Guest blogger Erica Sigal shares what she did with her pre-K, kindergarten and 1st grade creative movement classes
The following was written by Erica Sigal, Creative Movement Specialist, after her classes in Spring 2017. Please note: As is often the case, Erica did not have permission to take photos, therefore the photos posted here have been taken at other times and places and may merely provide a hint of what it looked like.
In preparation, I put a Painter’s tape circle on the floor before class when there wasn’t already a circle on the floor (like in a gymnasium).
I always had the children take their shoes off, for their safety, and to be less abrasive on the Octaband®. I asked the children to sit on the floor on the circle, if they weren’t already accustomed to doing so.
I started out each class asking what the children knew about Octopuses – specifically – How many legs do Octopuses have? Then I referred back to how many legs they have themselves, and then, how many legs are in the room right now (just children’s, or children’s and adults’ together).
Then, I’d start each 1st session talking about the guidelines for the Octaband®, this very special prop that we’ll be using:
- Take care of the Octaband®; make sure not to pull too hard or it could tear;
- Regarding the color of the leg you get, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset”; or as I tend to say “The color you get is the color you get…”;
- Talk about safe behaviors – necks are “off limits!” – Don’t put the Octaband® near your neck or anyone else’s!
- And later – we can’t lift anyone off of the ground as the legs aren’t strong enough and they could tear.
- I’d bring out the Octaband® and ask the children not to touch it yet and to try to be patient.
- I’d put the Octaband® on the floor in the middle of the circle and spread its legs out.
The children often “Ooooh’d” at this.
The challenge for me was to do the math on the spot if there weren’t 8 or 16 kids – who should hold 1 vs. 2 legs, and/or how many legs to leave empty between each child – both for it to seem “fair” for the children, and also, to have some of the activities work better regarding spacing around the circle.
Having figured out the numbers, or sometimes not having figured this out at all or correctly, I let the kids take a leg or legs. Then I’d show them the best way to hold on to the legs – through the loop, etc. For some younger children, I helped them, and for others, I suggested they see how the child next to them did it.
Some groups wanted to stand up right away, but I encouraged them to sit down, saying that we’d be standing up soon. Some kids were itchy to stand up sooner than others were.
Each 1st session, we started out by raising and lowering the legs – 1st everyone all together, then by calling out colors: “everyone with a green leg raise your leg…”
They loved this, since suddenly even if they weren’t thrilled with their color, they had an equal and cool (my word) role to play, and the magic began to appear.
Sometimes I had them raise and lower their color, sometimes I had them raise one color after another until they were all raised, then lower color by color. I usually signaled both versions eventually.
In one class, we were working towards a brief performance piece a couple weeks down the road, so I suggested that a child “call” the colors in her own order for the performance. She and the others loved this opportunity to have a child/peer be the teacher!
Then I had the children all lean back holding their leg or legs.
They LOVED this sensory experience! A few kids wanted to stay lying on their backs with the fabric tension sensation for even longer.
One group figured out how to turn under their own color/colors while sitting or lying down. I then had them untwist so we could go on from there. It was interesting to observe their awareness of how twisted up they’d gotten, and how many turns they’d need to get back to untwisted.
Once standing up, I had the children walk, skip or gallop around in a circle. I sang “Ring around the Rosy” or “Pop goes the Weasel”, even with the older kids, and they of course all sat or fell down on cue. One little girl added a verse about fishies underwater, once sitting down, that brought them back to standing up at the end of the verse. Then I had them go around the other direction. This was an opportunity to teach and/or practice “Clockwise” and “Counterclockwise, and also Right and Left. Usually next I had them walk backwards. The kids often drifted off of the tape circle, and also, the tension pulling on the legs was often uneven, so the Octaband® didn’t always look like a circle. The legs looked more like an oval, or other shapes, which could have been used as a geometry lesson.
From this point on, although I had lots of options in mind, I went with their cues as to how long to experiment with any given idea.
Sometimes I had the kids jump and hop in place while stretching out the legs. One child figured out how to go backwards, creating tension, and then jump in towards the center using the elasticity of the leg for momentum.
Often one child would discover turning under their leg or legs while standing up, and would turn and turn and turn. Other children would follow suit. They always expressed joy in seeing the pretty colors of the twisted legs, when they held on to 2 or 3 legs each. When the kids (girls) had 3 legs, they would then start braiding the legs. In my mind, this limited what could be done with the legs thereafter, but they were completely content with this as an endpoint.
With the legs plain, twisted or braided, and standing up, I had 2 kids from opposite sides of the circle trade places by letting go of their leg and crossing under the Octaband®. They loved this! It was somewhat less successful with fewer kids, like with just 5 kids, as the center was less obvious, but it was fun nevertheless. Sometimes the child going under continued to hold on to the leg. This created an interesting “omelette”-looking effect with the center, but if others followed, crossing under without letting go of their leg, and/or not going back to where they came from, the whole Octaband® got quite snarled up!
At some point, I’d suggest, or a child would figure out that the handle (cuff) could go on their ankle. I’d then encourage everyone to try this. This spun off various activities, some depending how slippery their socks were (if they were wearing socks on a hard floor). I thought of Chinese Jump Rope, but this didn’t work very well based on what the children knew of the game.
One boy who’d been a bit moody walked away from the group, with the handle on his ankle. Suddenly the group went in the opposite direction and he was pulled down to his bottom. At first, he was upset, then instantly the biggest grin showed on his face as they pulled him speeding across the floor on his back. He was the star and was thrilled with the sensory experience!
One child figured out that if was a blast to walk out a little way, creating tension on their leg, and then jump. The jump sent them moving inwards towards the center of the Octaband®. This is a perfect science experiment to look at kinetic energy, velocity, direction, etc.
I usually brought out the beanie babies (or bean bags) at some point – 1 then 2 of them – to put on the center of the Octaband®. The kids quickly noticed it wouldn’t stay on the way it does with a parachute, but again, this didn’t bother them. Sometimes I had them hold the Octaband® steady and walk around, in a circle or otherwise, seeing if they could keep the beanie baby ON the center and NOT let it drop.
The children always wanted to sit on the Octaband® themselves. This is of course the Over – opposite of the Under that they had been playing with before the beanie babies – another Concept learning opportunity, that could have been noted during the beanie baby activity also.
You MUST allow enough time for each child to have a turn being on top of the Octaband®, or remember who didn’t get a turn and continue with this next time, or those children will be disappointed, let alone miss this experience.
Each group developed this experience in a slightly different way. The experience varied whether they were on a carpet or on a floor, and how much room there was around them in either case. I observed that it was more fun and exciting, and offered more variety, with a bare floor and plenty of space.
The group that took this experience the farthest figured out:
- Have 1 child sit in the center of the Octaband®.
- Have all of the others hold their legs out to the sides with plenty of tension.
- They created a verbal start and stop signal such that they’d all start running together at the same time in one direction, and come to a sudden stop all together.
- The child in the center remained with their bottom touching the floor in the center of the Octaband® the whole time, but had a brief toboggan-like experience speeding across the floor nested in the center of the Octaband®, which became somewhat folded over the child in the direction she was going.
- Another version was having one child sit in the center and have the others walk or run around in a circle so the child in the middle got turned around by those holding the legs. This was somewhat less successful than when done with a parachute depending on whether or not the children were able to pull outwards evenly and walk/run at a pace similar to one another.
- Sometimes, and with heavier children, the child in the center would stay right were they were and get somewhat wound up in the legs going around them. They enjoyed this, but it became important to watch for the safety of the sitting child.
Another sitting down, math-related activity was having each child sit and hold their Octaband® leg or legs. Then 1 child stood up and walked, jumped or hopped – 1st in the spaces between each leg, then over every other leg, then maybe even over every 2 or 3 legs. All of the children enjoyed this, but how accurately they executed this varied by age and focus of the particular child. The image/idea was like that of spokes of a bicycle wheel.
For some sessions, I used underwater-like music, to tie in to the idea of Octopus. For others, I used no music. My intention was to establish a calm background rather that adding rowdy music or additional stimulation to the environment. I used Eric Chappelle’s Contrast and Continuum Vol. 4 #1 – Amphibious, and Saint-Sean’s Carnival of the Animals, Movement 2.7 VII Aquarium.
Finally in some classes, towards the end of a 2nd or 3rd week with the Octaband®, I’d suggest they could make a human Octopus by having 2 or 4 children sit back to back. Once sitting, I’d go around and count (or have them count) while touching each limb of each child (with 2 kids) or each leg of each child with 4 kids – creating the 8 legs of an Octopus. Then I’d ask them how they could move around, keeping their backs together, like the body of an Octopus. Eventually each pair or quartet figured this out. It’s important to signal to have the children swap pushing vs. pulling, so they can each have a turn at leadership – causing the direction that they’ll move. Once, I handed the children a beanie baby and had them pass it around from child to child as they sat back to back. This was fun! I was thinking of a backwards, slowed down “Hot Potato”-like game.