Thursday, April 13, 2017

Culture Day

Wow - the school year has gotten away from me!
Sorry for my lack of blogging. I will definitely get back on track!

Today, I want to share with you one of the traditions are my new school district this year: Culture Day! 

This day is actually a weeklong celebration of countries around the world and their unique cultures. Each class picks a different country (usually the teacher picks the same one every year) and studies about it throughout the week. They create flags, masks, and do other activities that relate to their country. The hallways are lined with flags, the kids eat unique foods and there are even guest speakers! It really is a fun week - plus, it helps the students understand that we are all unique but share similarities throughout the world. 

On the final day, each class chooses representatives to share their country in the grand march in the afternoon. The kids line the gym and applaud as each country is called. They circle the gym twice dressed up and holding their flag. I also play music from each country so the kids can listen and jam along. Here's India:

So, what connects the world better than anything else? MUSIC!
I don't choose a country during this week - I share as many cultures as I can during this special week. Each class gets a day to just talk about their country and head instruments, styles and famous musicians. The next class, we do various activities from some other parts of the world. Here are some of the things we did this year in music class for Culture Day:

My primary students are junior kindergarteners, kindergarteners and first graders. We did several short activities each class period. Some examples are:
  • ribbon creative movement to world music (love Putumayo World Music series)
  • song stories like Creepy Crawly Calypso (Barefoot Books) & Kookaburra (Cantata Learning)
  • Zumba from GoNoodle
Zumba was one of my favorite activities all week! Our guidance counselor previously taught classes and had these fun jingle scarves for the kids to use. Some tied them around their waist while others tied them across their chest. She even had some small ones to put on your wrists. We used Zumba Kids videos from GoNoodle, specifically Indian Moonlight and Bouje. The kids didn't want to take them off - they loved that jingling sound as they danced. I'm definitely doing this again next year!

My intermediate students are second and third graders, but these activities would work well for older kids, too. Here's what we did:
  • World Instrument BINGO by Cheryl Lavender
  • Music Express Magazine/John Jacobson - the kids loved singing and learning about the music from Moana! We also sang Wavin' Flag from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. John Jacobson's "It's a Musical World" is a great song set with information, dancing and translation for several world songs. I also use it for programs every now and then.
  • Games (Se Se Se & Throw Catch) - both of these games are so fun and can take 5 minutes to a whole class period if the kids want to keep playing

Se, Se, Se is the Japanese version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you click the picture above, you can download the directions, game and accessory pieces for free! My students loved it so much that they had rematches at recess.


My Severe & Profound students are kids with various special needs. They come to a separate music class just for them in addition to their regular music class. We do a lot of repetition of activities and try to meet their learning needs in addition to personal ones.
  • "Hola" from Music K8 - I love this song! It is simple, repetitive and great for the kids to identify another language. We also add maracas to it and practice taking turns. Songs with multiple purposes are great for these kids!
  • free movement (freeze dance, scarves, stretchy band) to cultural music
  • "Waka Waka" with body percussion
As the year has gone by, I've noticed that my Severe & Profound students aren't affected much by noise. This isn't normally the case, but for the kids this year, they are fine with noise. One student doesn't speak much but does like to communicate with her body through sound. I had one of those lightbulb moments - we should do body percussion! The kids love it! However, there isn't much out there for basic body percussion, as these students' goals aren't to read 4 beat rhythmic patterns and such. Their goals are to follow directions, understand personal space, keep a steady beat, body awareness, etc. 

This led me to create several products in my store that appeal to other classes similar to mine. They feature only the picture of what should be done. The teacher can lead a steady beat, let the kids freely do the movement, create an echo or other things. It's up to the teacher to choose what works best for their kids. To celebrate Culture Day with my kids, I created a body percussion activity to "Waka Waka" - a song written for South Africa. It also features a Columbian singer named Shakira. It works well for little ones too if you're not ready for rhythms.

For all of my classes, I recommend this story written by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon). I use it as a way to talk about respect, understanding and appreciation. They listen to me read the story, including the different languages and pointing out historic landmarks. We finish with listening to Rachel Rumbaugh (a music therapist) singing the story in a gentle way. It's a nice, calming activity to end class. My Severe & Profound students always need a calming activity, but this is great for all of the kids. As they listen, I ask them to think about being mindful during the week, but also when they leave school. You can sing the story yourself to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" if you prefer.

Next year, I hope to do more folk dancing and bring out my ukulele (I'm just learning to play and no one wants to hear that! lol). You can bring world music into your classroom at anytime, but this week is truly a unique and special experience for our kiddos. Take care!

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