"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making Spooky Stories with "Danse Macabre"

When I was a new teacher, a dear friend, Heather Henriques generously shared some of her teaching materials with me to help get me started, and I specifically remember this one because all the kids enjoyed it every time we brought it out around this time of year. It confirmed to me that children are able to comprehend classical music and have fun with it.
Thanks, Heather (if you read this!), for your help in lending me materials those first few years! :-)

This is a super-simplified version of the activity, since I do not have 2nd graders, but a 4 year old and a newly-turned 3 year old.

 What is"Danse Macabre", you may ask (click on the title to listen!)?
Danse Macabre  is a piece of music by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens. The piece is a "symphonic poem" meaning that it's a musical description of a literary work.

The basic story behind the poem is Death coming out at midnight to awaken his other spooky friends. He tunes up his fiddle and starts into a waltz as they all join him. They dance, run and leap throughout the night, but then when the rooster crows that morning has come, Death plays a mournful tune as they all depart.

So, we made it a little more munchkin-friendly by picking our own spooky characters and incorporating some of the story, but letting them fill in the rest.
This is a great way to help children understand music, by helping them describe it in actions and story.

The boys picked out three characters - a ghost (a Boo), a bat (Pat) and a jack-o-lantern (Peter).
I found some clip art, resized and printed them out. Then we grabbed some popsicle sticks to attach the pictures to.

As the boys were coloring, I played the piece and described our simple story.

"It's midnight!" (you can hear in the orchestra twelve tones played by the harp to signify the clock striking 12:00).
"Out comes Peter the Pumpkin.... He plays his violin and wakes up his friends to come out and play!"
(Then you can hear two distinct musical melodies or themes. We used one for the ghost theme and one for the bat theme.)
"Out comes Boo the Ghost! He's so excited to see Peter the Pumpkin. They dance and jump and sing."
"Now, it's Pat the Bat flying in for the fun; and he is excited to see his two friends."

... Throughout the song, we incorporated lots of things the friends did together. Some were my ideas, some were K's.  Things like... playing hide and seek, jumping, racing, flying, dancing, falling, climbing, playing, meeting new friends, etc....  And we tried to listen closely for  the first melody which was Boo the Ghost's theme, and the second melody which was Pat the Bat's theme (in the second picture, you can see K - who, yes, is dressed up as a pirate - pausing to listen for what the music sounds like, so we know what type of activity the friends are doing. Love it!).

K got into it, although this was the first time we'd done something like this, other than Peter and the Wolf.
But, most of the time, J just listened and watched us..... I think he'll get into it more when he's a little older. :-)

After we finished Danse Macabre, K wanted to do it again to a different piece of music. So, we tried it to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King." More creativity!

You certainly don't need to use Halloween characters - grab some other animals who are awake at night and make up a story of their nighttime activities (like owls, bats, and cats)!

So, give it a try and let your child create and imagine to music! You'll be surprised how much fun it is. :-)

Below is the link again: (This is a YouTube link - remember to be aware of images on these types of sites. I wish they were clean and safe, but sometimes, they are not; other times, it's fine. Just fyi!)

 "Danse Macabre"

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Make-It-A-Song Monday" Simple Games

Well, on rainy/indoor days, it's good to have little games to do when your little cuties need some one-on-one time.  Today, we were doing a simple hide-the-marble game for baby M (only it was a marshmallow... then a grape, since he didn't care for the marshmallow).

So, when doing simple activities, it's usually a great opportunity to make a simple song to accompany it. Again, children are naturally drawn to melody.  After just hearing words all day, it's a refreshing change for your tot to hear something musical out of your mouth. :-)

A super simple way to make a singable melody for young ones is to only use 2 notes.  Two simple notes to use with younger kids are the same that you sing in the tune, "Rain, rain Go away;" or in the typical doorbell ring in your house (if you sing "Ding, Dong" you'll have the notes! Or, if you happen to be in western New York sing,"Let's Go, Buffalo").

Those two notes (called a minor third)  are both appealing to young children and are easily singable for their little voices.

So, we gathered some materials:
3 cups, some treats and a few kids. :-)

Sing along as you hide a treat under a cup and move the cups around:
"Peek a Boo, where are you? Here I come to find you..."  or something similar.

Sing while or until they start picking up cups. When your little one finds the treat, rejoice! And let them eat it and try again and again (depending on your treat, as I'm sure 20 marshmallows might not be so great....).

What other simple games do you play with your little one/s? Consider adding a simple song to the game to add a musical component and get more music in your day!

And... just to get you smiling, go check out this adorable video clip I found on YouTube. No idea how well the Hyland's Baby product works, but I just might go get some because of their awesome, rhythmic ad! :-)

Go Here!

Enjoy! :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Halloween Syllable Clapping

There are many ways to teach children the natural rhythm all around them. One of these ways is to engage them in thinking about the rhythm in words.
When you break down words by syllables, it's easy to create a rhythm activity geared to the interests of your child.

Our guys are into all things spooky and Halloween-y currently, so my music-nerd mind thought "Bingo!!" - it's another opportunity to practice rhythm while having a Halloween activity (love those two-fer's).

So, this one needs a little bit of prep.
Your materials are:  construction paper, print-outs of Halloween (or fall-themed) pictures, coloring or painting supplies, scissors and glue.
Oh yeah, and one or two (or more!) adorable children.

To find images, do a search for whatever Halloween or Autumn pics you'd like by looking for coloring pages. Those are usually large enough and are usually free to print. Look for ones with nice, solid lines.

These are the ones we looked for:
3 syllables: skeleton
2 syllables: pumpkin
1 syllable: ghost (actually we called the ghost Boo! because both boys love to say that word whenever possible right now)  and bat.

If you don't want Halloween images, you can search for seasonal things like candy apple, pumpkin, scarecrow, candy corn, apple, leaf, etc...

1. Gather your pictures on your computer, adjust sizes, print and cut them out.

   2. Have child color or paint pictures. I printed mine on cardstock thinking they'd want to paint them, but they got a hold of these pictures before I knew it and started using markers. Whatever!
 3. Go over the name for each item and clap by syllables as you name them to get the child into hearing the rhythm of each word.
4. Tell child to arrange 3 in a row and clap the names in rhythm. It's helpful to point along as they go. Alternate this with clapping along also. Some may need one more than another.
5. Have child rearrange and clap as many times as their interest holds. Mom/Dad can help them to incorporate words with different patterns so there's a good mix.
These pics are blurry because K was jumping around back and forth doing his clapping, which I thought was hilarious. You can see my finger trying to keep him on track as he flies back and forth.

 6. Before they're spent, have the child arrange all the pics on the page, glue them on and then make a story about the pictures, and encourage them to clap along for the special Halloween words as they go. You can use your rhyming agility to make the stories rhyme if possible to continue in the musical component if you'd like.

 For example, J's story was something like.... "Along came Boo who saw skeleton too, and said "howdy Do!" Look, let's go scare pumpkin one and pumpkin two!" Not the most fluid, but it was something like that...

Proudly display their fine work and then go get a Halloween treat. :-)

Friday, October 5, 2012

"P" for Piano

We're talking about letter "P" things this week around here (especially pumpkins, of course). So this little activity fit in perfectly and is oh-so-simple.

You'll need some construction paper, scissors, glue, and a print-off of some piano keys.
To do this print-off, do a google image search for free piano key clip art. Copy and paste that picture into a Word/Google document and adjust the size accordingly. Copy and paste it across each line. One full page should be plenty for one child. I used 1 1/2 pages for my two.

Cut the piano keys out into long and small strips.

Next, cut out a big letter P. You can cut it out for younger kiddos, or let your older, more scissor-savvy ones do it on their own. We chose "pink" for letter P too, although you won't see any pink anywhere else in our house...

From here, they could do it on their own, really. But, I was the photographer, so I stayed around.

Have child line the P with glue from glue stick and paste the piano keys around, using the smaller ones for the curve in the P.

Affix onto a backdrop if you'd like and hang proudly in your home!

....or just act silly when mommy asks you to hold it up....

A good idea also is to have some piano music playing while this project is being worked on. You can look on itunes or YouTube, Pandora, etc.
Some recommendations: Mozart Piano Sonatas, Chopin Waltzes, Beethoven Piano Concertos or Sonatas.

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Songs about Fire Trucks

It's big. It's loud. All kids are amazed by it...
It's a fire truck! And they are fun to sing about, too.

Here are two of our favorite fire truck songs which you can catch my kiddos singing at any random time around the house, and they may be fun to add to your home too.

"I Want To Ride In a Fire Truck" by Ivan Ulz 

Fire truck,
Fire truck,
I wanna ride in a fire truck.  (repeat)

I'm gonna put on my jacket,
put on my boots,
put on my helmet,
then I'll slide down the pole (weeee!)
and get on to...... my........

Fire truck,  (hey!)
Fire truck,
I wanna ride in a fire truck.

There are all sorts of other verses, which you can learn as well -  Check this one out HERE!

You can also pick up this book online (Amazon.com, etc.) or check and see if your library has it.
We have fun making motions to go with each verse too.... Like putting on our fire helmet and boots, spraying the water, shouting, weeee!! as we "slide down the pole."

"Hurry, Hurry, Drive the Fire Truck" 

Hurry, hurry drive the fire truck,
hurry, hurry drive the fire truck,
hurry, hurry drive the fire truck,
ding, ding, ding ding ding!

Hurry, hurry, climb the ladder....
Hurry, hurry, spray the water...
Hurry, hurry, put the fire out....

We do a little different version of it, but here's a link to a little "Thomas the Tank Engine" video of it (which my boys love). Go HERE!

(This song also works well for helping to get your kids out the door... "Hurry, hurry put your sneakers on," etc...)

Here are some of our favorite fire truck / fire fighter books (check and see if your library has them if you haven't read them yet!):

"Fire Engines" by Anne Rockwell

"Firefighters A to Z" by Chris L. Demarest

"Fire Trucks in Action" publ. by Motorbooks

And, what better fun than to make your own fire truck so your little muchkin can sing while playing!
Check out this post from one of my favorite blogs.

Have fun!