Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Debbie's Dozen Directions!!!

In my quest to start-over-at-the-very-beginning (with my blog: it's purpose, helpfulness, intent and usefulness) I thought that this would be the perfect time to outline my suggestions to teachers -- librarians and fellow performers working with young children, particularly young children with special needs -- and give you a summary & some quick tips as to how I approach and organize a music/circle/concert time.

Drumroll.... Debbie's Dozen Directions:

1. Smile!!! Enjoy!!! Laugh!!! Have fun!!!!
Now this might sound obvious, but it still needs to be number one. The laughter is always number one in my book. Now that the brain research is "proving" that children learn best, easiest and retain more while they're laughing, giggling & engaged with delight, you have the science behind the silliness factor. A not so obvious corollary that I particularly love? Be sure you tell the children, "Here comes the funny part." What do they do then? LAUGH!!! Give them both permission, a channel and direction for their laughter.

2. Start with FAMILIAR Choices!!!!
The newer you are to the group, the longer it's been since you've been together, the younger the children, the more needs the children have -- then the more 'familiar' your first song selections should be, to allow for everyone to 'relax.' You want the kiddos to be saying, "AH-Ha! I know that one!! I'm good at that one!! I know how that goes! I can do that!!" (That's how you win over the anxious, the queasy/uneasy wee ones.)

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat!!!! FOUR Times!
Don't you just love that the brain research has now PROVEN that children learn through repetition? While that may have been clear to anyone that's ever worked with children --it is now research tested and PROVEN and approved! What I did appreciate learning is that the magic number is apparently: FOUR. It takes four times, for a typical, average child to learn something 'new' that is DAP (developmentally appropriate practise/play). The first time through, it's all about you. You'd better be smiling, you're performing at that point. The second time your group is beginning to anticipate where you're going. The third time some of your bright, gifted/talented are with you & chiming in. The fourth time? VOILA! They've got it!!! Now obviously if there are special needs in the room, the magic number may be 14 or 44 or 444, but the same advice applies: REPEAT!

4. Follow Your Rituals and Recipes!!
Create 'rituals' and then think of them as 'recipes.' Come together on the rug with a familiar transition experience. (Same music playing every time they leave their learning stations or same rhyme being said, or same tambourine flourish beckoning.) Begin with everyone seated and gathered round. Start familiar. Repeat familiar often. Have an opening number, a welcome song and start there. Think of this as the theme song for your favorite show. The more they can trust you, the more relaxed and participatory they will be. ***Remember from Dr. Pam Schiller, "Trust is job one."

5. Be Willing to Take a Risk
While familiarity and comfort-level are critical to 'success' in my book, it's also important to "take-a-risk" once you've established your trust-worthiness. If you are truly a 'novice' at the performing concept, the risk may be your willingness to allow the children to move. You may be very comfortable when all the children are seated neatly on the rug like pretzels with their hands in their laps. It may feel like a huge risk to you professionally to allow the children to stand up and get moving, but take a deep breath and allow for movement. After an active/moving/bouncing/jumping song have your next selection require apt attention while seated. Then pat yourself on the back for the successful transition, exhale and SMILE!!!Children love when things get faster. [I have an on-going interview under-way, with an expert on dance and movement catalogued here. Connie Dow is happy to answer your dance/movement questions!]

6. Begin Slowly. Play with the Speed
Start with the familiar in a very methodical/slow speed and then start cranking it up faster and faster and faster! Get just fast enough for them to turn into a giggling machine of nonsense. Whew! That was fun. (see rule #1 above!) "Let's do it again!! (See rule #3!) [See this YouTube Video of mine for the big ending that gets faster & faster.]

7. Choose a Comfortable Key/Pitch
If you really aren't a musician this may be the 'trickiest' bit on the list. Do your best to choose a starting note that is comfortable for your voice. Take 'note' (get it musicians? LOL) if the children's voices seem comfortable in the key you've selected. Try it at home first. No kidding folks, it helps to practise.

8. Animate & Exaggerate Your Face
Maybe this should be number one? Your face is your most important instrument. Make eye contact. Wink at the child who you need in your posse. SMILE (did I already mention that?) How many faces can you make? Your body & your posture follow right after your face. What amazing things can you do with your hands and arms? Your legs? Now's the time to show off. These children have grown up with an environment that 'explodes' with the click of a mouse. Make your 'show' worthy of Broadway.

9. Watch the Children for Clues & Ideas
This is probably my favorite one! The children are FILLED with ideas. They are full of perfect choreography and movement and their response will give your adult/stuffy/stationary body plenty of ideas for how to move to Monkey Fun. Watch them. Tune in. Mirror their movements. What a fantastic way to honor a child: to move your body as they are moving.

10. Have Your Props Handy!!
That does imply that you have props, right? Well, for Pete's sake, have them handy! That implies you have a plan, right? You know what comes next, right? Have your shakers, your puppets, your doo-dahs, and your razz-a-ma-tazz right there with you in your picnic basket of delight.

11. Close Your Eyes, Surprise!!
Use the inherent thrill of Italicthe surprise-factor. Ask the children to close their eyes!!! So simple. So truly amazing. Costs nothing. So throw-back and low-tech. Yet PRICELESS!! Even with the most mature elementary age students, the simple invitation to close their eyes is a magic carpet ride to use their imaginations. What could possibly come next? They love it. (See evidence pictured above.) This moment of suspended animation allows you to reach into your pic-a-nic basket and pull out the next surprise. TA-DA!!!

12. Novelty, Novelty and More Novelty
The brain research suggests that once you have them relaxed and trusting and learning and at ease, it's time to introduce some pizzazz! Novelty! New song or new puppet or new instrument or new hat or new dance or new flannel board or new floogle woogle bugle horn or new routine. This is when you really get a chance to make it memorable. That's what all the set up was for -- this moment at the pinnacle of fun. This is often the point when I don my jungle tutu and transform into a lion for a thrilling Lion Prowl.

What would a twelve be without a thirteen? (Long time readers understand my fascination with the baker's dozen.)

13. BONUS**** Have fun with a Closing Ritual
However you end, however you conclude.... do it the same way every time. Have a great big ending. I'm all about the big ending. Do it with style. Leave them begging for more. Always better to leave them asking for more fun than to over-tire an audience. Know when to say when and close with delight. I typically close every family concert with the singing of my classic, "You're Wonderful." (Click here for a YouTube version.)


  1. I love the bonus! Great list Debbie! Keep them coming.

  2. Love these ideas - so helpful to parents and teachers!

  3. Thanks, team. Glad to have taken the time to write out the comments. Please send on & on & on to anyone you think might benefit from a reminder.

  4. Hi Debbie,

    I'm visiting from Kindergarten Lesson Plans, where you so kindly left a comment and thought I'd run over and check out your blog. My immediate reaction...your life looks chock full of uninhibited joy, fun, and COLOR! I LOVE it!

    I enjoyed reading your 'dozen directions' - thank you for these spectacular tips and tricks for circle time. I know they are certain to be an inspiration to educators and parents hoping to get their kiddos more involved as they sing and play together!

    I'll certainly be back :)


  5. p.s. We liked the post so much, we featured it at our blog! You can find it here > Kindergarten Lesson Plans. We were sure to give idea/photo credit, as well as a link back to your blog, but we'd love for you to check it out and, if there are any problems, we'll be sure to take the feature down immediately!

    Thanks so much,

  6. Kayla!!!!!! I am late in getting a response here to your original comment, but my enthusiasm is even amplified louder today!

    I've just learned how to 'read' my blog analytics & I see that because of your kindness in sharing this post, I have a steady stream of visitors from your amazing site. Thanks a gazillion!!!


I LUV to hear from you! Please leave your thoughts so we can interact!!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...