Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Egg Cartons Can Be Instruments, Too

The kids in my Primary love it when I bring instruments. I love it when the cost of them doesn't break the bank.  Solution? Egg cartons! 

Gathering Supplies

Collect those egg cartons!
Like most Primaries, ours doesn't have much of a budget for buying instruments.  So, whatever I want I buy for myself, and the supplies just belong to me instead of to the Primary.  With Heavenly Father's blessing, surely (surely!) I'll get to teach Primary music more than once in my life, so it will be worth it.  What am I saying? It's worth it anyway. :)            

However, my personal budget isn't limitless, either, so I sent a Facebook call out to my nearby friends, asking them to save their egg cartons for me.  I received a decent number that way. A friend of mine said that she just asked her grocer for extra cartons, and he gave her a huge stack. Either way, it is pretty painless. For a drum stick, I used rhythm sticks (which my darling mother-in-law gave me for Christmas), but you could use thin dowels or even pencils, instead. Ideally, you would have one carton and one stick per child, but you can do just fine with only enough for half your children. Then, they can take turns and hear the song repeated even more times. :)

The Skills

 I have two main ways that I make music on an egg carton: a tap and a scrape. The tap is just as it sounds. I hold the carton open, bottom facing up, and I tap the stick on the lid of the carton.

The tap
The scrape is made on the sectioned side of the carton. I touch my stick to one end and then drag it down the egg cups, ending on the other end of the carton. Go grab a carton out of your recycling bin and try it right now. It sounds great. :)

Starting position for the scrape

For Junior Primary

Many a Primary music leader has been frustrated by an activity that worked well with one age group but flopped with the other age. For ease of planning--and to minimize the carting around of materials--I normally try to come up with different version of the same activity for Jr. and Sr. Primary.

For Jr. Primary, I keep the beat and pattern extremely simple.  Remember, you have tiny Sunbeams (3-year-olds) in your class, and it's all they can do to stay in the general vicinity of their chairs! My pattern for Jr. Primary is normally this:  8 scrapes, 8 taps, repeat. If you go less than 8 times, the littles ones will be completely lost.  However, by the end of the song (We did this activity with the Enoch verse of "Follow the Prophet" (The Children's Songbook p.110), the older children are getting bored.

To take it up a notch, I ask them to face a partner. You play the scrapes on your own carton, but you play the taps on your neighbor's carton. I ask a child to be my partner and help me demonstrate first. The older children in Jr. Primary love the added complexity, and since the Sunbeams don't pay attention to you once they have an instrument in hand, they aren't confused. Win-win! ;)

For Senior Primary

The pattern for Senior Primary
I think it goes without saying that if you tried the above pattern with your Senior. Primary, you'd completely lose the children's attention. They would feel like you were babying them.  Frankly, they'd be right. These kids are smart, and they want a challenge!  Here's part of the pattern I did with my Sr. kids last Sunday.  (See photo on right.)

If you can read music, you will recognize the simplified notation.  I don't explain the symbols to the kids. Rather, I make it a code that they have to figure out. I write this up on the board, with exactly this placement and coloring, asking them to see if they can crack the code.  Then I sing and play the egg carton through the song by myself.  Here's the interpretation:

Black=scrapes, red=taps, blue=rest or instructions.  Single line=one action per beat, lines connected at the top=two actions per beat, squiggle=scrape back and forth quickly during the assigned beats.  The x2 means to play that line of code twice before moving on.

Once the children have this pattern down, add in the partner like in Jr. Primary.  They'll likely have that down in one repetition, so then you can have them form groups of four and stand in a circle.  In this configuration, they'll tap on the carton of the person to their right.

This past Sunday was my first time using the groups of four. Let me tell you from cold, hard experience that if you don't demonstrate how the groups of four work before telling the children to go do it, they won't understand what to do. Since they don't know what YOU want them to do, they'll come up with something different that THEY want to do.  *sigh*  Next time, I'll know better! :)

Regardless, I love this activity. The children get to move with the music, and although you may be singing by yourself a lot (even kids who know the song will have to concentrate a lot on following the pattern, so they might not sing), the children are hearing the song over and over. And repetition is key in learning a song!

Happy Singing!

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