(Originally posted October 2005)
Here are some fun ideas for October Classes. I’ve dressed them up for the Halloween season, but they’re easily varied for other seasons (or no seasons), as well.
This is similar to a cakewalk. Cut out pumpkin shapes from orange cardboard or construction paper (or wedges to look like pumpkin pie slices), and write a rhythm on each (just patterns of one to three notes for little ones, longer phrases for older students). For each pumpkin, make a corresponding card or smaller shape with the same rhythm written on it (small pumpkins, leaves, ghosts, witch hats, or just plain cards). Place the pumpkin cards on the floor in the shape of a large circle. Place the smaller matching cards in a witch’s hat, a bag, or anything else. Play your music while the students travel around the outside of the circle. When the music stops, each child stands behind the pumpkin card nearest to them. You or a chosen student selects a smaller card from the hat; whichever child is behind its corresponding card receives that small card (if each pattern is unique) or a token of some kind — a sticker, a star, a cut-out, etc. For the very youngest children, just showing the card to identify a match is enough. For elementary and older children, you might play the pattern at the piano or drum, or step its rhythm (or have a ‘helper’ student do one of these with or without you, changing students each time). Older students might also have a more structured “walk” between the pumpkin cards — a given number of steps between each card, a particular rhythmic pattern, or stepping the rhythm of the last card drawn from the hat.
Divide the class into couples to dance together, facing each other (this could occur after you’ve led the class in creating set movement to a particular piece or song, but improvisation works as well, depending on the group). One person is given the broom to dance with, and their task is to get rid of it by passing it quickly to someone else and taking their place dancing with their partner. (If there’s an even number of students, you’ll need one trio.) When you stop the music and/or signal for them to stop singing (striking a symbol or triangle, for example), the student with the broom has a consequence — that could be something as silly as having an orange ribbon tied to their hair or wrist or having to answer a riddle, or having to perform a written rhythm or answer a question related to music.)
For some real groaners in riddles, here are two sites for Halloween and one related to music:
Create a safe, easily-changed “obstacle course” in your room. Soft blocks, pillows, even paper designed to symbolize iron gates, brick walls and doorways can work. One student is blindfolded, while others “lead” them through the obstacle course or maze through sound. Decide ahead of time what sounds mean “side left,” “side right,” “forward,” and “backward,” and “freeze” — these could be different percussion instruments or rhythmic patterns, for example. When they veer too closely to an obstacle, use the “freeze” sound — you might make it something “spooky” like having all students sing a low pitch or make a soft “ghostly” sound.
Find the ghost
Make a “ghost” from tissue paper or other material. Have one child face away as you or another student hides the ghost. When you give the signal, the child turns around and begins to look for it. Other students in the class signal “cold” (moving farther from the ghost) or “hot” (moving closer to the ghost) by playing or saying a rhythm slowly or more quickly, playing instruments softly and more loudly, or singing sounds low and moving higher.
The object is to keep the balloon up in the air. Students to take turns batting it, but as they do so, they must simultaneously sing a pitch. Have them sing the next pitch of the scale on syllable (first student sings “do,” next “re,” etc. and then descend). For more difficult versions, call “change” to reverse scale direction, and/or have them sing in thirds, or have them sing intervals as you call them.
For another version, try adding on rhythms: The first student might bat the balloon while saying, in correct rhythm, “anapest,” and then call someone else’s name and bat it to them. The next person has to repeat the first rhythm, “anapest,” and add a new one — “dactylic,” for example, and then pass it on to someone else. A bat with an incorrect rhythm, or without saying anything, starts the game over.
This one’s for young children. Have them cross the room, from one side or corner to the opposite one, as various Halloween characters, while you play appropriate corresponding music. For example, you might have them fly like a bat, gallop like a witch on a broomstick, hop like a bunny, roll like a pumpkin, dance like a prince or princess, march like a soldier, creep like a cat, shake like a skeleton, float like a ghost, or stomp like a monster.
As a variation, following that introduction, decide on just two or three musically-contrasting characters per “crossing” and let the children choose which they’ll be. “This parade has only witches, bunnies, and pumpkins,” for example (you might play a fragment of your music for each character as you name them, as a reminder); tell the children they must “secretly” decide which they’ll be. Play your “pumpkin rolling” music at the piano, and see which ones roll across. (“Oh, look! There are three pumpkins in this parade! Look how good they are at rolling across!”) Then perhaps the witches’ galloping music (“My goodness, six witches, that’s a lot of witches!”) and then the bunnies’ hopping (“Only two bunnies? Did somebody take the rest?”)