Monday, September 7, 2015

Rainbows, Erasers and Alligator Purses: Three Things

I’m joining up with Aileen Miracle to bring you “Three Things” this week!
We’re sharing three things that really worked well or that were magical in our classes this week! I'm sharing about my sweet first graders and their adventures with Rainbows, Erasers and Alligator Purses!

#1 Rainbows

My warm-up for this week is to play Jill Trinka’s recording of Aiken Drum and do a draw-along on the board. Very simple to give the students something to focus on while they listen.

This year, I wasn’t sure it was going to be magical because my first graders are the wiggliest bunch I’ve ever had. I thought for sure I would be stopped in the middle by behavior issues.

I started the music and drew a moon and a star – the kids were still wiggly, but most had settled down. Then I amped up my acting skills – “Hmm, what could his head be made of?” -- Complete with scratching my temple & an “Aha!” moment.

Crickets. (in a good way!) The kids were silent. They watched my every move – total concentration, focused listening – it was beautiful!

When we get to the mouth, Jill says “a rainbow,” so I draw the rainbow, which gives “Aiken” a huge frowny face. The only thing left is spaghetti for hair and the kids CRACK up at that. I’m not sure why that tickles their funny bone, but all the first grade classes have laughed at spaghetti hair! Cuteness!

The rainbow is a perfect match to our lesson: Aural Preparation of One and Two Sounds on a Beat. This is the first time the first graders have gone through the Kodaly concept lesson plan, so they have never done phrases (rainbows) before this lesson.

After erasing/singing Aiken Drum (see below) and reviewing the kinesthetic activities for Rain, Rain, I say, “Show the phrases and sing Rain, Rain." I demonstrate by moving my arm in a rainbow from right to left (they mirror from left to right). “Who has heard of the word 'phrase' before?” And we expand their definition with the “music definition” of a phrase: “A musical sentence.”


Tip: If they can't figure out how to make a rainbow, I have them take their "paintbrush" and dip it in the "paint" (their other hand) and paint a rainbow. Works like a charm. A lucky charm. Giggle.

Then I ask the aural questions, starting with, “How many phrases did we sing? How many rainbows did we sing?” I know Phil says to stick with the script, but I allow myself to call phrases "rainbows" the first time we do them. 

P.S. About drawing on the board: Kids think you are a professional artist, so don't be afraid! One time I apologized to my class about how funky one of my drawings had turned out. A little voice spoke up bravely and said, "It's ok Mrs. Sweet. We know you did your best." Tear. 

P.P.S. About the phrase on the word wall card: My students noticed that it wasn't the same phrase that we were singing! One of the kids sang it softly to himself and the other kids agreed, it doesn't have enough notes. Mind blown. First graders. Upping the ante next week. They can handle it apparently. 


#2 Erasers

Part of the fun of Aiken Drum is erasing his vegetable body one veggie at a time!

Have you seen these at the teacher store? Magnetic! Genius.

Immediately after the first listen I say, “Now we’re going to erase his body. Get your pretend erasers out and erase with me & when we get to the phrase ‘And his name is Aiken Drum,’ let’s sing that part together.”

My students LOVE singing the song again and watching Aiken Drum disappear!

Confession: Every time I eraser/sing this song, I imagine my Kodaly training friend and suite-mate  Sandra D. standing directly under the spaghetti hair for a split second and saying, "How's my hair?" Giggle.

Then, when we are in the aural preparation part of the lesson, we pull out our erasers again and erase the words. “Get those pretend erasers out again. Erase the words in the air. Throw them away and let’s sing the song on ‘loo.’” Perfect connection to what we were doing with Aiken Drum!


#3 Alligator Purses

In a typical school year, I use Mother, Mother as a first week of school game for my first graders. This year, I'm at a new school so I switched around some of the games that I typically do in Kindergarten, just to give them some background knowledge before we begin.

So here we are in week 4 of school, week 3 of the 6-day rotation and we are just now getting to Mother, Mother.

I have an old kid's doctor kit that I got at a thrift store when I lived in Austin. I also have a cheap black leathery purse that I use as my “alligator purse.” The kids LOVE that it’s a leathery purse; the boys all want to touch it. Hehee.


We sing the song and I walk around the circle with my thermometer in hand, keeping the beat. I tell the kids we need to pick someone who can pretend to be sick. “Can you show me your saddest, sickest looking face? No noises! Just your face.”

After picking the saddest looking face to sit in the middle (in a chair), I keep the beat around the circle to pick the doctor, the nurse and the lady with the purse.

“Mama called the doctor” pause and hand the thermometer to them;
“Mama called the nurse” pause and hand the syringe to them;
“Mama called the lady with the alligator purse,” pause and hand the purse.

Yes, I always* pick a girl for the lady. Just for sanity’s sake; first graders lose their marbles if you don’t. I have even been known to double time the beat as I go around to pick so I can land on a girl. First graders don’t usually notice this.

*this week I picked a boy for the first time – all the girls had a turn, he raised his hand and waved at me, I said, “Mama called the gentleman with the alligator purse.” The first graders lost their marbles, but the boy was so excited to get to touch the alligator skin that he didn’t notice. Phew!

So, once the parts are picked, they go “in” the circle (Verse 2: “In came the doctor, in came the nurse…”) to the sick person and I have them pat the sick person on the shoulder to make them feel better while we sing the rest of the song.

Verse 3: “Do you know what he said? He said, ‘I don’t want the doctor, I don’t want the nurse, I don’t want the lady with the alligator purse.’ Can you all say that with him?” This is the first time they sing with me.

Verse 4: “So out goes the doctor, out goes the nurse…” I take their little thermometer/syringe/purse as they go back to their seats.

Then at the end of class I read, "The Lady with the Alligator Purse," by Nadine Bernard Westcott.


It’s a perfect pairing with this song! I learned the tune as a kid; it has an entirely different melody, but many of the verses are the same. "In came the doctor, in came the nurse..." 

Magic: Last Friday the first graders in my rotation had a special guest Police Officer come talk to them – so they all dressed up like policemen, firemen and nurses/doctors! We played Mother, Mother in full costume!!! It was magical. 

What was magical in your class this week?

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