The Parish students work on their social skills and I wanted to give elementary students a musical opportunity to practice. Focusing on nonverbal communication by having students follow a leader through instrument play, we work on eye contact, taking turns, and interpreting body language. The leader learns how to use their body to communicate how the group plays their instruments.
The students take turns being the leader conducting the group. Each leader chooses the next leader who was watching them and participating the whole time. The leader uses their hands, feet, and eyes to show their friends how to play: loud, soft, fast, slow, individually, or as a group. I and some students created hand different gestures to represent the individual groups of sticks, egg shakers, or drums. As the instrument players, we have to pay attention to the leader and play accordingly. Participation reinforces the use of eye contact between the leader and musicians to communicate directions.
It is wonderful to see the students enjoy the cause and effect relationship of how their hands and body movements control the music. When they wave or jump, the music follows them in rhythm. The conductor learns how their friends interpret their body language, whether it means to stop or how to play. Some students wave their hands behind their back and wonder why no one is playing; they soon realize and are told that we cannot see their hands. Some leaders are creative in how they utilize their fingers, feet, or even their whole body to conduct the music. Through their conducting experience, it gives them tools of how to use their nonverbal language to convey their message.
Conducting and playing instrument builds trust and a rapport between the classmates. They realize everyone’s role and respect when it is someone’s else turn, listening to others’ idea, and participate as a group. Every leader has make sure everyone plays together, no one is left out, and know that we need everyone in the class to make the music. I am impressed how students are brave and feel comfortable to lead their classmates within the first days of meeting each other. They are budding conductors with great musicality!