Monday, February 22, 2016

Teddy Bear Time!

Can you believe it's almost the end of February? I feel like the year goes by so fast sometimes. Winter is the hardest for the kiddos, though. We have had some interesting weather this year in Iowa! Nasty weather means inside recess and some wiggly kids. Today I'm going to bring you into the land of teddy bears (and less headaches). 
My mentor teacher used to have a container of teddy bears. They were wonderful motivators for children, as well as a friend and companion during those icky outside days. I love them so much that I created a mini unit for my kindergarteners all about teddy bears!
The first thing to do is come up with several teddy bears. If you feel comfortable enough, each student could bring their own to school to use. I'm hesitant about that, as many of my students don't have toys at all. But, if it works for your school, go for it! Here are some suggestions for finding a classroom set:
  1. Thrift stores/garage sales - I went to my local Salvation Army and found several teddy bears. You might have to wash them, but they come in all shapes and sizes at these locations.
  2. Teachers - ask your fellow teachers if they would like to donate some to the music classroom. I have several teacher friends who stored old toys in the basement but haven't used them in years. They would be glad to get some extra storage and help you out!
  3. Family members - my mom practically threw my old teddy bears at me! I kept them at one point for sentimental reasons, but I would much rather see a student's smile than leave them at my parents' house for several more years.
  4. eBay - if you are looking to buy some, eBay is always a good place to find things. They might be more expensive, but you can definitely find hundreds of teddy bears.
  5. Advertise - it never hurts to ask around local places if they have any teddy bears at home. Donations are a tax write off and many people gladly donate to the school. Stick up a sign at the library or ask a neighbor. You never know!

So, now you are stocked with teddy bears. What's next? I keep mine in a plastic container with a lid. My room tends to flood in the spring, so everything is plastic to keep stuff safe. Wash them, spot clean and check for any staples, sticky parts, etc. These will be in the somewhat dirty  hands of children - don't expect perfection but they should be in decent condition. 

DAY 1:
I introduce our teddy bears by sitting them in front of the class one day. I tell the students that they are "visitors" and are checking out music class for the day. If they like what they see, they will come back and find a buddy. This grabs their attention immediately! 

DAY 2:
Next time, I go over the expectations of our new buddies. If any student isn't respecting their friend, it goes back in the container and won't visit again. I might have to remind a student or two, but if one goes away, you have them scared for the rest of the unit. Each teddy sits in the student's lap as we sing a story. I recommend The Teddy Bear's Picnic, which comes in many different versions. Sometimes, we bounce our teddy to the beat as we sing the story. We say goodbye to our friends and put them away for the day before moving on to other things.

DAY 3:
We go over the expectations again and bring out our buddies. Each student is reminded that all teddy bears are unique and special in their own way - just like students! We want to be happy that we have a special friend, even if it's not our favorite. This way, students will have several bear friends by the end of the unit. After everyone has a buddy, we bring out some vocal explorations. We do the first few together to warm up our voices. Then, I have different students come up with their teddy bear and create a pathway. It's also fun to have the teddy bear follow the path, either in the air or on the floor. Afterwards, each student creates a pathway for their teddy bear to follow with their voices. It's so fun to see what the students come up with for their friends! I've included this resource for you FREE below. It comes with five pre-made pathways, five blank pathways and two worksheets for students to create their own. Enjoy!

DAY 4:
Today is a really fun day! After passing our the teddy bears, we talk about movement. Just like kids - teddy bears need to move around and be active to feel good. First, we move our teddy bears to the beat by bouncing them on our laps. Then, we stand up and bounce them on our head, arms, knee, etc. From there, we move around the room. I have students jump, skip, walk, clap, etc. with their teddy bear friend. Sometimes, we even play freeze dance with them! I like using John Feierabend's "Keeping the Beat" CD because it has a variety of music on it. 
When we're finishing moving, we sing some songs about teddy bears. Here are some ideas:
  • The Bear Went Over the Mountain
  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Tango Teddy (Music K8)
  • The Other Day (I Met a Bear)
  • The Great Outdoors

DAY 5:
On this day, we usually have to say goodbye to our furry friends. We start by singing the song "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear" and do the actions with our teddy bears. Then, we talk about how the bears have to go home to their school now. If students are focusing on a certain letter of the alphabet or writing feature, we will create a card to send with our friends. I've had students draw pictures before, as well as practice writing in between the lines. It all depends on the class, but it's a nice way for the kids to have some closure but know that they will return again. 

With several classes, I've done this set from Linda at Floating Down the River! It has several wonderful activities for teddy bears. I love the instrument playing with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It works well for a review the following year with my 1st graders, as well as the writing template she includes. Great ideas!

The more I use this small unit, the more I think about moving it to the beginning of the year. I love how it helps with behavior right now, but a reassuring friend at the beginning of the year is always nice too. Who knows?? There are many different activities, assessments and ideas that can be done with teddy bears. I hope this has inspired you to get out some teddy bears and share with your younger students. Remember to click on the freebie above for a fun vocal exploration activity!