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.

Shamrockin’ with Creative Movement Props for St. Patrick’s Day

Shamrockin’ with Movement Props

 

 

One of my favorite ways to incorporate music and movement into our days is by using holidays and the times of the year. 

St. Patrick’s Day is coming and I’m excited to share a song written by Rachel Rambach Listen & Learn Music!  It’s title says it all, “Shamrockin’ Song.”  It’s sure to do that and get stuck in your head!  My kiddos LOVED it (and so does their mom.)

We’ll be giving the song and balloon ball away this week!

Now I’ll share some ways we’ve been having fun with it.

Sharockin' Song and Shamrock Balloon Ball Giveaway

Shamrockin’ with the Stretchy Band

Sometimes when I hear a song, I know it will be a great one with the stretchy band and any time I hear Irish music, it gets my feet tapping, and I want to start dancing like Riverdance!  You’ll see our feet attempt to do an Irish jig in this video.  With lyrics like this: hey, hey, move left and right, up and down, it’s great to use with the stretchy band. If we had a little more I think  it would be fun to put the kids on the connect-a-stretchy band straight and have them dance in a jig line!

 

[Tweet “Shamrockin’ Song meets creative movement prop stretchy band.”]

Shamrockin’ Streamer Craft

Using scarves or streamers to move along with the Shamrockin’ Song would allow more individual interpretation of the song. 

We had fun cutting out these shamrocks and adding some “gold” for tails.  Glitter of course was a must!

Then we danced along with the song following the directions in the song.

Making shamrock streamers creative movement with shamrockin' song

Buy Rachel’s song and learn more about it!

Shamrockin' Song Listen and Learn Music Rachel Rambach

 

 

 

Check out the St. Patrick’s Day Balloon Ball

St. Patrick's Day Balloon Ball

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.

5 Great Singable Stories to Engage Your Child

5 Great Singable Stories to Engage Your Child

Written by: Morgan May Sparks, MT-BC  Owner & Director, Rhythm Garden Music LLC

 

This article contains affiliate links. Click on the book images will take you to the site for ordering.

I love singable stories. As a music therapist, early childhood music educator, and toddler mom, I value books that are fun, engaging, and diverse. I look for books that I know the kids are going to love and I’m not going to get tired of reading. I look for books with songs that are catchy and easy for my son and me to sing together even when I don’t have the book in my hand. Most importantly, I look for books that provide teachable moments. Here are five of my favorite singable stories that do just that.

5 Great Singable Stories to Engage Your Child

This was my first singable story from Barefoot Books. I fell in love with this book because it not only had a really catchy tune, but it also featured diverse characters. As a music therapist, I work mostly with individuals with disabilities, so it was very heartwarming to see a young lady in a wheelchair featured prominently in the story.

Animal Boogie Singable Book

Engage:

Use this as a “sing and move” book- children can get their wiggles out and still meaningfully engage in the story by doing the dance moves on each page. Help your child identify the animals. Talk about where the animal might live. Using this story in a group setting? Turn it into a circle dance!

Driving My Tractor

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I live in the middle of farm country, so anything farm-related is a big hit with my families. I will often sing this song in the car as I take my son to daycare and let him fill in the animal and the last line- “It’s a very busy day!”

 Engage:

Help your child find and identify the animals (and their colors) on each page. Do some vocal play with the animal sounds. Ask your child what other songs they know about farm animals. Change the words to match your day- What are you driving? What makes it a “very busy day” for your family?

Dinosaur Rap

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My son is a huge dinosaur fan, so this book has been a big hit in my home since it released last fall. What’s really cool about this book is that it really is a ‘rap’, so it makes for a totally different experience than what children typically get from a singable story.

Engage:

Help your child practice saying the names of the dinosaurs. Talk about similarities and differences between the dinosaurs. Dance like the dinosaurs. Don’t be afraid to be a little silly- why not add some beatboxing to the rap?

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[Tweet “@MTMOMpreneur shares 5 Great Singable Stories to Engage Your Child”]

Over in the Meadow

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This one is based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. I’ve noticed that fewer children seem to be learning nursery rhymes, so I always include as many as I can in my classes.

Engage:

Craft time- create some animal finger puppets to use with the story. Help your child identify the animals and their sounds. Talk about where each animal might call home.

 

A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

This is a cute take on the campfire song with the same title that introduces children to the marine food chain.

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Engage:

Talk about ocean life and the marine food chain. Help your child identify each animal. Learning time- can you and your child remember the order of the animals without the book? Add props for hands-on learning.

Bonus:

The final pages of each book include additional pictures and information about the book’s topic to take learning and discussion a step further. Notated music and lyrics are also included on the last page. Each book comes with an enhanced CD.

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Hey, Hey, Hey….. a GIVEAWAY!!!!

Click to here to enter to win two of the books above, “Animal Boogie” and “Driving My Tractor” along one of Bear Paw Creek’s connect-a-stretchy band!Barefoot Book Giveaway and Connect-a-stretchy Band

Morgan Sparks, MT-BC, is the owner of Rhythm Garden Music LLC, where she provides music therapy services, early childhood music enrichment classes and music lessons in West Central Indiana. She is a board-certified music therapist, Barefoot Books Ambassador, wife, and momma to an energetic toddler. Visit her website and follow her on social media at MTMompreneur.com.

3 Bean Bag Games For Thanksgiving

Games to Encourage Thankfulness.

Are you looking for a few low-prep games to inspire thanksgiving on the part of your students, your family and even yourself?

Well, here are three you can play with bean bags.

For two of the games, bean bags are all you’ll need. For the last one, you’ll need some buckets or a few bowls (or boxes… Whatever you have handy.) Each of these games can take up just fifteen minutes or can be played as long as you like.

active-games-to-encourage-thankfulness-1

Thanksgiving is good for the soul.

Autumn is a time to enjoy sweaters, cool walks, and baking sweets and bread without overheating the house.

It’s cozy.

Yet everything seems to speed up this time of year and we can find the holidays upon us if we dare to blink. In the stores we see Thanksgiving items laid out beside Christmas decorations before October has even closed her door. This used to frustrate me, but honestly, this year I’m filled with anticipation because Thanksgiving has become one of my favorite celebrations. 

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Woven throughout my family’s history, is a struggle with various kinds of depression and anxiety. As I grew into a woman, my mom shared that history with me and she also shared with me the role thanksgiving can play in refocusing our thoughts.

My mom relied on three strategies when she was depressed:

  1. Focusing on her belief in the goodness and love of God and casting her cares on Him.
  2. Giving thanks for past graces and gifts in her life.
  3. Finding ways to bless other people.

Depression is no light matter, and these are not easy-as-pie strategies, in fact, body chemistry is often involved in depression. However, these strategies have played a part in keeping me going through my bouts with nonclinical depression. 

  • A spirit of thankfulness helps us and blesses other people as we express our appreciation for them.
  • Thanksgiving is an attitude we want to instill in our children as much for their benefit as for the benefit of others.
  • Memories of hard times and how we made it through, are especially strengthening (as much as those memories of good times.)

In the midst of the coming Thanksgiving season, these fun games can turn our hearts toward being thankful and perhaps spark some good conversations about memories of times past.

“The unthankful heart… discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” -Henry Ward Beecher

[Tweet ““…but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” -Henry Ward Beecher”]

Here are three fun & simple bean bag games for promoting thankfulness.

These games can be played in or out of doors depending on the weather in your neck of the woods. They work great:

  • In a preschool with little ones.
  • For a rainy day recess at school.
  • In your living room for a circle-time homeschool activity.
  • For recreation time in a nursing home.
  • For Sunday school or youth group time.
  • For your family on Thanksgiving Day, when the kids are restless. 

Game 1:

You’ll need one bean bag for this game. 

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle facing each other (on the floor or in chairs.)
  2. One person has a bean bag in his hand.
  3. He tells what how he is thankful for someone else in the circle, then tosses the bean bag to that person.
  4. That person tells how she is thankful for someone else in the circle and tosses the bean bag to that person.

Make sure the teacher is also seated in the circle so that he or she can make sure that thankfulness can be expressed for each child in the circle. If needed the teacher start by being the one to express thankfulness for each child and having that child toss the bean bag back after she has tossed it to him. The teacher then repeats this until each child has heard what the teacher is thankful for in that child.

 

How long has it been since you've played with bean bags-

Game 2:

You’ll need one bean bag for this game.

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle facing each other.
  2. Start by saying something you are thankful for that starts with the letter A.
  3. Toss or hand the bean bag to the person beside you.
  4. That person tells something she is thankful for which starts with the letter B.
  5. Continue around the circle until you get to Z.

Don’t worry if this gets a little silly. The point is to have fun and get the juices going about being thankful. Another variation is to put on music and pass it around until the music stops, then have that person tell the thing that he is thankful for. Turn the music back on and continue around until it stops, then let the next person say what he’s thankful for.

 

Game 3:

You’ll need a dozen bean bags for this game and twelve sheets of paper.

  1. Put the sheets of paper side by side in sets of threes on the floor or on a table (no drinks, snacks or breakables on the table please.)
  2. On the papers write one of the following words, so that each set of papers has one of each word:
    • People.
    • Things.
    • Memories.
  3. Divide everyone into four groups (each group will have three bean bags). If you only have a few people, then just make two groups.
  4. When you say, “Go!”
    • The person at the front of the line says a person’s name for which he is thankful then tosses a beanbag in the bowl marked People.
    • He then tells something he is thankful for and tosses the bean bag in the bowl marked Things.
    • Lastly, he tosses a bean bag in the bowl marked Memory as he tells of something he’s thankful for doing.
  5. He then picks up the bean bags out of the bowl and passes it to the next person in line.
  6. The next person repeats steps four and five.

A few important notes: If you have a student in class who has trouble with speech, skip saying “Go!” and having the groups race each other. Instead, make it a turn-taking activity. You can still split large classes into four groups but have them go to different corners of the room to take turns.

This is a game which would be fun to play intergenerationally as younger people could share in the memories of their grandparents. 

A variation of this game which might work well in a nursing home would be to tape off the floor in the middle of the sitting area into four squares with a subject for each square which could be marked: Place, Person, Memory, Food. The residents could sit in the chairs and in wheelchairs surrounding the squares. If the bean bag lands on memory, the person tossing the bean bag can tell of a person they are thankful for. If the bean bag lands on place she can tell of a favorite place she is thankful for. 

 

 

 

Print out these bean bag games and take them with you.

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I know it’s handy to be able to file ideas like this, so feel free to print out this pdf of these games and take them with you to class, or wherever you’ll be using them.

If you’re looking for a great resource to buy fbean bags, Bear Paw Creek has got them for you. You can buy a dozen bean bags and they’ll come with a handy tote to store them in. Speaking of storage, have you taken a look at this post Julie Palmieri wrote about storing movement props and musical instruments? She has great tips and links for organizing. Take a look!

 

What games will you be playing to connect and get the “wiggles” out with your kids this Thanksgiving? Leave a note in the comments and share your ideas with us.

 

Hello, my name is Jenette Clay. I’m a freelance writer, but most of all a wife, mom, daughter and friend. I blog at www.mywordsforhire.com about how small businesses can improve their internet presence. I’m thankful for the inspiration and encouragement Janet has given me as a friend and client through Bear Paw Creek. If you’re looking for an example of how to build an effective small business website, Bear Paw Creek is a great place to start.

 

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