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  

Apples and Oranges

All children are different; so will your lesson plans

Every child is different. 
As human beings, they have the same basic needs. 

In our Music-in-Nursery-schools terms we will exclude the important and vital basic needs such as food and sleep, and look into developmental needs. Children will want to make relationships, develop their self-confidence and self-awareness, managing feelings and behaviour, moving and handling, health and self-care, listening and attention, speaking, understanding, reading, writing, number, space and shapes, understanding the world, technology, exploring and using media and materials, being imaginative* (EYFS).

You will notice how differently 2 children under 24 months develop. Not only do babies and children learn at different speeds but their attention span differs as well. So by this, it is natural that your plannings for each group of children will be different. Here’s an example of why this may happen.
Group 1: 8 babies (6 – 13 months) 6 are mobile and 2 can sit unsupported
Group 2: 8 babies (6 – 13 months) 2 are mobile and 6 can sit unsupported

Your expectations and activities won’t be the same.  
I mean… They can be the same exactly, but then you might not be challenging all babies to the level they can handle a musical challenge. There is nothing wrong in doing so. It’s a possibility for you to consider and what your music teaching / music enlightenment philosophy is.

My million pound advice is to incorporate movement as much as possible in as many activities as possible when with children and babies. They don’t get bored but also, they are mantally active in the learning process, they are engaging with the learning.

Luckily, it doesn’t mean that you have to create 2 entirely different lesson plans. It would be exhausting and confusing for you to do that.

What worked for me and I know will work for almost anyone, is to have a sort of template lesson plan. I actually ended up using a template lesson plan between most age groups, across all 6 nurseries I was working in. 

You have the template lesson plan and you use progressions. (check out this lesson plan as a reference)

Areas you can progress on musical and non musical 

  1. Movement 
  2. Time span of an activity 
  3. Your wording of an activity 
  4. Instrumentation 
  5. Responsibilities of each child
  6. Groups (working in pair, as a whole group, with assistance from adults) 
  7. Singing qualities 
  8. Tempo qualities 
  9. Following the leader – listen and response 
  10. You think about another aspect you can progress on and how it will change

For instance:
Itsy-bitsy-Spider (a basic expectancy plan)
So if you are singing the itsy-bitsy-spider you would roughly expect 
Stage 1: some babies will not be using their hands at all and (at the best of times) listen intensely, giggle, and look at their primary carer with wide eyes. 
Stage 2: trying but not quite nailing the whole sequence. Moving their fingers at the very start of the song, repeating one gesture until it comes up in the song, clapping at the end of the song…
Stage 3: singing a word or a phrase here and there while trying to coordinate their fingers as well. 
Stage 4: singing more words and phrases, more confident with their gestures and know exactly when to change for the next phrase
Stage 5: Enact the whole song with their body and fingers and sing it 
Stage 6 (advanced pre-schoolers or older): The whole lesson plan can be around the spider song and there are other activities involved which isolate properties of music like rhythm, melody, the theme, add dynamics, play it on a xylophone, change the gestures, change lyrics, words, the sky’s the limit!

Don’t forget that children’s and babies’ attention span is quite small and it varies from child to child and from day to day for each child. This may sound confusing if you’ve never ever worked with 0 – 60 month olds but with experience you learn to recognise small mannerisms that indicate “now I’m fed up with this thing, let’s do something else”. Sometimes you may think that if they try it one more time they will master the skill but sadly their agenda is different and I think at these stages it is important to respect that and not push them for “one last time” unless you are beyond sure they can handle it. I would suggest to keep all activities under 2 minutes, between 30 seconds to 2 minutes and build up resistance and stamina gradually. 

Indeed, children’s attention spans are low. Depending on the age and how they are feeling that day, it might be between 30 seconds to 2 minutes before they get bored and want a new activity. They may start wondering off. That Is NoRMaL! But please, Don’t ignore the signs. If you have done the best you could then it’s just on the day. Remember, concentration can be trained. It may take a bit of time.

This is from personal experience, talking with colleagues and reading some scientific articles over the years. All are suggestions and it is what works for you as a music practitioner for the early years.

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

Music For the Early Years

Music Education in Nursery Schools

Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Of course I wasn’t allowed to take pictures so these are stock pictures

All the way back in the 2010s I worked in a nursery school. At first as a nursery practitioner in the baby room and a few months later I was promoted and my title became something like: the music practitioner in residence. I immersed the children’s and babies’ time in music across all six locations of the company’s nursery schools, all located in London, UK. My schedule was regular in terms of which day I would be at each nursery and what time I would teach in each room, and it would change every three months or so. 

Taking this job opportunity was very exciting and adventurous. I was constantly learning about teaching, interacting with adults and children and how music works with children and babies. It is safe to say now that my confidence levels on taking up this job were quite low, I had no idea what to do and I was learning on the job. I asked friends, and fellow classmates, and Google of course all the whats and hows and whys and as you might expect (not saying it ironically), the information was still a bit scattered. It’s not just piecing things together but also finding what would work best for me and the nurseries.

I organised and delivered music sessions with a lot of singing, and activities that allowed the children to explore, interact and learn about music and sound. The babies were from about 6 months old and the oldest children around 3,5 to 4 years old. Each session was focused for only one age group, babies, toddlers, preschoolers and the in between toddlers and preschoolers. This job comes with a handful of challenges, rewards, moments of exasperation and moments of contentment. There are many ways to think about this and to one that troubled me the most was:
Is my primary purpose to entertain or educate? The answer may be obvious but as I will explain in a following post, it wasn’t as simple. I wanted to have a very creative approach, one where the children would be investigating and experimenting with throughout the 20 minutes of their session.

With this series of articles I’d like to share with you some of my experiences and learnings from this process as well as some of the lesson plans and activities I developed and played with the children, what worked and what didn’t and potential improvements. So, if you want to find out more about the job of being a music practitioner, or want to incorporate more musical play with your children then these posts are for you.

I will be sharing some of my lesson plans, tips that I picked up, difference between an entertainer and a music practitioner, general advice for working with children, toddlers and babies, what to look out for when working as a musician in a nursery, and at some point I will also try to figure out if a musician (knows how to play an instrument, and studied music in university or conservatory, is serious about music and knows and appreciates the complexities of many music genres and subgenres which are and not limited to: classical music, contemporary classical music, folk, traditional, modern and pop music from various countries).

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020