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.

What Does a Music Therapist Do Anyway?

Learning about music therapy.

 

 

When I was in high school, I remember one person saying she was interested in going into Music Therapy. I also remember thinking, that’s a thing? It seemed like something pretty neat, but I had no context for it.  

 For many years that has been the case with the majority of people, but thankfully that is changing. 

Music and emotions.

I’m going to talk to you about music from a layperson’s perspective here.

Let’s not make it complicated, we all know that music impacts us, don’t we? That’s why we put on certain kinds of music when we need motivation to work hard physically (whether it’s on the basketball court or mopping the floor). Melancholy music suits us when we have a broken heart. Joyful music is used in all kinds of celebration. Orchestral music, while it doesn’t have a literal story line often tells of a mood that we can collectively agree on. Composer John Williams is well known for writing the theme music which carried us along in our favorite films.

We know this, we know that somehow music gets into us and the effect runs deep.

Music therapists study the scientific components of what happens emotionally and neurologically to a person when music is played, then uses that knowledge to integrate music in therapy. More study is being done on the effects on the brain and development of children when music combined with music are a routine part of their lives. The possibility that music aids in healing is being explored as music is brought into hospitals for children, babies and older patients. Children and young persons with autism are benefitting from therapy involving music, often one on one with a therapist. And there is some exploration of bringing music therapy into schools.

So much has been gained in the area of research, but I hope to see it continue so that more people can benefit from music therapy.

It seems to me that music therapists, while relatively new in profession, bring to the table one of the oldest friends of mental and emotional health, making it accessible to those who need it most. You see, those who are very young, very old, physically or mentally sick often don’t have access to music the way we do. 

If a teen with a broken heart can find a little comfort in the rhythm and words of this song by going to Youtube and dancing to something like this. Dancing in itself can be soothing. But the key thing is having that access.

When I was going through a really devastating and depressing year I listened to these songs over and over. Medicine for my soul indeed!

[Tweet “We know that somehow music gets into us and the effect runs deep.”]

One of the problems is that not everyone has access to music.

The residents in elder care depend on family, friends and recreation directors to bring music into their lives. Without them, the lives of many elderly in eldercare facilities wouldn’t have the music they love. And it’s important to have the music they love, not only for their emotional wellbeing, but also for mental stimulation that good memories bring.

Research in music therapy helps professionals who work with aging persons know what a difference music in their lives makes. I think it would be wonderful if each nursing home had a music therapist either on staff or hired to work with the recreational activity director.

How about in our schools? How about in conjunction with children who have anxiety? Or how about just to break the ice so all of the kids feel more connected to each other. I hope the trend for more and more research and more music therapists in each town and city continues. And it is, read this article to see it from one music therapists perspective as she sees her profession become more understood and recognized: And What Exactly is That Anyway?

 

Would you like to learn more about music therapy?

Here are some links for you to explore if you would like to know more about what music therapy is, what is does and the research that is ongoing with music therapy:

About music therapy:

http://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/

Music therapy in hospitals:

http://www.musicasmedicine.com/about/mtinhospitals.cfm

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/healing-with-music-therapy#1

Music therapy in schools:

http://mtp.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/04/14/mtp.miv012.extract

http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Music_Ed_2006.pdf

http://www.coastmusictherapy.com/our-services/in-school-programs/

Music therapy in eldercare:

http://www.ascseniorcare.com/music-therapy-seniors/

https://www.longtermsol.com/benefits-of-music-therapy-for-seniorsblog/

http://www.caringheartsofrochester.com/the-benefits-of-music-therapy-for-the-elderly/

Now it’s your turn, help spread the word about music therapy and its benefits!

http://sessioncafe.com/lets-flourish/

You can read this very personal post from Janet, founder of Bear Paw Creek, about the therapy her daughter received while fighting cancer:

Fighting cancer and music therapy

Comment below and tell us what songs lift you or soothe you. Do you have a favorite song or style? I bet you can still a song you learned when you were little… ahh the power of music.

Afte that, would you please share this post and others like it, so that we can start to get the word out and help people understand what music therapy is and what it’s potential is for future therapy? Thank you! 

 

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 their story, connecting them to customers online.

You can find Jenette’s business website at www.mywordsforhire.com.

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Recreational Activities for Dementia & Alzheimer Patients

The Importance of Recreational Activities for Dementia & Alzheimer Patients in Nursing Homes and In-home Care.

 

 

Can caregivers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease interact with those under their care to help slow the progress of the symptoms?

This week I read an excellent article which addresses the frustration of experiencing Alzheimer’s. It outlines positive effects of daily mental stimulation from failure-proof activities.

Read more to find out what constitutes failure-proof activities and why they are so important for those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of Dementia.

Fail-proof activities for patients of Alzheimer's Disease

Therapy: moving beyond boredom, frustration, and isolation.

Autism, Lyme, Dementia, (including Alzheimer’s Disease)… the list goes on…

These are among the diseases which blindside families every day around the world. Each of these diseases strikes at the mind, body and emotions of the patient, and some have causes which are not completely understood.

We must continue to research causes and cures for these diseases, but how are patients and family members to cope with the impact of them now, in their daily lives?

How are they to move beyond coping, to enjoying life?

When children struggle with the sensory overload that often accompanies autism, more and more, parents are receiving support and seeing improvement through music and movement therapy for their kids. Occupational therapy is also helpful in building the child’s skills and confidence. This is good for the emotional wellbeing and health of the whole family.

There is also a growing body of professionals, who are addressing the need of various therapies for the elderly.

Therapists recognize the damage which feelings of boredom, frustration, and isolation inflict on the elderly who suffer from various types of dementia. They support family members who may feel equally isolated as they struggle to provide faithful care for their loved one.

  • Occupational therapists help patients figure ways to maintain daily routines which create a sense of dignity and control.
  • Music and movement therapists provide activities to stimulate the mind, promote stronger bodies and sustain healthier emotions.  

However, as these therapists know, not all activities are created equal. Some activities become overwhelming and lead to frustration which can increase the feelings of depression and isolation.

The objective is to offer simple activities, which help reinforce the patient’s self-esteem while relieving boredom and frustration. This, for the caregiver, involves being alert to the preserved abilities of the patient and helping develop and use the skills he or she still has. The more involved Alzheimer’s patients remain with the world around them, the more resourceful they will become at finding ways to keep their world from slipping away. AIGS.com

[Tweet “Offer simple activities, which help reinforce the patient’s self-esteem while relieving boredom and frustration. AGIS Network”]

Failure-proof recreational activities: Therapy that’s fun!

Eldergarden Adult Day Program

 

The most important aspect of a failure-proof activity is that it doesn’t frustrate.

Be open minded about any activities you present, if something doesn’t work, change it up or ditch it. It isn’t worth getting your feelings hurt over it. These ideas can be used (sometimes with modifications) nursing homes, or with in-home care. Keep note of what was a hit and what wasn’t.

Of course, that may change too, so be flexible and think of this as a worthy challenge and adventure. 

 

Here we go:

  1. Compile a track of oldies that are favorites to play, you are sure to get some toes tapping. 
  2. While they’re listening to some great music, why don’t you pull out a stretchy band! Use one long stretchy band for the group (you might want to have them sit), or a single band per person. Stretching in time to the beat is a great way to build up muscle and get the circulation going. 
  3. Hand out colorful scarves next, or beautiful ribbons streamers. I know, I know, we think these are for kids, but I’ll tell you, the times I sneak away with one of these to dance with, it makes me smile. That swirling color is mesmerizing.
  4. Speaking of oldies, some people love to play Corn Hole. Corn Hole uses bean bags which are tactile, soft and shouldn’t do too much damage if someone gets a little wild with their toys. You can build a corn hole using instructions, or use buckets or bowls or cardboard boxes for the holes.
  5. Watch old movies together. When you enjoy old movies together, you’re-not-doing-nothing. You are communicating the value that your loved one has to you.
  6. Walks are an excellent way to reduce stress for the elderly who able. However, if this is not a failure-proof activity for him or her, don’t agonize over it, move on to another option.
  7. Listen to stories. When you take the time to listen time and time again, you are allowing your loved one to feel connected.
  8. Have a reading time (this is good for a group or individual, as long as you have a way to make yourself adequately heard). Read old local newspapers, if you can get your hands on them, read magazines and classic books and poetry and the Bible.
  9. Have a sing time and take requests! Churches often are willing to come into Nursing Homes and sing hymns, find out if there is one near you that will send volunteers.
  10. Buy or print free from the web some beautiful coloring pages. It’s amazing what’s out there now! Provide plenty fresh crayons.
  11. Paint together and create a place on the wall to hang them using a long string anchored to the wall at two points. Hang the pictures using paper clips or clothes pins.
  12. Provide a piano, or a keyboard with headphones, whichever works best. Many people can still play instruments when other skills seem spotty. Need a guitar or other instrument? Ask around to see if someone wants to sell theirs, or will donate.
  13. Bring in someone who specializes in pets for therapy. Some people find pets very relaxing.
  14. Ask a school or homeschool co-op if they can send a choir, ensemble or instrumental group to come and play one afternoon. 
  15. Go for a drive on a beautiful day (I love doing this in Autumn).
  16. Play a board game or puzzle. If one is not the right fit, move on to another. Find inexpensive classics at garage sales second-hand stores.
  17. Cook familiar foods together and let your loved one do the parts she or he is comfortable with. 
  18. Create a calendar of local events that your loved one might enjoy. If outings are stressful, then don’t sweat this, do something fun at home.
  19. Have an ice-cream social with all of the toppings. 

Here is a link to the article which discusses the role of Failure-Proof Alzheimer’s Activities (I highly recommend it.) Failure-proof activities are beneficial:

  • For stimulating the brain.
  • Slowing progress of the disease.
  • Lessoning frustration.
  • Giving purpose, enjoyment and hope.
  • Preventing the spiral into isolation.

 

These are additional links which I found helpful.

 

To you who are struggling with Dementia-related diseases in your loved ones: My heart is with you.

To those who are researching, writing, providing therapy and creating tools for all of us who are caring for our loved ones, young or old: Thank you. You help us know we are not alone. 

The Songaminuteman:

Beauty in the midst of Alzheimer’s Disease

 

Mac McDermott shows us the perfect example of what a failure-proof activity can look like and the enrichment can bring to your family and others. Be inspired what he has to say on his Facebook About Page

Dad was a singer all his life – he was a Butlin’s Redcoat and then travelled around singing in clubs around the country. He worked in a factory after he got married and still did the bit of singing on side. His nickname is The Songaminute Man – simply because of how many songs he knows.

In the last few years his memory has deteriorated a lot – often not recognising family and with many aggressive episodes.

However, now when we’ve got him singing again he’s back in the room. It’s these moments that we treasure.

The plan is to share as much of Dad’s singing as we can and hopefully help raise money to fund the work of the Alzheimer’s Society – more specifically to go towards paying for a person at the end of the phoneline to help other people like us.

You can donate here: www.justgiving.com/songaminute

Janet Stephens, co-founder of Bear Paw Creek, is an important provider of movement props for therapists and activity directors. Bear Paw Creek makes colorful, high-quality movement props for use in stimulating and fun activities. You can get some today to use with your recreational activities in nursing homes or as part of a nursing home ministry in your church. 

What ideas or insights do you have about the topic of failure-proof activities? Let us know what you think in the comments!

 

I’m a freelance writer who enjoys writing content for small businesses. I am the wife of one and mother of many. Our family has dealt with issues in the last few years which have made me take a closer look at many diseases which affect the brain. My hope is that better relief will be found soon for so many suffering from Dementia and related diseases.
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