Monday, December 16, 2013

TAP IT OUT - Steady Beat & Cross-lateral Movement to Begin the New Year!

Hi!  I’m Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup, Active Music for Active Learners in cold and snowy Chicago!     
      Let’s get the action going right off the bat in 2014!  Got claves? (what’s a clave, the small voice inside asks?)  Got rhythm sticks, 8” dowels or lummi stix?  If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re ready to rock!  If no, see directions on making or buying these instruments below.
      Claves (clah-vays) are 8” wooden sticks used as percussive instruments.  I prefer them to rhythm sticks – they are shorter and fatter and less likely to become a weapon in a child's hand!
     With young children I don’t grasp the claves the way a percussionist might – we hold them with each hand at one end of the stick.  I explain to the children that if they hold them in the middle of the stick, they might tap their own fingers, and that would hurt!  All the other stick options listed above will also work for these activities.
     Claves are a favorite instrument because they are simple, easy to use and give the child the opportunity to make their own music.  I love them because so much can happen with just two little sticks:  eye-hand coordination, call/response listen-and-do, cross-lateral movement, tempo, steady beat work, gross-motor skills and vocabulary aquisition.  For starters!
One hammer.
     Here are some ways I use claves in my classroom.

     Sit on the floor, with legs either V-seat or criss-cross folded.  Put one stick beside you, holding the other in one hand.  Sing:

I can hammer with one hammer
I can hammer with one hammer
I can hammer with one hammer
Bang! Bang! Bang! 
Two hammers...

Three hammers.....

Four hammers....
Teacher:  Let's use 2 hammers!  Pick up the other stick.  Count them: 1-2.  Sing:

I can hammer with two hammers...etc.

Teacher:  Let’s use 3 hammers!  How can we do that?

  The children usually ask for a third clave, but I point out that we have no additional hands available!  They’ll get around to adding a foot – or you can suggest it!  Count the number of hammers each time before beginning the verse, 1 - 2 - 3!  Sing:

I can hammer with three hammers...

NOTE:  As the activity gets more physically challenging  and the excitement level rises, you may need to remind students that claves never go higher than our head unless we are directed to do so!

 Add a fourth, then a fifth (your head – nod it in time with the motion of the hands and feet – yes, it’s a workout!)  Getting all limbs and head going at once may take children a few tries, but I have two year-olds who can do it quite well!  (and fellow teachers who struggle :-)
   As you can see in the picture below, everone has their own style - and we have a blast finding it!

    The tune is “For He's a Jolly Good Fellow” for the first three lines, then add the three "bangs" on the end!  You can hear it on my Stinky Cake cd.  


                  My Grandfather’s Clock
     This is a wonderful exercise in tempo – how fast/slow music goes.  I show pictures of the different clocks – grandfather clock (Hickory Dickory Dock picture), kitchen clock – any wall clock, and wristwatch – my watch, or any magazine ad!  As I show each picture, I demonstrate the different tempos made by each clock.  The pictures are important, as it's the "cue" for your visual learners, and these items may be unfamiliar to some of your students, so it identifies the objects the song sings about!  
     Do this song several times – it’s short, and they’ll need the extra repetitions to master it.  Sing:
My grandfather clock goes: (even, steady beats - whole notes)
        tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock
My old kitchen clock goes:   (faster, half notes)
        tictoc tictoc tictoc tictoc tictoc tictoc tictoc tictoc
My little wristwatch goes:  (quarter notes - fastest!)
 tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic tic TOCK!

    This is fairly intuitive – tap your sticks on each tick of the clock – slow and steady for the grandfather clock, faster for the kitchen clock, and very fast for the wristwatch – with a big ending note - "TOCK!" 

   You can hear the tune on my Sticky Bubble Gum cd.  It's Track #7.


Red, Red Robin Stick Dance
     Ok – this is one of MY favorites, and many teachers tell me it’s also one of theirs!  It's a catchy old standard song, and the directions for the “dance” are in the recording! 

Please note:  many children under the age of 5 are not Crossing-The-Midline – and that’s developmentally fine.  The average age for children to NATURALLY be able to do something from one side of their bodies to the other – cross-lateral movement – is SIX!  Yes, many children can do it at a younger age – but check out the pictures here with my class of 3 year olds, and then the class of 4’s and 5’s – though the bodies of many children are leaning side to side, their hands are not crossing the middle of their bodies!   Music time is a great opportunity for kids to re-inforce skills they are developmentally ready for, but they will not do it if their brains aren't connected for it yet.  Patience!  Can you find the one child of the 9 children pictured below who is actually crossing the midline?

Young 3's
4's and 5'


In the middle of this song, you’ll hear a series of directions – “Put your sticks on the floor, in a line.  Stand so that your sticks are beside you.  Stand so that your sticks are behind you.  Step backward over your sticks.”  You may want to do a little practice session before playing the music with the children – then they’ll listen to the directions and be prepared to follow them when they come up in the song.  
    For step-by-step instructions, go to the Song of the Month page on my website.
Stand so that your sticks are BEHIND you.

Walk AROUND your sticks!

   Here’s my December gift to you – you can download this song HERE!  FREE!  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year – and many more!  If you want the whole “Stinky Cake” cd, which is chock-full of 20 great songs, you can buy it HERE!

To buy claves:  I get mine from Rhythm Band “economy claves” or West Music: Birch Claves, $2.95/pair either place. 
    You can also get Lummi Sticks, which are smaller in diameter, but will do the trick if you can’t afford claves: At West Music: 10” sticks, 12 pair for $18 or 6” sticks, 12 pair for $16.

OR – make your own claves!  My 4’s and 5’s class does it every year!  Purchase 1” dowels (48” long) at a hardware store.  Smile sweetly and ask the nice sales associate to cut them into 8” lengths on the power saw.  Give each student 2 sticks and a 3”x3” piece of medium sandpaper to sand the ends.  They can be painted with acrylics at this point or left natural.  Spray with polyurethane to seal.  Voila!  Claves!  If you put the children’s initials on the bottom of each stick, they can take them home at the end of the year – a wonderful memory of music-making with you!

Speaking of wonderful memories – thank you for continuing to read the Pre-K and K Blog posts.  As one of the original authors, I am amazed at the great following that’s developed as we head into our third year! 
 I am also proud to introduce a friend and colleague to this endeavor – come back on the 18th and meet Brigid Finucane.  She’s APP-solutely the best when it comes to music and tech opportunities!

    If you need staff development training – call me!  If you’re in the Midwest and want a developmentally appropriate fun, active concert for kids, a Family Night or other event – email me!  I will also return to the NAEYC conference in 2014 in Dallas – anyone in Texas want to book something for early November for your school or professional organization?
    Happy and Healthy New Year to all!

Yours for a Tapping Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens - 847.384.1404


  1. Thanks, Carole, for such engaging and clear ideas for the kiddos!
    AND - thank you for the shout out! I'm so looking forward to writing
    for this great blog. Happy-Happy, Joy-Joy! Brigid

    1. Can't wait for your debut - in the morning! Yippee!


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