Props in the music classroom

Favorite props for the music room: Ideas for ribbons, tennis balls, and more, for your music lessons!
As a music teacher, we have the opportunity to buy some really fun things for our classroom! Perhaps you've seen tennis balls or ribbons in another music teacher's room, and you've wondered how they incorporate those props into their music classroom. Here are my five favorite props for the music classroom:

#1: Stretchy band

I first saw a stretchy band as a way to incorporate movement into an early childhood music class. There are truly SO many possibilities for using the stretchy band (which you can purchase here.) My favorite way of using it so far is to help students learn how to stay in a circle during a circle dance. My second graders will be performing “Seven Jumps” for their performance this week, and the stretchy band is a GREAT tool for this (as otherwise, with that dance, kids might lose their balance!) Here is a video of “Seven Jumps” without the stretchy band; you can purchase the music on iTunes (my favorite recording is by the Shenanigans).

There are also some great ideas for using stretchy bands in this blog post. Check out this blog post for directions on making your own small stretchy band.  

#2: Tennis balls

  I was very fortunate to work with the Dalcroze professor, Tim Caldwell, during my undergrad at Central Michigan University, and he introduced me to using tennis balls in the music classroom. My favorite way to use them is to practice meter. Students can each have a ball, and as you play music on the piano, they can bounce and catch. If you are playing in 2/4, they would bounce, catch, bounce catch. If you are playing in 3/4, they would bounce, catch, tap a shoulder. And if you are playing in 4/4, they would bounce, catch, tap one shoulder, tap the other shoulder. They can also bounce and catch with a partner, which is a bit more challenging, but super fun! Check out this book for more games like this.  

#3: Playground ball

I bought this fun playground ball at Five Below; read this blog post about other fun finds at that store.  I first starting using a playground ball with Tim Caldwell as well, to have students pass the ball in a circle either without music or with music, at different tempi. This is a more challenging task then just keeping the beat on their laps, and can teach them to internalize the beat! I have two favorite singing games for ball passing; they are “Ye Toop Doram,” which you can find here, and “Sandy's Mill,” which you can find here.

#4: Toy microphones

  Truly, there is something about a toy microphone that kids just LOVE! These can be found at Target or the Dollar store, and can be used when students are singing by themselves. Even though the microphone doesn't actually amplify students' voices, they still love holding the microphone! The red prop in the picture that looks like a phone is called an auditory feedback phone, and can be used with your students who are struggling to match pitch, as they can hear themselves sing when they put it to their ears! You can purchase one here.

#5: Ribbons

  A few years ago, I saw my friend Jayne Wenner present a session about folk dancing with props, and she presented a Chinese ribbon dance using ribbons like the ones found above. (You can purchase the smaller ones here and the larger ones here.) Jayne had us learn several different ribbon dancing moves and put that to music. I just had my fifth graders choreograph their own dance by first learning all of the moves, then learning a dance I choreographed to the piece “Chinese New Year,” then mixing up the moves in whatever order they decided to the same piece. They LOVED this and so did I! For a list of typical ribbon dancing moves and more ideas for choreographing, check out this article, and click here for the music I used. My friend Tracy King also has some GREAT cards you can use with ribbons or scarves; you can purchase the set here. Put this with whatever music you want and you have a great listening/ movement lesson!   What are your favorite props to use in the music classroom? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!

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