Welcome to December, a very special month of the school year, filled with lots of over-sugared, over-tired, and over-stimulated kiddos. Throw in a dash of the cold and virus season, and you’re really set up for…well…maybe not our finest time of the school year.
Yes, there can be a lot of joy and fun classroom activities, but this is an extraordinarily busy time of year. Creating space for your own mental and physical health during this time must be a priority. Taking care of yourself will not only help you get to the end of this month without feeling completely depleted and exhausted, it will also help keep your students calm, engaged, and feeling safe in their classroom environment.
Here are my top five tips to use music to support a safe and calm classroom environment for everyone during this crazy month. Be sure to check out our new playlist on Spotify – Music for Surviving Holiday Classroom Crazies to help with all of the activities below.
1. Steady Beat Activities are Your Best Friend
Keeping a steady beat to music allows children to be active participants in making music, which then sets off a cascade of hormones in their brains and bodies that calm them down, make them feel safe, regulate their nervous systems, and help them feel more connected to the people around them.
Put on Track #6 from the new playlist (Overture from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker) and invite your students to pat their laps to the steady beat. For an extra challenge, switch up where they keep the beat on their bodies and make a pattern!
2. Use Music as a Cue
Want a calm energy in your classroom? Use calming music to cue your student’s brains that it is time to calm down, relax, and speak softly. Want transitions to go smoothly? Use music with a quicker pace, but not overstimulating, to keep things moving without the opportunity to fall apart. Want a movement activity? Use music to support creative movement – move like a snowflake! Move like a sleigh over the snow! Move like you are ice skating! Track #1 from the new playlist (Skating by the Vince Guaraldi trio) would be the perfect soundtrack for this activity!
3. Active Listening and Movement
Want a creative activity that doesn’t involve glitter? Choose a piece of music and have the children listen to it and create a story about what is happening in the music. They can either tell you the story or act it out with their bodies as the music is playing. Track #10 from the new playlist (Sleigh Ride performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra) would be a perfect fit for this activity!
4. Holiday Traditions, Music, and Stories
How many different winter holiday traditions are celebrated within your classroom population? Represent those traditions through music and books to ensure that every child, and their family, feels included in your classroom community. Consider inviting a parent, grandparent, or other community member to visit your class to share music and stories from their specific holiday tradition.
5. Music Just for You
Picture this: your students have left at the end of the school day and your classroom is quiet. You turn down the lights, find a comfortable spot to sit, and you put on a beautiful, calming piece of music. You focus on your breath and give yourself the gift of 5-10 minutes of using music to help regulate your nervous system and help you transition from school energy to personal energy. You leave the school building with a sense of calm and peace, ready for whatever comes next. We selected the last three tracks on the new playlist specifically for this purpose!
I sincerely hope these suggestions are helpful to you as you navigate these next few weeks, and I wish you the most lovely of holiday seasons, both in and out of the classroom.