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Preschoolers aged 3-5 are very interested in the workings of the human body. There are plenty of great songs to help you plan rich learning experiences around this perennial topic.
Here is a music lesson plan titled My Body built around three rich driving concepts
- My body has different parts – hands, thumbs and fingers, head, shoulders, knees, toes, eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hair, feet and lips.
- My body can become unwell and well again with common childhood illnesses – mumps, measles, chicken pox.
- My body needs good food – spaghetti and meatballs; peas in a peapod; nutmeg and pear.
And here are three ways to use my body
- Small skilful movements as in body percussion, finger plays and playing instruments.
- Large movements as in dramatic play and dancing.
- Stillness as in concentrating on a picture book.
Here’s how I run a lesson called My Body
First, we connect body and brain with a Body Percussion Activity: A Stone Fell on My Hand followed by a Finger Play Activity: Come Dance Little Thumbkin. That gives plenty of opportunity to talk about the hands and fingers as clever parts of “my body”.
Second, we name other parts of the body. Then, we get the whole body activated with a standing game of Head and Shoulders but add the mental challenge of doing it in a language other than English. In our lesson we sing Kata Alipiri. It’s Pitjantjatjara, one of the 200 Australian Aboriginal languages still in use. It’s what we call a Memory Activity. Here’s the whole song in Language:
Kata, alipiri, muti, tjina,
Muti, tjina, muti, tjina,
Kata, alipiri, mutu, tjina,
Pina, kuru, winpinpi, mulya.
After this gross motor activity, it’s time for more skilful small muscle to work with our Rhythm Instruments Activity. We sit in a circle and call each child by name to collect a set of instruments from baskets in the middle. Our instrument song is pretty silly. Aiken Drum is about a man whose hair is made of spaghetti and lots more body parts are made of food – but that silliness just helps everyone relax. This song sets up an opportunity to make artworks with body parts made of food. We look at images of the Renaissance painter Arcimboldo for inspiration. But let’s get back to the music lesson – we let the children play with their instruments while everyone gets set up, there’s not much noise really and what’s the point in sitting in front of a set of percussion instruments if you can’t test them and play with your favourites? Play is so important and music is all about playing, right?
Our Melody and Harmony Instrument song Five Little Peas is also good for fine muscle control activity. If you don’t have chime bars (or resonator bells) D, E, G and A you can do this song as a finger-play. This gives us the chance to talk about yummy vegetables like little green peas – so appealing to small fingers and mouths.
After all that concentration it’s time to get up and move the whole of the body and in this Drama and Movement Activity we use a sea shanty, Donkey Riding, for it’s strong working rhythms. It’s fervent call to action “Way! Hey! Away we go!”. It arouses a vibrancy in the class members and binds them to each other as a group. We talk about using our strong leg and arm and back muscles to do strong physical labour.
Role-playing is next on the list. We do a Drama and Movement Activity about a baby who might have mumps, or measles or even chickenpox depending on what each new visitor thinks. The song, another silly one, is Susie Had a Baby and as it is derived from a street-game for skipping. It too has strong rhythms and a driving pulse that makes us believe the mischievous baby will soon get well. Children can discuss having an illness that needed a visit to a doctor or nurse.
Next comes a Games and Dances Activity that once again identifies separate body parts. It’s a favourite amongst many educators because they remember it from childhood – Dr Knickerbocker. The whole body is engaged in large motor function for most of the game, but mindfulness occurs as different small muscles like eyes and lips are called into action.
The lesson’s concludes with a Story Song. The children can relax, rest their bodies and imagine the world evoked by the picture book. In this instance it’s a scene in Tudor England with a Spanish princess and a hero’s escape by sea. The song is I Had a Little Nut Tree and the mood is definitely mysterious with its magical tree that bears only a nutmeg and a golden pear. The only sensible thing to do next is to eat fruit, any “golden” coloured fruit would be suitable and then go outside and play. Where possible I cut open a “golden pear” and share it.
You can find all of these activities and the audio tracks on our website. Follow any of the links or go to the home page www.musicalchild.com.au and explore My Body and other options for rich and rewarding preschool music lesson plans. Have fun!