Musical Fun Has Begun
June 29, 2009 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know any good music games/activities for inner city elementary school kids?

I am teaching a summer music class in east Baltimore and I would love to hear some suggestions of music crafts and games for kids.

Additionally, I would like to build some instruments with the kids, perhaps a thumb piano, but if anyone has any other simple music projects, I'd love to hear it. I have lots of electronic supplies [I plan on focusing on hip hop and baltimore club production] but I would also like to introduce the musicality of everything to them [bottles, grass, cans, strings, etc.].

What say you, hive?
posted by cloeburner to Education (10 answers total)
Can you get a hold of a berimbau? It's a fun, somewhat exotic instrument that kids can start playing right away.
posted by ignignokt at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: I have a feeling I could construct a birimbao. My friend is teaching a dance class, perhaps we could collaborate, we do music they do capoeira.
posted by cloeburner at 8:11 AM on June 29, 2009

Just out of curiosity, why is the inner city element important to the question?

Introduce music from another tradition entirely. Something like what people earnestly yet execrably call "world music." Something with a lot of percussion so the kids could dance and clap and move around to it. Something from a South American or African musical tradition? I have no idea about the actual music.

But your lesson should include 1) a bit of learning about another part of the world 2) exercise 3) music.

Not to snark, but I wouldn't assume inner city (or any) kids only have interest in genres ("hip hop" and "Baltimore club music"?) you think they already know or will know soon.

They deserve more than that, in my opinion.
posted by vincele at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2009

One game that I love to do with kids who have way too much energy (like after playing outside, or even while playing outside) and that I have a lot of fun doing with elementary and middle school kids is this: Everyone stands in a big circle together. One person makes up a four-count dance move. Everyone follows along (to some interesting music of your choice that will match the four count structure). Next person in the circle makes up another four-count dance move, and everyone follows that one, then everyone does the first person's move then the second person's one. Then the third person goes, everyone follows third person's move, then starts from the beginning--first person's move, second person's, third person's. For kids who get stuck and don't know what to do, suggest that they use whatever body movement they're doing at the time (if they're shrugging their shoulders, suggest a four-count shoulder shrug, and so on). It will make them laugh and have fun instead of feeling anxious and put on the spot.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:16 AM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Inner city is important because we don't have access to nature.

I know the kids like Hip Hop and Baltimore Club because they told me. I do plan on introducing outside music, today I showed them mbiras and quenas. But, I think the music that is most relevant to their lives is hip hop and club, so that is why I want to show them how to make it.
posted by cloeburner at 11:20 AM on June 29, 2009

I recently learned about The Learning Station while I was at clown school. If you can get past the ridiculousness of their website, some of their songs are really, really wonderful and can be great to put on when you need something to fill time and don't have supplies/haven't planned something. A big hit was "Tony Chestnut," but I bought the "Get Funky" CD and see a lot of potential for it.

I'm also a group work major in social work, and I did my internship at an "inner city" school last year. MeFi mail me if you want some more ideas for games/activities/etc.!
posted by iliketolaughalot at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2009

Maybe you could contact Spank Rock and see if any of them would like to come by.
posted by rhizome at 12:47 PM on June 29, 2009

I think the music that is most relevant to their lives is hip hop and club, so that is why I want to show them how to make it.

In my experience, if they're primary grades children, they will love almost any music from any background that's participatory and energetic. If they're 4th grade and under, and talking about commercial pop acts, keep in mind that they're mainly mimicking what the older kids and adults around them think is cool. How might you have answered that question at their age? It's what they're hearing and what they aspire to be knowledgeable about. I'm sure they genuinely like it, but it would be a shame not to expose them to a wide range of other music, too. A person can only like the music they know exists. How many people in their lives are likely to interest them in, say, Balinese music? Woody Guthrie? Ragas? Expand their world!

I went to an urban elementary school and I wish I could show you a video of us, in 5th grade or so, a very very mixed group of kids economically and racially, who totally got down on singing "Hop Up, My Ladies" and "Ol' Dan Tucker" -- chosen simply because that's what was in our music book. I mean everyone really liked these songs, even enjoying improvising on them.

As an adult and teacher, I've seen kids of every kind get into music of every kind, given good leadership. Most recently I did some musical work with two musicians specializing in sea music - American and Caribbean - and we did a number of chanteys with the literacy-challenged 7th and 8th graders in our group. They put together a "fu-fu band" or group made of homemade instruments, including rattle-shakers, scratch blocks, and other super simple homemade instruments.
posted by Miko at 1:16 PM on June 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yes, I meant something along the lines of what Miko said.

If you asked suburban kids what they liked, without a doubt they'd tell you Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. If you asked me when I was that age I would have said Duran Duran. I'm all for broadening their horizons without boring them.

I love the idea of singing pirate songs. In the process you could teach them about Tortuga, the real pirate island in Haiti. Maybe do something with music from that part of the world too?

Or teach them a percussion tradition.
Kids love to make noise and it would be both easy and cheap.

For instance, you could show video of Japanese taiko drummers or some other percussion tradition. And then have them go at it, making little bandanas and such.

I'd be happy to dig up kid-oriented information on taiko drummers, so me-mail me if you are interested!
posted by vincele at 6:19 PM on June 29, 2009

Teach them some fun kid-appropriate folk songs/sea chanteys... "Rattlin' Bog" comes to mind.

Also circular songs like "John Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt", "The Song That Never Ends", and "There's A Hole In The Bucket". Though you might not want to do this if you can't stand three hundred verses of JJJS every single day for two weeks :)
posted by lolichka at 3:30 AM on July 1, 2009

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