bonus activity!!!
(and for older children, like 5 – 7 years old, but you can always
try it with younger ones just manage your expectations)

Use pictures to represent a sound

Moving beyond the Zoom song and creating something entirely new

A picture could be a geometrical shapes, or shapes of objects / flowers / animals / fruit / trees / clothes / …. Assign a distinctive sound for each picture. Make it short and memorable. Could be claps or knee taps, tummy taps…

Arrange the pictures in a simple order and then play the music you have made. Carry on varying a picture at a time or varying loudness, pulse, harmony (in case you do have an instrument available), the direction of the sound, layering sounds together (this may be difficult it’s an option if you feel like it or have older children)

Activities for theme and variation sessions are endless but invaluable. The activities that I have listed here are tailored around improvisation. Either building up the vocabulary to start improvising – musically and verbally – or improvising. Movement is an integral part of music, well this is my belief, that is why it is so prominent in almost all activities. Feel free to improvise yourself and variate activities however you think will fit better in your sessions. These songs and activities are only a guide, you can choose your own songs and mix and match activities. 

Copyright © 2021, Rania Chrysostomou, lesson plan for nursery schools music  

Variations and Recombinations – Part 3

Music Lesson Plan for nursery school

cover image: Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Part 1 | Part 2

Ways to play with themes
and variations for different age groups,
from babies to preschoolers

This is the 3rd of a series of 4 posts, each covering different age groups, starting from babies all the way up to preschoolers. Each post builds onto the previous one.

As always, each group of children you have will respond differently so use these activities as a guide and modify them for your and your specific group’s needs.

And of course, prepare your session to fit in with health and safety regulations. Download my Pied Piper lesson plan for a list of recommendations of making a session Covid-19 safe

22 – 36 month olds

Songs

  1. Down by the station
  2. See the little bunnies sleeping 
  3. Twinkle Twinkle little star
  4. ABC song
  5. Ba ba Black sheep
  6. Make up words to fit the song. It doesn’t have to make perfect sense as long as the words match the main melody and rhythm

Same activities can apply but upgrade them to fit this age group’s abilities and needs. 

Twinkle – Twinkle songs

  • While performing the gestures you can ask them to sing the song with eyes open or closed, fast or slow, loudly or quietly
  • With the scarves they can throw them in the air and catch them while singing the song
  • As before, with these activities the older children will have more confidence and perform them better than the younger ones. We are not looking for perfection here but 1. Introduce the words that describe these activities – language; 2. The activity itself – movement. 

Train songs

  • You can try arranging the children in a train line and walk around the room. Every repetition of the song you can change who is in the front of the line.

Building blocks

  • These children will need less assistance as they should be more confident in moving around by themselves. But adults should be around and provide assistance as necessary (also to keep a relative order during the session)
  • You can also make a bit more elaborate courses but don’t go overboard.
  • You can have a phrase at the end of each verse expecting the children to join in.

Playing with language and phonetic activities in this theme is very important. 

  • Voice is the first instrument we have – as well as body
  • Using language is a skill that is needed everywhere no matter your profession and as educators we need to play our role in developing it
  • With vocal games you develop language skills as well

30 – 50 months

Same activities. The children will be more independent and the activities will go more as you intended them to. 

Building Blocks

  1. Create 2 patterns that have similarities and differences. Ask the children to point out what is the same and what is different. I.e.: a row with one pink and one blue block and another row with 1 pink and one yellow block. 
  2. Then try assigning a sound for each colour and produce the pattern. Ask the children to join in.
  3. Carry on with varying these patterns first visually and then aurally.
  4. Play with textures as well and ask the children to feel textures of objects with their hands (unless it is considered safe with the COVID-19 crisis do not ask the children to touch objects and pass them round) 

Don’t miss the next post where we will look into possible ways of using Theme and Variations for the next age group. At the end of the series I will discuss why theme and variations and recombinations are important developmentally and musically!

Copyright © 2021, Rania Chrysostomou, lesson plan for nursery schools music  

Variations and Recombinations – Part 2

Music Lesson Plan for nursery school

cover image: Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Part 1

Ways to play with themes
and variations for different age groups,
from babies to preschoolers

This is the 2nd of a series of 4 posts, each covering different age groups, starting from babies all the way up to preschoolers. Each post builds onto the previous one.

As always, each group of children you have will respond differently so use these activities as a guide and modify them for your and your specific group’s needs.

And of course, prepare your session to fit in with health and safety regulations. Download my Pied Piper lesson plan for a list of recommendations of making a session Covid-19 safe

16 – 26 month olds

Songs

  1. Down by the station
  2. See the little bunnies sleeping 
  3. Twinkle Twinkle little star
  4. ABC song
  5. Ba ba Black sheep
  6. Make up words to fit the song. It doesn’t have to make perfect sense as long as the words match the main melody and rhythm

Keep activities simple and use colours, or shapes, or sizes to show variations visually as well

Activity (considering most children can walk):

While singing the songs you can:

Sing the song while marching, jumping (you can jump every 2 beats, 3, 4…), squatting, and so on.

Activity 2

If there are bigger building blocks available this will work better or with gym soft play blocks, but small ones can work as well, arrange them in different order on the floor leaving a sizable gap between each one so there’s space for someone to go through. Like creating small courses. 

With this age group and especially the younger ones you may have to hold them by the hand, not everyone will be an expert mover yet so they may be walking slowly. And expect blocks to be knocked over, courses to change along the way and some children not going through your super-duper obstacle course at all.
This is fine!

Sing a song to go with this, or have a drum beat which I, personally, would prefer for this activity. Make your drum beat catchy and simple. And if you feel brave enough you can sing / rap / chant what is happening: Lucy is going around the purple block, Evan just kicked the blue one, and so on.

Once all children had a go with the first obstacle course, quickly rearrange the blocks to make a new one. You will need the physical assistance from other adults in the room so you can carry on singing and observing what is happening while the other adults guide the children through the course. 

Don’t miss the next post where we will look into possible ways of using Theme and Variations for the next age group. At the end of the series I will discuss why theme and variations and recombinations are important developmentally and musically!

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

Variations and Recombinations

Music Lesson Plan for nursery school

cover image: Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Ways to play with themes
and variations for different age groups,
from babies to preschoolers

A series of 4 posts, each covering different age groups, starting from babies all the way up to preschoolers. Each post builds onto the previous one.

As always, each group of children you have will respond differently so use these activities as a guide and modify them for your and your specific group’s needs.

And of course, prepare your session to fit in with health and safety regulations. Download my Pied Piper lesson plan for a list of recommendations of making a session Covid-19 safe

0 – 20 months old

Songs

  1. Twinkle Twinkle little star
  2. ABC song
  3. Ba ba Black sheep
  4. Make up words to fit the song. It doesn’t have to make perfect sense as long as the words match the main melody and rhythm

Keep activities simple and use colours, or shapes, or sizes to show variations visually as well

While singing the songs you can:

  1. Use different coloured scarves for each song and the children can wave 
  2. Blocks of different shapes, stack them and knock them down at the end of each song
  3. Give a block to each child and ask them one by one to give you back the blocks while you are stacking them or placing them in a specific pattern. This can be in between songs.
  4. Have different sized balls to roll around

Game

Create simple patterns with blocks making a tower (1 big, 1 small and repeat) and then expect the children to knock them down. Create a second tower using the same blocks but rearrange them (1 big followed by 2 small). You can accompany this activity by singing what you are doing (style of twinkle, twinkle: one big, one small, one big, one small…). Or make up your own melody and rhyme. Something short and simple will do.

Don’t miss the next post where we will look into possible ways of using Theme and Variations. At the end of the series I will discuss why theme and variations and recombinations are important developmentally and musically!

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

Lesson Plan | Nature / Animals

Lesson Plan for nursery school, 
16 – 26 month old, by Rania

“When in doubt,” a mentor of mine once told me, “talk about animals, sing about animals, just use animals, or food, or nature. I don’t know why but children love them!” So, here is a lesson plan that can be focused around ainmals or nature. I would suggest focusing on one of these for the age group I am recommending here. This lesson plan can easily be used for older children but of course your expectations will be a little bit different.

and on Google Docs. Also check my previous lesson plan here

Duration: approx 20 minutes

Aim of Session: Listen and move to the music, follow directions and trigger imagination
Skill:  observation, memory, imitation, being social, listening, gross motor skills
Knowledge: Learn about the outdoors, nature, natural sounds, animals and animal sounds, observation and imitation

Description of the Session
  1. Warm up
  2. Sing 2 songs about nature / animals
  3. Show pictures of animals — moves and make sound inspired by the picture
  4. With a hand drum: name animals and children move according to that. Hit the drum rhythmically, mimicking the animal’s or plant’s march, behaviour, posture etc…
  5. Music on: Musical statues with music that is about nature or animals. Move with the children. Ask the children to represent a specific animal when they move (check tips)
  6. Sing 2 songs
  7. Warm down music

Resources
music source (tablet, iPad), music*, books/pictures of nature and animals, drum (and a mallet)

Music suggestions:

  1. Woodwings – Emily Doolittle (consider buying music) 
  2. The Swan Brings Winter on its Wings – Esther Hopkins
  3. Wanderlust – Marta Lozano Molano
  4. Mountain Dances – I. Thin Air – Kimberly Osberg

Warm down music: The Linden Tree – Misha Mullov-Abbado performed by The Hermes Experiment

Song Suggestion:

  1. The Animal fair
  2. Rub-a-dub-a-dub
  3. 1-2-3-4-5 once I caught a fish alive
  4. Walking through the jungle

Tips for Music Practitioner in Nursery

  1. Focus the lesson plan around animals or nature
  2. The music suggestions I give are only suggestions.
  3. Try as much as you can to incorporate music written in modern times.
  4. Participate as much as possible in the session.
  5. Younger children might not easily get the concept of musical statues. That is okay.

© 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