Question: How do you plan for over 200 individuals in a single setting (different classrooms) without loosing your cool?

Answer: Themes!

Believe it or not, almost every center, school, facility and even family has some sort of theme.  I work in several school-type settings and it’s pretty easy to spot the themes here.  In one center, each classroom participates in a “unit” lasting several weeks or months (for example: animals, colors, etc.) and then during those “transition times”, they are still “theme-ing”, most often in something seasonal.  There is always a plan, because there is always a theme!

In another center, each month is a large theme that the entire school shares and each classroom recognizes however they choose.  Each month-long theme has several smaller themes, a week in length.  (For example, Monthly Theme: Jump Up, Sit Down and the Weekly Themes: Healthy Habits, Get Fit/Sports, Music/Dance).

So…

What are themes good for????

Planning

Regardless of the theme, our music therapy sessions always incorporate the same components, making it a routine:

Greetings/Closings
Movement
Goal/Learning Area Specific
Instrument Play
Finger Play or Sign Language

Having a theme makes all of this a game of matching and quite frankly, it cuts down the thinking process just a little bit 🙂

Psst. I have a Secret:  All of the songs and activities that I have used successfully are listed and categorized on my computer.  I do a search for a keyword within the theme and BAM!  I have a list of songs with matching activities and therapeutic uses in front of me.

Planning this week was a cinch!  The learning objective at one center was “The Body”.  I was able to mix and match and come up with a pretty fun session!

Greeting: Shake a Friends’ Hand
Movement: Shake Shake Your Body (By Elizabeth Balzano)
Goal/Learning Area Specific: Put the Scarf on Your… (by Rachel Rambach)
Instrument Play: Egg Shaker Dance
Finger Play or Sign Language: Move a Little (passed down by my internship supervisor)
Closing: Hold Up Your Fingers (by Rachel Rambach)

Psst. Another Secret: I borrow A LOT!  While I do write a lot of my own music for my sessions, and personal songs for some of my clients, I like to borrow songs from colleagues, mentors, friends and professional singer/songwriters.

What are themes good for?

Success all over!

In private music therapy sessions, my clients are always working on a goal.  We don’t move on to the next step in our long term goal area until they meet and in some cases master the short term goal.  We are continually working for success.  Can you imagine doing the same song for the same goal over and over and over until they master it?  In this case, using a theme gives us the ability to set our clients up for success and use their newly goals across a variety of areas by changing the song regularly.

Psst. Last Secret: Changing the theme or song regularly also helps us therapists from getting burn-out.  Variety is key!

Do you use themes in your work?  What are some of your favorite themes?

Check out some more theme ideas and reasoning at Music2Spark

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