Little Birdies is on Songs for Dancing.
I usually wait several weeks to teach this to youngest children (ages 3-5) because it is the first time we are moving more freely through the space. Up to this point, children have danced on their spot, moved in a line through the space to arrive in a circle while doing Down By the Station (also from Songs for Dancing) or moved around a circle line walking forward and backward while doing Sodeo (from AlphaBeat).
Little Birdies gives me a chance to see if children can 1) follow instructions and 2)use body control with the boundaries moved out a little further. If they can NOT succeed in maintaining the sleeping birdie body shape, waking up when tapped, flying safely or returning to the nest safely, I have gathered a lot of information about the group. I know they need to work on listening skills and body control.
How to disaster-proof this fun and beloved activity?
First, model all the essentials: bird sleeping shape, wake up signal, demonstration flying (spanking run and wide wings) with brief group flying to practice, ‘come here’ gesture, and flying in to go to sleep.
Observe the children. Note who is missing the key ideas and who has energy that is barely contained. Those are the students who need to WATCH first. They are your bird watchers.
Don’t set this up as a punishment; be matter-of-fact. “We’re going to do this in two groups, birds and bird watchers. You’ll be the first bird watchers.”
Designate a space where they can sit and watch, with their ‘binoculars.’
Those who have demonstrated listening skills and body control in your initial teaching are your first group of birds to fly.
After the first group has had a turn being birdies…..Ask the watchers (and keep the pace brisk on this):
“Did you see how they slept? Show me the body shape.”
“How they woke up? Show me what you do when you get tapped.”
“How they flew? Did they use control? Yes!”
“How they returned to the nest? Flying straight in and going to sleep, without tripping over other people? Yes!”
“Are you ready to be birdies?”
If any of the birds poses a danger as they are flying, remind them that the spanking run is not a ‘run’ and that they must watch when they fly back in so they don’t trip over other returning birdies.
If you have to fly with a ‘spirited’ birdie, then do so!
1) Teach the sleeping shape as “knees down please, seat on feet, nose to knees.” This is like the Tornado Drill body shape (minus hands over head!) I won’t wake up children who are a ‘straight line’ because they aren’t using their listening skills (unless a disability prevents them from folding in at the hips, of course). It’s important to maintain flexibility in the hip joints, and this helps.
2) Practice ‘wake up’ with words first. Then demonstrate the two little ‘wake up’ taps on ONE STUDENT DEMONSTRATOR. Then practice waking up the whole group.
Happy and Safe Flying!