Children thrive on consistency and routine. Knowing what to expect is very comforting for them, particularly for children who may not have much stability in their lives. Creating musical or rhythmic touchstones at certain transition points in your classes can reduce kids' anxiety, and makes your job as the teacher a lot easier, as everyone knows what to expect. Kids won’t be guessing or wondering aloud what happens next—your music-based structure will reduce the overall stress level in the room, so kids will cooperate much better. And hopefully, kids will internalize a bit of the order and organization, which may help them feel calmer in their own lives.
Think about your classes for a moment: what transition points are tricky? Where do you lose the kids' attention and focus? Where would it be helpful to use a song that's the same every time? Then begin to brainstorm ideas for developing musical touchstones for these spots, and start using them consistently. (And yes, I can hear you saying "I can't sing!" and guess what? I don't believe you.)
Here are some ideas:
--A "yoga time" song: when you walk into the room, use this to get kids where you need them to be (seated in a circle, say, or quiet at their desks) for the start of class. It's much more effective than speaking. Keep it short, simple, and repetitive, so everyone learns it quickly, and knows what they are supposed to do.
--Hello song: a greeting which sets the tone you want for your class. Maybe it's calm and quiet, or perhaps you need to bring the energy up. You could start a beat on your lap or on a drum, and go around the circle taking turns: "I have a name! My name is Mariah!" And none of these have to be "songs," they can be spoken in rhythm, to a beat. Check out my song “The Shimmy” from Dance for the Sun as an example. If you're using a smartphone, there are lots of simple apps, like Drummer, you can use to easily create a simple drumbeat.
--Savasana/rest time song: of course, this can be a song you simply play over a sound system, but keeping it consistent will trigger deeper relaxation each time, as the kids’ brains begin connecting the song to resting their bodies. It’s best to use a song with few words—listen to “Just Be” from Mindful Moments for Kids for an example.
--Goodbye/peace song: think about what you want to leave the children with at the end of class. Gratitude for sharing yoga together? A mindful intention for the rest of the day? Pick one brief message—and maybe it’s just “see you next time,” that’s great too—and stick to it. A short and sweet song, used each time you say goodbye, will stick in kids’ heads and get your message across. A simple example is “Peace & Joy,” from Dance for the Sun.
I'd love to hear how it goes! Please leave a comment below.