Wednesday, August 15, 2012

1st Grade Singing Games Night

“During these early years music is an action art, as opposed to a performing or spectator art. Nurturing the love for music in a playful, informal atmosphere is essential. Play is the child’s work and is his most effective avenue for learning.”
-Jo Kirk
Kodály Specialist/Early Childhood Music Teacher

Mid August means back to school for many teachers and students. I am excited to begin a new school year of music making, moving, and creating! I'll begin the school year with students next Monday and I'm planning my first big school music event for the year: the 1st Grade Singing Games Family Night.

This year the 1st graders will begin their music, art, and PE experiences at my school. While I have taught kindergarteners in my school in previous years, weather or not the kindergardeners have music, art, and PE is completely a numbers game in my district and varies from school to school. (But that is a rant for another post!)

What this means for my 1st grade curriculum is this: from mid August to mid December I focus on kindergarten concepts and "steeping" the students in singing, moving, listening, and playing. The child's "work" is play and we need to get to "work" soaking up many wonderful songs and musical experiences to build upon!

For several years now, I've hosted a 1st Grade Singing Games Family Night in October in lieu of a concert or performance. This is an evening event somewhat similar to an "informance" but the parents and families are expected to participate. Here is a sample invitation:

Dear Parents and Family Members,
You are invited to participate in the 1st Grade Singing Games Family Night in the gym on Tuesday, October 28th from 6:30pm – 7:30pm.
Come sing, move, and play with your 1st grader as you experience music games played during a 1st grade music class. This is an active night where  1st graders will teach their families the music activities they enjoy in class. Please dress in comfortable clothes appropriate for movement.  Join us in the  gym for music, movement, and fun!  I look forward to seeing you there.  

During this family night students help teach their families the songs games they've been learning in music class. Having the students assist in teaching gives them ownership of the music and games. We teach the gym-full of families a song and game and we all sing and play. Parents experience the joy of music making alongside their children and see firsthand the cooperation and social skills the children are learning. I take a little time after each song and game to briefly mention what musical skills we are working on with each specific song. 
Yes, the parents are willing to fly like birds "hop in the garden" with their children and frankly, I believe many adults relish the opportunity to be "child-like" again. (Just ask any of my Level 1 students from this past summer who all needed a turn to be in the center of the parachute for Snail Snail!)
Planning the songs and games for this night is a little tricky; the games need to be simple enough for a very large group of various age levels, (don't forget the younger and older siblings!) Here are some of the more successful songs and games I've used (along with musical and social skills I'm preparing):

Jim Along Josie
·      Steady beat
·      Unstructured movement (not in a circle or any other formation)
·      Listening for verbal cues (“skip Jim Along…”)

Here Comes a Bluebird
·      Steady beat
·      In-tune singing
·      Long sounds compared to short sounds (“Hey_____, diddle dum-a day, day, day”)

Old King Glory
·      Steady beat
·      High sounds compared to low sounds
·      Syncopation in rhythm of melody

Seven Jumps (Movement to recorded music)
·      Musical phrasing
·      Long sounds compared to short sounds
·      Instrument identification (violin)

Charlie Over the Ocean
·      Steady beat
·      In-tune singing with solo opportunity

The Grand Old Duke of York
·      Steady beat
·      Musical phrasing
·      Steady beat
·      Complex sequence of movement

Bow Wow Wow
·      Steady beat
·      Complex sequence of movement
·      Up and down melodic direction 

I receive more positive feedback from parents regarding this event then any other performance each year. What about you? What have you done to inform parents about the wonderful things going on in your music classroom?


  1. These are great ideas! My first graders also love Plainsies Clapsies and the folk dance, Fjaskern.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Those 2 games would work well also, Alisha. What dance do you do with Fjaskern? I learned a partner dance with the music at a workshop (which I can't remember or find the notes for,) but I usually do a standing stick passing game with older students for Fjaskern.

  3. The fjaskern dance I do is clockwise 16 beats counterclockwise 16 beats 4 jumps turn in a circle 4 jumps turn in a circle. We get funky with our jumps the faster we go.

  4. This sounds really cool! I would love to do something like this - how many students do you have total in your first grade? I'm trying to picture doing something that large. I have about 80 students. Do you have them split into groups or everyone does a giant version of the game?