An Orchestra of Rascals

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“Art is about the messy and marvelous business of coming to your senses – and also, to the senses of the world.” -Michael Leunig

A loud, noisy, messy and magical day in the Rascal Preschool today. We learned about the Orchestra! We, of course, started with our usual lively rendition of the ABCs.

Our story for this theme was Boom Bah by Phil Cummings; a fun tale about an animal band. A musical story involving several instances of onomatopoeia, it led to lots of discussion about instruments that can be made from household objects, words that sound like the noise they describe, and introduction to new instruments the Rascals had not yet seen.(“What’s that twirly one?!” “A French Horn.” “It looks like a bowl of spaghetti.”) It has a great rhythm and opportunities for movement like tapping toes and nodding heads.

Next, we consulted the Picturepedia (one of my absolute favorite children’s non-fiction resources)

for an explanation about orchestras and my Rascals made some awesome unsolicited connections between the instruments included in an orchestra and the instruments we use to sing our ABCs from our very own music box. So, we each chose an instrument and then marched out to the piano and took turns playing. The Rascals chose to play fast or slow, quiet or loud, with one hand or two and created their own tunes- accompanied by their friends on other instruments.

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Next, we spread out on the floor of the school room and I introduced instrument cards for each of the major instruments in an orchestra. (Instrument cards can be downloaded for free here.) I then defined the four main classifications of instruments and how you can tell each apart. We learned the sign for musician and music and then jumbled up our instrument cards in the middle of our little circle. The kids would choose a card from the jumble in the middle and we looked it up using YouTube on the tablet to see how each one was held, played and what it sounded like. The favorite instruments were cymbals (another onomatopoeia word: CRASH!) and harp. They really were mesmerized by the quick and nimble fingers of the harpist. As we learned about each instrument, we classified them into their groups and moved our bodies based on the tone and tempo of the music we heard. We also noticed the conductor! We practiced moving our arms to conduct imaginary orchestras- fast, slow, big and small. We’d never used any electronics aside from classical playing in the background so to have a tablet with musical instrument videos at our fingertips was *the coolest* thing.

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Next up: painting dance party! Perhaps one of the most popular activities yet. I prepped for this by taping easel paper for each child to the wall and pre-writing their names to avoid confusion later. I instructed the kids that we were going to listen to several different songs and for each song they could use a different color and paint applicator (brush, stamp, fingers, etc) but they had to wait to change colors for each new song. I’m glad I was explicit in the beginning, it really made the process go smoothly and I was easily able to identify which colors each kid still needed to use- there were six in all: purple, red, blue, green, yellow, orange. When the music first began, I told them that they should feel free to move their bodies if they felt the urge. It was really awesome to watch their processes and how they felt the music through their art.

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BEFORE/ IN THE BEGINNING…

Once they had gotten through a few of the colors, I invited their moms to come observe the activity and the kids were eager to share the experience but remained focused on their work. Our song choices today included:

  1. The Instrumental version of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre”
  2. University of Maryland Marching Band victory song (this was hugely popular, I had to replay it twice!)
  3. Mighty Mighty Bosstones, “Impression That I Get”
  4. Debussy, “Clare de Lune”
  5. Fitz and the Tantrums, “Handclap”
  6. Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee played on the violin by (the AMAZING) Katica Illényi
When we had finished the six rounds of process painting, they wanted to paint more, so I left on some big band music and cleaned things up a bit, prepping to move outside for our instrument-making activity. And let me tell you, there was (still is, three hours later as I write this) quite a lot of clean up.
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Only a portion of the AFTER
Outside it was chilly, but we’ve just built a new playset and the kids were anxious to try it out. We started by filling plastic eggs with either rice or dry kidney beans to prepare our own maracas (“shaky eggs”) and sealed them with glittery washi tape. I drew attention to the different sounds the beans vs rice made and also that covering the holes on the whistle would change the tone of the sound that played as they blew. I also had musical foam stickers to decorate their own flutes. Once they’d gotten their fill, or when they needed a break, they’d run out some energy or slide down the new slide and maybe find their way back when they wanted. We had some fruit for a snack and eased out of the day.
These three year olds are really growing as we complete more preschool days. I realized that they were self-motivated and quite able to wash their own hands without help now, were very courteous with taking turns when it came to paint choices and brushes, considerate on the playset and their conversations whilst painting were precious. I so enjoy watching these kids grow together. Up next: seeds!!

[I’d like to give heaps of credit to Annie Bobbit of The Walters Art Museum, our very favorite art teacher. My KindyKid and Rascal attended Art Kids class there this week and it just so happened to be themed “Music and Movement,” a happy coincidence to my lesson plan today! She taught us the signs for musician and also contributed to the playlist for our painting dance party today. I mean, who doesn’t love instrumental Dr. Dre!? She is a wonderful teacher and inspires me all the time. Thanks, Miss Annie!]

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