12 Ideas to Reimagine Teaching with Beanbags
Fresh ideas for using bean bags this fall in the music room or choral rehearsal.
As summer vacation draws to a close, it is always fun to get some fresh ideas for the beginning of the school year. So go ahead and add some ways to use the bean bags from Bear Paw Creek to your repertoire! These activities will also bring giggles and smiles to teaching the potentially humdrum foundations of music making.
This blog will share activities using beanbags not only the classroom, but also in choral rehearsal. In addition, at the end of the post is a game I developed exclusively for you, the fans of Bear Paw Creek’s Blog! This game is open-ended, so with some poster board and markers, and of course, beanbags, you can make a delightful game that can address any skill your students need to work on.
I have been thinking about beanbags a lot lately. It is a shame for a prop that raises the spirits of students and teachers alike to be overlooked. Especially considering its durability and versatility. Why don’t we use them more? And, if we don’t have them, why not? They are certainly one of the most affordable props out there. In fact, www.bearpawcreek.com has bean bags for just $20 per dozen, and you can even choose the bright or muted color palette or texture that works best for your students’ needs.
If the obstacle is a lack of awareness of how to use this awesome prop, then let’s overcome it, with these 12 ideas that will help you to reimagine teaching with beanbags. These ideas include activities that I have developed, as well as some existing activities that I have adapted to beanbags, not to mention the exclusive game at the end of this blog.
Let’s get you excited for the new school year, and for using that underdog of props, beanbags!
Bean Bag Play Therapy Activities for the Classroom
1. Ostinato Bean Bags: Teach your ostinato, but in a kinesthetic way. Students toss the bean bag from hand-to-hand in rhythm with their singing.
2. Quick Sort: Looking for a fast way to divide students up for an activity? If you have a variety of bean bag colors then you can hand out bean bags in a color-coded manner to designate groups/activities. For example, if you wanted to have a sound ensemble activity, you could designate red=sung sounds, yellow=spoken sounds, orange=whisper sounds etc, and a next step would be holding up a red beanbag to start the sung group’s performances.
3. Bean Bag Engagement: Not that kind of engagement! I like to use props like the bean bags to call on students. It is an incredibly easy way to infuse more mundane tasks with fun. I also like to have the students use this method to call on each other, which makes your existing activity even more entertaining.
4. Bean Bag SMART Notebooks: There are some great SMART notebooks available that allow students to randomly select a question or challenge by popping a bubble. Rather than walking up and popping it, you can safely have student underhand toss a bean bag at the board. My students love this method! SMART Notebook exchange has “Candy Rhythms Koosh Ball Game” and Teachers Pay Teachers has several as well.
5. Bean Bag Shakers: If you are a new teacher that doesn’t have many props or an itinerant teacher trying to reduce how much equipment you move, consider using bean bags as a percussion instrument. You can shake or tap it, and the volume is low, so it may be just right if you have students with sound sensitivity.
6. Steady Beat Bags: When students are still learning to find the steady beat, a strategy is to have the student gently tap their chest. Putting a bean bag in that hand makes it more fun, and adds more sensation.
Bean Bag Activities for the Classroom or Choral Rehearsal
7. Treble or Bass Clef Toss: Use masking tape to create a five line staff on the floor and have students toss a bean bag onto the staff. Then they name the note based on which line or space it lands on. Another option would be drawing the staff on poster board or other moveable surfaces to make a portable version if you are an itinerant teacher.
8. Bean Bag Rhythm: A variation on the ostinato bean bag activity above, requiring students that are struggling with a particular rhythm to toss the beanbag to the steady beat. This could be up and down in one hand or hand-to-hand as they say rhythm syllables, chant the lyrics in rhythm, or sing the troublesome section.
9. Bean Bag Note Values: I was introduced to this activity with tennis balls, and it works great with bean bags too. Assign each note value a bean bag movement that will take an appropriate amount of time. For example: two eighth notes= fast hand-to-hand toss, quarter note= single hand toss, half note= go around body 1st beat in front of body 2nd beat in back, whole note= same as half but stopping in four points- 1 front, 2 side, 3 back, and 4 other side. Students should verbalize the counts as another pathway to learning. Display the note value students are performing so that they can make the connections between the symbol, the movement and value. Once the students are proficient, I turn on pop music and have the students perform various note values to the beat, continuing to display the note symbols and point to them throughout.
10. Part Throw: If singers are forgetting that they don’t sing in a particular section, play a game! As that section begins, have the forgetful singers toss their beanbag to a chorus member who is supposed to sing that part. It will be so memorable that they will probably not make that mistake again.
11. Projection Toss: This thrilling activity was intended for adults using a football, but I have adapted it here for children using beanbags. If your chorus is not projecting their voices to the back of the rehearsal space, try having them send their sound out with the bean bag by tossing it forward (after you get out of the way!). Alternatively, singers could get into pairs and have them sing a phrase tossing to their partner and then their partner sings a phrase tossing it back.
Here it is… your exclusive open-ended game: The Bullseye of Music!
As I was thinking about ways to use bean bags that would be fun and engaging for our students, I also factored in that we teachers don’t necessarily have much time to craft. So if I was going to create something, I wanted it to be a game that could be used for different units. The result is a game that can be used throught the year, with any age and the only thing you’ll need to change is the Fact Sheet.
The 12th activity, The Bullseye of Music! :
How it works:
- Have two children, or the whole class play.
- Child A throws the bean bag at the bullseye.
- Child B (the opponent or class representative) announces the color which their bean bag hit.
- Child A puts the tip of a pencil into a paper clip in the center of the spinner for that color and flicks it. The paper clip indicates a number.
- Child B gives Child A the task or question based on the color and number, and they have a blast performing it!
I didn’t design this for keeping score so there isn’t a plan for that, but you could certainly develop one. The game is so engaging because the target requires skill and the spinner is pure chance. I put the arts Integration/extra fun activities in the center, on red, to make them harder to get.
How to Make Bullseye of Music Game Pieces:
Materials: Foam poster board, For tracing- a frying pan & small bowl, Poster markers/paint, Pencil, Paper clip, Paper, Sheet protector/clipboard
- Target– Sketch the biggest possible circle you can on the poster board
- Trace frying pan and small bowl creating the concentric circles of a target
- Color each ring in a different color (I went the traditional route of red yellow and blue)
- Spinner– On the paper, use the small bowl to trace three circles and coordinate the colors to match the circles on the target
- Divide the circles into five sections (or more) and number them
- Fact Sheet– create blue questions or activities of an easy level and number them 1-5 to match the spinner, and repeat for yellow being medium level and red being difficult/super fun. Zoom in on the image above for an example Fact Sheet.
- Print out Fact Sheet and slip into a sheet protector and plan to give to Child B or the Opponent described above.
- Once the materials are done, grab your Bear Paw Creek bean bags, pencil and a paper clip and start having a fantastic time learning new concepts or reviewing!
Remember, all you have to do from here is create a new Fact Sheet to totally change the game!
Thanks: My appreciation to my music teacher colleagues in Anne Arundel County, MD for being such wonderful teachers and collaborators.