10+ Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas for Teachers that Promote Arts-Based Learning in the Classroom
Dec 06, 2023
Look beyond coffee mugs, gift cards, and chocolates this holiday season: give teachers something they can use in the classroom to bring arts learning to life! We checked in with some Wolf Trap Teaching Artists for suggestions for joyful holiday gifts—which double as great ideas for children to extend their learning at home!
Scarves & Streamers
Besides looking beautiful, scarves and streamers can help children visualize and feel musical concepts. Hold them high in the air for high sounds, bring them low to the ground for low sounds, shake them fast or slow to demonstrate tempo, or make big or small movements for loud or soft dynamics. “I love working with scarves,” says Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist Terlene Terry-Todd, “because they’re enough for everybody!”
Shaker Eggs & Rhythm Sticks
Kid-friendly hand instruments, like shaker eggs and rhythm sticks, can aid students in moving their bodies to a steady beat, improving listening skills, understanding rhythm and control, and curbing impulsive movement. Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Morgan Sendek strongly suggests investing in good-quality instruments with clear timbres: “Teachers will get more out of them.” Short rhythm sticks, for example, are a great choice because they’re designed to fit young children’s hands. “Shaker fruit is a nice alternative to the traditional shaker egg. I’ve been using these a lot lately, and they’re super popular with children,” Sendek says. “They look quite realistic and can be used as props, too!”
The djembe—a West African wooden hand drum—is a fun and easy way to introduce rhythm and percussion to children. Check out this video lesson by Teaching Artist Kofi Dennis, in which he integrates a djembe into his drumming, patting, and clapping pattern as part of an engaging “repeat-after-me” activity.
Tibetan Singing Bell
“The Tibetan singing bell serves many purposes,” says Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Maria-Ines Tripodi. “I often use it to grab students’ attention if I feel like I’m losing them. At the end of class, I like to sound the bell to instruct children to pause for a minute and tune into the sounds around them, which is a basic meditation principle.” In the past, Tripodi has gifted teachers bells after they really loved how she used them in class!
A versatile instrument beloved among teachers and students alike, slide whistles enable children to experiment with sound effects and practice pitch recognition. Students can blow the whistle to imitate vocal lines or to match drawings, patterns, or body movements. “I did a residency about trees where students were learning to ‘grow,’ and when I blew and raised the pitch of the whistle, the children would move and stretch their bodies upward,” Sendek explains. “Sometimes I’d change my speed to encourage them to ‘grow’ faster or slower, and they did a wonderful job using their ears and following the sound accordingly.”
Hand Puppets / Puppet Theater
With puppets, the learning possibilities are endless! Puppets are characters with their own ideas, stories, and personalities—a perfect outlet for children to explore role-playing and use their imagination. Also, puppetry boosts children’s communication skills, behavior and emotional regulation, hand-eye coordination, finger dexterity, and vocabulary (through learning rhymes and songs). This video lesson by Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist Penny Russell introduces viewers to the art of puppetry.
Poly Spots & Cones
Dance or movement-based teachers will appreciate gifts like vinyl spots or mini plastic cones to help maximize their classroom space. Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist Rachel Knudson likes to use vinyl spots in the classroom to model AB patterns and explore movement. Check out her video lesson.
Children’s books are always a great addition to the classroom and offer plenty of opportunities for deeper engagement. Wolf Trap’s professional development team recommends that parents and teachers seek out titles that are culturally relevant to their community and demonstrate attention to detail through text or illustration.They also recommend havinga healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction titles in one’s library. Books are Wolf Trap Teaching Artist Ambo Tazanu’s favorite teaching resource, “Books are a wonderful platform to spring into drama, music, and all different aspects of the arts.”
Wolf Trap Gift Card
Of course, live performances are always a great way to spark new ideas. Purchase a gift card and treat your teacher to a memorable live performance at Wolf Trap! For more ideas on how to bring the arts into practice in the classroom, visit Wolf Trap’s digital resource library.
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