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.

Dr. Seuss, Beat Competency, Reading Skills

Finding My Dr. Seuss Books

 

March 2 was Dr. Seuss’ birthday and this week is Read Across America week. With that in mind I went to gather up all my Dr. Seuss books from our book shelves. But…..

Since our oldest son moved out and took all his children’s book, almost ALL of our Dr. Seuss books are gone!  Oh my – I will be needing to add those back in.  We are still enjoying the books I have left but sorely missing some favorites.

Here are some Dr. Seuss activity ideas to incorporate with his books, and a fun way to use the stretchy band.

Dr. Seuss, Beat Competency, Reading Skills and the stretchy band

Dr. Seuss Activity Links

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?  One of my favorites is “Oh The Places You’ll Go”. 

Here are my favorite links to use for this week’s celebration:

What is your favorite book? Any fun activities you do?

 

 

[Tweet “Dr. Seuss Tie In: Use the stretchy band to teach rhyming and beat competency. #readacrossamerica”]

Stretchy Band For Rhyming

Tuneful Teaching shared a great article this week called “The importance of keeping a beat: Researchers link ability to keep a beat to reading, language skills”.

The findings of a Northwestern University study of more than 100 high school students lend proof to the surprising link between music, rhythmic abilities and language skills.

Read more at: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-09-importance-link-ability-language-skills.html#jCp

 Tuneful Teaching shares this about beat competency:
The Stretchy Band is also a fabulous way to teach “beat competence,” the ability to move your body in a steady beat which matches the tempo of music.

It reminded me of the video they shared awhile ago where they used the stretchy band to teach literacy. You can take the same concept shown below, and use it to send rhyming words around the circle.  This is a great tie in with Dr. Seuss’ books!

 

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Crossing the Midline with the Stretchy Band, Balloon Ball, Bean Bags

OT Mom’s Learning Activities Link Up

 

 

About a year ago I stumbled across Tracey from OT Mom Learning Activities.  She lives in Africa and was looking for some bean bags, and I also sent her a stretchy band and balloon ball for her to try out.

She specifically shared how to use the stretchy band, bean bags, and balloon ball for teaching bilateral coordination.

She says, “Bilateral coordination is the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated way. It is also called bilateral integration

I will be sharing her ideas and linking up to her blog posts and information.

OT Mom Learning Activities with stretchy band, balloon ball, bean bags

Crossing the Midline with the Stretchy Band, Balloon Ball, Bean Bags

Follow this link for fun activities for crossing the midline to implement at home and come with lots of photos to show you just what to do!

stretchy Band Round up of Activites

Stretchy Band

Bear Paw Creek’s stretchy band can be used very effectively to work on midline crossing skills with a group of kids!

Have your kids stand in a circle and hold on to the stretchy band. These 3 kids are holding 2 bands which have been joined together to make a longer one.

Start clapping a beat or singing a song and have the kids move the stretchy band hand over hand around the circle in a rhythmical way.

They should be crossing the midline as they reach from side to side.

Read more on OT Mom!

 

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[Tweet “Simple games with balls and bean bags can be adapted to make great activities for crossing the midline.”]

Bean Bag

In this post you will learn the following:

Bean bag games and activities make use of a fun and inexpensive prop to develop gross motor skills.

Younger children may find beanbags easier to handle than a ball, and because beanbags can’t roll away, they may be less frustrating for the child with poor coordination skills.

Some of the games suggested can make great kids’ party games too!

Click on this link to read the list of bean bag activities.

Rachel&GeorgeBeanBags2

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Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

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3 Christmas Song Lists for Memory Care

A List of Vintage Christmas Music Resources for Memory Care Activities

 

 

Elder care professionals: Are you looking for some music resources for your planned recreational activities? Whether for use in a senior activity day center, at home or in a nursing home, we have a few song lists and suggestions you can have at your fingertips. Use them to lift spirits and get toes tapping this season. 

These Christmas selections were made from music that was popular in the 1920’s through the 1950’s, perfect for you to use in your memory care activities this week and the next.

Becoming acquainted with memory care.

I’ve known Janet, co-founder of Bear Paw Creek for a very long time now and my relationship with her has caused me to be more aware of the role of music and movement in therapy for people of all ages.

One therapy I’ve been researching and would love to hear more about is the role of memory care in people with dementia. Memory Care facilities take into account both the physical safety of the resident and the continuing mental and emotional wellbeing of the person. It costs more to have a family member stay in a Memory Care facility, but the increase in cost comes with an increase in benefits to your loved one. 

Games, music, and other activities, take into account the memories, loves, and abilities, of elderly people being cared for. This is also done in most nursing homes, in portions of many hospitals, in senior activity centers, and can be intentionally planned with in-home care as well.

As I type this, I think of my grandmother who has passed away and the tender care she got from a nursing facility and two of my aunts. I also think of a dear friend whose mother is dealing with Alzheimer’s, and how much her family loves her and how well they care for her. The third person I think of is a dear friend who watched her husband go through Alzheimer’s the last few years of his life. The weight of all of that love and loss makes it impossible for me to contemplate it without tears in my eyes.

This, then, is why memory care professionals pique my interest. Memory care, calls to my mind respect for the memories still able to be accessed and enjoyed… The songs, the images, and events which are still vivid when other memories are hidden under the blanket a fog.

In memory care, you enter into the world of the person who has dementia and you meet them there, on their terms, rather than expecting them to meet you in a place they can no longer relate to. Memory care also involves creating opportunities to take part in activities which have a low frustration level for the people you are working with.

Someone who can’t recognize faces and names may well remember how to play the piano, paint with a paint brush, or cut up fruit for a salad. These activities both stimulate the neuropathways and increase levels of pleasure while reducing feelings of isolation and anger.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of popular Christmas songs and artists from the 40’s 50’s and 60’s to be used by those planning an enjoyable time of recreation for residents of nursing homes or senior activity centers. I’ll give you a list of Youtube links as well as some links to great album choices of CDs or downloads. If you have a record player… well, you just might want to start hunting on Craigslist and garage sales for some great oldies to play (I saw record players for sale in a store last month… They’re coming back?). 

Host a Christmas dance for an elder care activity, complete with records and a vintage record player.

You can find record players on Amazon, They’re called “turn tables”, and you can even get a Victrola Nostalgic Classic, which residents of your elder care facility may enjoy seeing and having around. For the guests who can’t get up and dance, provide Movement Scarves, Streamers or Jingle Bells for their wrists, so they can dance with their arms and hands, or simply let them soak in the scene and enjoy the music.

Here are a list of records you can purchase in time for a Christmas party (if you get right on it.)

If buying a record player and records isn’t in the budget this year, here are some other ways to bring Christmas music to your memory care activities.

 

[Tweet “In memory care, you enter into the world of the person who has dementia; you meet them on their terms,”]

1. Vintage Christmas music on Youtube to use with memory care activities.

You can set your laptop up and play these tunes to get toes tapping (either connected to a T.V or not). Have it as the main event or in the background while you all work on a Christmas craft and sip hot chocolate.

2. Online Christmas song playlists sites to use with your memory care activities.

Rather than using a record player, cd player, computer or tape recorder (what’s that?), you can use your phone plugged into a speaker to provide Christmas ambiance for your activities.

Here are some links to playlists of vintage Christmas songs which will spark memories for people who grew up before the 1960’s. To tell the truth, many of the best songs were written before the 50’s, so these songs will probably spark memories for anyone who’s grown up with the tradition of celebrating Christmas in the U.S.A.

3. Hymns playlist stirs up precious childhood memories and hope.

The power of hymns in the lives of many elderly is very significant. Some have heard the Christmas hymns since they were babies on their mother’s knee. Most wonderful is being able to have a few musicians play the piano, guitar or some other instrument and lead the singing of carols. However, if those resources aren’t available through paid staff or volunteers (many churches would be willing to send out a group to lead the carols one night during the Christmas Season), I have compiled a playlist and resources for Christmas hymns here.

Of all the memory-centered activities you can create for the elderly around Christmas, providing a time to remember Christ’s birth with Christmas hymns may be the most significant.

Christmas Hymns for celebrating the birth of Christ.







Many thanks and appreciation are owed to the professionals who care for the elderly.

This is true whether they are providing for the physical needs or creating meaningful recreation and activities for the elderly in nursing homes work. I hope to see more writing and speaking about the role of memory care in the lives of elderly people struggling with dementia. I hope to see movement therapy and music play an integral part in that care as well. 

I want to leave you with these links to excellent websites with resources for memory care activities you can use in the coming year. May the year be filled with blessings for you as you bless other people through your work with the elderly, whether it be your own precious family member or someone else’s beloved family member.

Please share tips and ideas you put into practice in your recreation and/or memory care for elderly residents. 

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 has a high respect for business owners and entrepreneurs of all kinds. She enjoys helping them tell the story of their company, products, and services, connecting them online with those who would like to find them by the written word. You can find Jenette’s business website at www.mywordsforhire.com.

Pumpkins – let’s sing about them with Miss Carole

Pumpkins – let’s sing about them with Miss Carole

Miss Carole, one of Bear Paw Creek‘s biggest supporters,  just released a great blog post over at Pre-K and Sharing and I wanted to make sure you saw it.

Included is this new song she wrote:

PASS THAT PUMPKIN ‘ROUND

Lyrics by C. Stephens   ©2015

Tune:  “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”

Pass the pumpkin ‘round

Pass it very slow-ly.

Pass!  Pass! Pass! Pass!

Now it’s time to STOP!

Go check out the other songs she offers and find out about her love of pumpkins, read the rest here,   or click on the image below.

Pass the pumpkin song

A new batch to pumpkin balloon balls were sewn up this weekend.

They go fast, so you might want to “pick” yours while you can!

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