Supersizing As A Technique In The Preschool Music And Movement Classroom
by Susan Salidor, January 2018
I am a singer, songwriter and preschool music specialist. My work in the classroom gives me the most opportunities to use and reimagine original and traditional songs, many learned from fellow CMNers. Seeing close to 500 children each week also fuels my songwriting — young ones are endless sources of great ideas for songs and finger plays. Yet I am always looking for ways to energize my circle times.
One of my techniques is called “supersizing.” It figures prominently in my work as a music specialist and workshop presenter. Supersizing allows me to expand and reinvent familiar material, and it allows children to move from fine to gross motor skill movement. Supersizing often follows a teacher’s lead but doesn’t have to – children do quite well on their own “acting out” short story songs, finger plays and sometimes books that we have “sung” together.
I created supersizing in response to the increased importance placed on physical movement in the early childhood classroom over the last ten years. Research tells us that the combination of movement and music engages the brain in a number of beneficial ways. Of course, anyone who has spent time in the early childhood classroom knows from personal experience how often children need to move their bodies; supersizing is simply another way to harness children’s physicality AND use material in a new way.
I’d like to share an example of successful supersizing. First, I reintroduce a song or finger play in the winter that I originally taught in the fall. The children and I do it as originally taught, and then I explain how we can make it bigger by using our entire bodies. Sometimes I lead children through this process, sometimes not. Supersizing a counting finger play typically uses five children at a time (Five Little Snowmen – I recently shared this on the list serve and FB tagging CMN), while other songs (First You Take a Seed) will use all of the children at once.
Some years ago I wrote, “First, You Take a Seed” and recorded it first as a chant and then again with a melody on my CD
If I’m remembering correctly, I was inspired to write it after I saw the brilliant Jackson Gillman sign to the song “The Seed,” written by Jackson and Bob Blue. The song captivated me and moved me to create something similar for the very young children (2-5 years) I teach. Here are the lyrics with the accompanying hand movements:
FIRST YOU TAKE A SEED (S. Salidor)
First you take a seed and you plant it in the ground
Mime planting a seed in the fist of one hand. The fist with the planted seed will stay in the same position throughout the finger play.
Next, a raincloud comes and waters all around
With the other hand, make a fist high above the planted seed.
Wiggle your fingers on “waters all around.”
Then the sun shines brightly without a sound.
Using the same hand, draw a circle with your pointer fingers in the air and then extend your fingers toward the planted seed. (This is the sign for sunshine.)
And, in just a few days (weeks, years) a flower…is…found!
With the same hand, push your fingers through the other fist where the seed is planted. Extend your fingers and arm high as you open your hand create a flower.
Here I am performing this finger play on YouTube in one of my homemade videos by husband Jay Rehak:
It was the first finger play I supersized for one of my preschool classes. I use a magical incantation to turn the children into and tell them I will walk around the circle and tap each of them on the head. When they feel my touch, they should “plant” themselves in the ground by crouching on the floor. Because they already know the finger play, I give them no other instructions. I then recite the finger play and encourage the classroom teachers to make rain sounds (hands tapping thighs) on the second line and create sunshine on the third line (arms outstretched toward the crouching children). Then I simply watch to see what unfolds on the fourth line. Without any direction, the children “grow” into flowers as the fourth line directs them to do.
When the children grow as tall as possible, I ask them to freeze. I then go around the circle and compliment each child on her/his beauty and fragrance.
One year, I had a little boy who did not grow. To be honest, it really aggravated me. This was a tried and true activity that children loved. How dare he not play along! At the time, I let it go, not knowing what to do.
Reflection and assessment are two important practices of good teachers — I learned that lesson when I went back to school at age 27 to get my education degree. Upon reflection and considering what I had previously observed about the boy who did not “grow,” I realized he needed more rain and more sun. In other words, he needed more attention. I believe that was what he was trying to tell me although in the moment, I didn’t understand.
Since that day, I have had other children who did not “grow” into flowers as the lyrics suggest. I have learned to give those children more water and sunshine and, to my delight, those children always grow.
I continue to use this strategy with much of my original material. Supersizing gives my songs new life in a different form, extending their usefulness in my music classes. I have also supersized many traditional songs, including “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Five in the Bed,” along with a few books, including the wonderful Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman, David Clemesha, Dan Yaccarino.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on supersizing, to recommend songs and finger plays you’ve successfully supersized or to request a list of other finger plays and songs that lend themselves to supersizing.
I teach in Chicago where we celebrate four distinct seasons, so this finger play is popular in the spring when young children are encouraged to notice the end of winter and seek out new growth in gardens throughout the city. In many of my preschools, a traditional Mother’s Day gift is a painted pot planted with flower seeds. Sometimes teachers use the lyrics of my song to accompany this gift when it goes home with a young student. Children are encouraged to perform the song with movements for their parents.