12 Ideas to Reimagine Teaching with Beanbags

Fresh ideas for using bean bags this fall in the music room or choral rehearsal.

As summer vacation draws to a close, it is always fun to get some fresh ideas for the beginning of the school year.  So go ahead and add some ways to use the bean bags from Bear Paw Creek to your repertoire! These activities will also bring giggles and smiles to teaching the potentially humdrum foundations of music making. 

This blog will share activities using beanbags not only the classroom, but also in choral rehearsal. In addition, at the end of the post is a game I developed exclusively for you, the fans of Bear Paw Creek’s Blog!  This game is open-ended, so with some poster board and markers, and of course, beanbags, you can make a delightful game that can address any skill your students need to work on.

I have been thinking about beanbags a lot lately. It is a shame for a prop that raises the spirits of students and teachers alike to be overlooked. Especially considering its durability and versatility. Why don’t we use them more?  And, if we don’t have them, why not? They are certainly one of the most affordable props out there.  In fact, www.bearpawcreek.com has bean bags for just $20 per dozen, and you can even choose the bright or muted color palette or texture that works best for your students’ needs.

If the obstacle is a lack of awareness of how to use this awesome prop, then let’s overcome it, with these 12 ideas that will help you to reimagine teaching with beanbags. These ideas include activities that I have developed, as well as some existing activities that I have adapted to beanbags, not to mention the exclusive game at the end of this blog.

Let’s get you excited for the new school year, and for using that underdog of props, beanbags!

Bean Bag Activities for the Classroom

1.Ostinato Bean Bags: Teach your ostinato, but in a kinesthetic way. Students toss the bean bag from hand-to-hand in rhythm with their singing.

2. Quick Sort: Looking for a fast way to divide students up for an activity?  If you have a variety of bean bag colors then you can hand out bean bags in a color-coded manner to designate groups/activities.  For example, if you wanted to have a sound ensemble activity, you could designate red=sung sounds, yellow=spoken sounds, orange=whisper sounds etc, and a next step would be holding up a red beanbag to start the sung group’s performances.

3. Bean Bag Engagement: Not that kind of engagement! I like to use props like the bean bags to call on students. It is an incredibly easy way to infuse more mundane tasks with fun.  I also like to have the students use this method to call on each other, which makes your existing activity even more entertaining.

4. Bean Bag SMART Notebooks: There are some great SMART notebooks available that allow students to randomly select a question or challenge by popping a bubble. Rather than walking up and popping it, you can safely have student underhand toss a bean bag at the board. My students love this method!  SMART Notebook exchange has “Candy Rhythms Koosh Ball Game” and Teachers Pay Teachers has several as well.

5. Bean Bag Shakers: If you are a new teacher that doesn’t have many props or an itinerant teacher trying to reduce how much equipment you move, consider using bean bags as a percussion instrument. You can shake or tap it, and the volume is low, so it may be just right if you have students with sound sensitivity.

6. Steady Beat Bags: When students are still learning to find the steady beat, a strategy is to have the student gently tap their chest. Putting a bean bag in that hand makes it more fun, and adds more sensation. 

Bean Bag Activities for the Classroom or Choral Rehearsal

7. Treble or Bass Clef Toss: Use masking tape to create a five line staff on the floor and have students toss a bean bag onto the staff. Then they name the note based on which line or space it lands on. Another option would be drawing the staff on poster board or other moveable surfaces to make a portable version if you are an itinerant teacher.

8. Bean Bag Rhythm: A variation on the ostinato bean bag activity above, requiring students that are struggling with a particular rhythm to toss the beanbag to the steady beat.  This could be up and down in one hand or hand-to-hand as they say rhythm syllables, chant the lyrics in rhythm, or sing the troublesome section.

9. Bean Bag Note Values: I was introduced to this activity with tennis balls, and it works great with bean bags too. Assign each note value a bean bag movement that will take an appropriate amount of time. For example: two eighth notes= fast hand-to-hand toss, quarter note= single hand toss, half note= go around body 1st beat in front of body 2nd beat in back, whole note= same as half but stopping in four points- 1 front, 2 side, 3 back, and 4 other side.  Students should verbalize the counts as another pathway to learning. Display the note value students are performing so that they can make the connections between the symbol, the movement and value.  Once the students are proficient, I turn on pop music and have the students perform various note values to the beat, continuing to display the note symbols and point to them throughout.

 

Bean Bag Activities for Choral Rehearsal

10. Part Throw: If singers are forgetting that they don’t sing in a particular section, play a game!  As that section begins, have the forgetful singers toss their beanbag to a chorus member who is supposed to sing that part.  It will be so memorable that they will probably not make that mistake again.

11. Projection Toss:  This thrilling activity was intended for adults using a football, but I have adapted it here for children using beanbags. If your chorus is not projecting their voices to the back of the rehearsal space, try having them send their sound out with the bean bag by tossing it forward (after you get out of the way!). Alternatively, singers could get into pairs and have them sing a phrase tossing to their partner and then their partner sings a phrase tossing it back.

 

Here it is… your exclusive open-ended game:

The Bullseye of Music!

As I was thinking about ways to use bean bags that would be fun and engaging for our students, I also factored in that we teachers don’t necessarily have much time to craft. So if I was going to create something, I wanted it to be a game that could be used for different units.  The result is a game that can be used throught the year, with any age and the only thing you’ll need to change is the Fact Sheet.  

The 12th activity, The Bullseye of Music! :

How it works:

  1. Have two children, or the whole class play.
  2. Child A throws the bean bag at the bullseye.
  3. Child B (the opponent or class representative) announces the color which their bean bag hit.
  4. Child A puts the tip of a pencil into a paper clip in the center of the spinner for that color and flicks it. The paper clip indicates a number.
  5. Child B gives Child A the task or question based on the color and number, and they have a blast performing it!                                                                                                                                                                 

I didn’t design this for keeping score so there isn’t a plan for that, but you could certainly develop one.  The game is so engaging because the target requires skill and the spinner is pure chance.  I put the arts Integration/extra fun activities in the center, on red, to make them harder to get. 

How to Make Bullseye of Music Game Pieces:

Materials: Foam poster board, For tracing- a frying pan & small bowl, Poster markers/paint, Pencil, Paper clip, Paper, Sheet protector/clipboard

Steps:

  1. Target– Sketch the biggest possible circle you can on the poster board
  2.  Trace frying pan and small bowl creating the concentric circles of a target
  3.  Color each ring in a different color (I went the traditional route of red yellow and blue)
  4.  Spinner– On the paper, use the small bowl to trace three circles and coordinate the colors to match the circles on the target
  5.  Divide the circles into five sections (or more) and number them
  6.  Fact Sheet– create blue questions or activities of an easy level and number them 1-5 to match the spinner, and repeat for yellow   being medium level and red being difficult/super fun. Zoom in on the image above for an example Fact Sheet.
  7.  Print out Fact Sheet and slip into a sheet protector and plan to give to Child B or the Opponent described above.
  8.  Once the materials are done, grab your Bear Paw Creek bean bags, pencil and a paper clip and start having a fantastic time learning new concepts or reviewing!

Remember, all you have to do from here is create a new Fact Sheet to totally change the game!

Thanks: My appreciation to my music teacher colleagues in Anne Arundel County, MD for being such wonderful teachers and collaborators.

I hope you enjoy your bean bags in the classroom or rehearsal all the more for having some new ideas.

BPC has a great selection of bean bags right here on bearpawcreek.com.

Leah Murthy is a music educator, performer and military spouse. She is currently a Doctoral candidate in Music Education at Boston University, holds a Master’s in Music Education from The Boston Conservatory, has 15 years experience teaching music and recent contributions to professional journals such as The American Organist and The Chorister. When she is not teaching music in Maryland, or playing with her two little girls, she is in Washington D.C. conducting for The National Children’s Chorus.

Bean Bags and Music with Mar

Guest post by Maryann Harman of Music with Mar

Bean bags are one of the many things in early childhood that are thought of as ‘toys’ and yet they are so much more than that.  

It’s almost as if ‘toy’ is a bad word, like there is no time for toys in early childhood.  We must get ready for school!  Toys are the tools of childhood.  It is with toys that many skills are developed because it is through play we learn how to navigate the world.  Bean bags are fun toys.  

Let’s break down the things that are learned when playing with bean bags.

 

Music with Mar using bean bags teaches skills

Playing with Bean Bags and Learning

The first aspect is tactile.  Children are feeling them.  Squishing them.  Poking them. This helps to develop the FINE MOTOR SKILLS of the fingers.  When they push down on the beans in the middlle and they move, that’s SCIENCE!  They are learning displacement. When they toss a bean bag up in the air and it comes down, that’s gravity.  None of these concepts need to be named.  They can just happen while children’s brains get wired for understanding the concept when the time comes.

There are many songs using bean bags.  I, myself, have composed a few.  The combination of music with the bean bag activities intensifies the learning experience.  Music helps the children utilize the bean bags in a constructive way while making it easier to understand.  Because of music, they will retain what they’ve learned a bit longer as well.

The song “I’ve Got a Bean Bag” encourages children to try different motor skills. It’s simple and children can be successful.

I’ve got a bean bag. Yes. I’ve got a bean bag

I throw it up. And, catch it when it comes down

I’ve got a bean bag. Yes. I’ve got a bean bag

I throw it to my friend and catch it when she throws it back

I’ve got a bean bag. Yes. I’ve got a bean bag

Put it on my foot and kick it up. Catch it when it comes down

I’ve got a bean bag. Yes. I’ve got a bean bag

I throw it up and catch it when it comes down.

 

 

[Tweet “Music with Mar shares how you can incorporate learning with bean bags.”]

Another fun thing to do with bean bags is walk and balance with one on your head or shoulder. This is important for VESTIBULAR strengthening.  By taking the bean bag and placing it on different parts of the body, children are learning body parts – LANGUAGE

Music with Mar Bean Bags vocabulary balance directions

When using bean bags with children, I encourage them to ‘try what I’m doing’ and ‘show me what you’re doing’.  This allows for you to show them ideas and acknowledges they, too, can think of things to do.  CREATIVE THINKING as well as CONFIDENCE.  I also ask them to share with a friend and trade bean bags.  SOCIAL INTERACTION

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I am teaming up with Bear Paw Creek and we are doing a giveaway for  a set of bean bags and my cd, “Froggy Fitness”.

Win Bean Bags and Music

If you haven’t used bean bags in a while, it is time to revisit them.  If you are using bean bags, YEAH!   Get out those bean bags and have fun.  Bear Paw Creek sells 4″ square and textured bean bags – check them out!

Musicwithmar.com

Find Mar. on Facebook : Maryann Harman Musicwithmar

Follow brain facts on Facebook : Music with Mar., Inc.

Twitter Maryann Harman @musicwithmar

YouTube – Music with Mar

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Maryann “Mar.” Harman is a music educator with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and a Master’s in Education, with an emphasis in Early Childhood and is certified in Level I Orff. These degrees contribute to her ability to write songs that are musically and educationally sound for children as well as fun and easy to use for teachers and parents. She is the founder of the internationally-enjoyed Music with Mar. Brain Research Based program, Music with Mar. International (Beijing, China) and hosted BAM! Radio Music and Learning Channel. “My passion is tying together the effectiveness of music in overall development with the current research and creating music / music activities to help parents / teachers put it in action.”

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Summer Activities for Kids

A few ideas for when life slows down a bit.

 

 

A few great things to do away and at home with your kids… for when they ask to get on the computer, iPads, WII, Xbox… Well, you know…

Nothing wrong with extra time to enjoy their electronics during the summer, but here’s a list of alternatives to “gaming” their summer away.

The ebb and flow of summertime.

This morning, I enjoyed coffee with my dad as we chatted with my six-year-old.

We listened to her account of a nightmare about spiders, followed by ther dream of giant pink bugs. We speculated on the relative scariness of bugs that are huge, even if they are a shade of pink… It was good to just sit and talk and laugh a little with the morning cheer shining through the window.

Just two and a half weeks into June and we’ve already enjoyed: 1) A family reunion, 2. Two summer camps, 3. Family visiting in our home, and 4. A wedding weekend out of town. For the next few days, we’ve got the pleasure of having my dad here. Then we’ll finish out with another summer camp (for my younger kids this time). What a fun whirlwind – talk about a full month with many precious memories made!

The remainder of my calendar for this summer looks pretty empty, with enough time to be a bit more leisurely. There’s plenty of space to enjoy more coffee and conversation in the morning. I’ll have room in my days for contemplation. We won’t have places to rush off to and  I’ll have no piles of post-camp-laundry to catch up on. Our pace will slow down.

As my kids adjust to having greater ammounts of free time, I want to make sure those days aren’t all filled up with screen time . I’ve been strategizing about mostly “unplugged” activities we can enjoy. When my kids are asking to be on the computer all day, I’ll be ready with these ideas.

[Tweet “Here’s a list of alternatives to “gaming” their summer away.”]

A list of activities to enjoy with kids this summer:

Berry picking and peach harvesting.

We have so many orchards and berry farms around us. I missed the strawberry picking season (busy!), but this week is the perfect time for picking blueberries around here. For information about farms and orchards near you, go to this website: pickyourown.org.

To extend the fun, you can also read the classic, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey while you eat your fresh berries over ice cream.

Journaling to inspire the love of writing and build confidence.

My husband and I sell used books on Amazon and occasionally I snag one from the “sell” pile if I fall in love with it.

The book, In the Company of Children, by Joanne Hindley, falls into that category. This is a warm, friendly book which helps you and your reluctant writer get past the paralysis of the blank page. It is not only a “how-to” book on journaling but also a “why” for motivation. She’s encouraging and injects a sense of community into the writing process.

I’m looking forward to bringing this into our family and seeing what it does for our family. I can see the influence of this book reaching into the adult years of my children, enhancing their grasp of good communication and their enjoyment of it as well.

Planning for when it’s too hot or rainy outside:

Watching this series on YouTube

Last year I studied Geography with my kids and about three months ago we stumbled across this channel Geography Now, created by Paul Barbato, pretty much from the first video we were hooked. He uses humor, and great visuals to make all the countries you’re a bit unclear about memorable. I want my kids to have a working knowledge of the world and it’s people. That’s a pretty tall order but this channel is a great starting point for both. For an overview, take a look at this:

Create a cooking lesson for your kids.

Whether you create your own (using favorite recipes) or use a monthly kit like Radishkids.com, summertime has the best opportunities to find pockets of time for cooking with your kids.

I know it’s kind of scary for some of us, but it really is worth the time and the mess to do this with your kids. The key is: Don’t do try cooking lessons with your kids when you’re in a hurry. Seriously, a four-hour block of time will make you much more relaxed about the process and cleanup! Maybe you only do this a couple of times this summer, but that’s okay!

Resources from Bear Paw Creek

Bean Bags.

I’ve got a set of bean bags from Bear Paw Creek, which my kids love. They are great for tossing inside (or outside) into bowls, knocking over empty bottles, for practicing juggling (Yeah, still working on that one.) and with an oversized checkerboard (squares painted or drawn on a sheet or fabric).

We use them at church as a way to get busy bodies moving before or after the lesson. Every Sunday (I’m not exaggerating. EVERY Sunday!) the kids ask to get the bean bags out. These are a great tool for every parent to have in their Summertime Boredom Toolbox.

Stretchy Bands in Circle Time.

Another great tool to pull out when you prefer to be inside is the Connect-a-Stretchy Band. These stretchy bands can be used for Circle Time each morning.

What is Circle Time you ask? Here’s an example from a mom at home: Creating a Circle Time in Your Home, by Jamie Martin on Simple Homeschool gives an overview and links to her vlog so you can see them in action.

Below is an example of a singing and movement Circle Time using a stretchy band from Bear Paw Creek (with plenty of giggles included):

If you want more tips and ideas on doing Circle Time take a look at this recent post by Carol Stephens of Macaroni Soup. She gives very practical tips and has great songs to use on her website.

If you want to know the “why” of using the stretchy band during Circle time, take a look at this post, by Allysa Wilkins of Dynamic Lynks, to understand the benefits the stretchy with your kids.

Summer Snowball Fight!

Have you heard of the Instant Snowball Fight? 

It’s great for winter fun when you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow and it’s great for the summer! This is an activity you can do inside, outside, in the pool, at a lake, really, anywhere. 

Snowball Movement Prop Set+ Kids = Indoor Snowball Fight

Don’t even get me started on the scarves and ribbons!

 

Have you seen what kids do when you get dancing scarves and ribbons in their hands? Whether dancing on the lawn, or in your front room, your kids will have a blast! Take a look at the resources I have listed in Ribbons Dancing and Scarves, Oh My!

I hope your summer is filled with fun. That it has a good ebb and flow of activities and rest.

Be sure to check out all of the movement props that Bear Paw Creek carries. Be prepared with these low-tech, high-fun ways for your kids to interact and play. Be prepared when your child says, “Can I play on the computer?” for the 50th time in a row. 😉

 

Jenette is a freelance writer of web content, blogs, and podcast show notes. She is also a wife and imperfect mother, whose family mean the world to her. She’s looking forward to July, when you’ll find her carving out time for all of this fun stuff and more. Jenette’s business website is at www.mywordsforhire.com.

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