The last two days have been some of the more challenging set-ups in my international work with children. The children, of course, have been fabulous. The facilities, space and instruments—wonderful. The schedule—one class each with grades 1, 2, 3, 4 for 45 minutes—just fine. The presence of support staff ultimately unneeded, but nice to know they’re there and also good that they’re witnessing the miraculous. So what’s the beef?
Each class had between 70 and 90 children. I repeat—between 70 and 90. Not the typical intimate kind of encounter that the Orff work seeks and develops. Fine for mass singing, something I love and am at home with. But 90 kids working out dances all at the same time? Playing xylophones? Doing clapping plays? Again, used to these numbers with adults, but 6-year olds?
Well, I’m happy to report that we did it! Here’s how:
• My strategy of some kids playing xylophones, some kids studying to take over and some kids singing with body percussion pretty much worked. 30 in each group.
• I put out 8 xylophones for 8 kids to play once through part of the song we had song. Then those 8 went off into a circle to start to make up a dance while the next 8 played xylophones. Etc.
• As the new guy in town who knows what he’s doing, who immediately connected with the kids through humor and kid-friendly activity, who has a big enough voice to cut through the 90-kid buzz, combined with well-behaved and disciplined kids (not like mine at the SF School!!) helped it all work. At the end, a darling 8-year old came up to me and said, "Can I get a hug?" It was the perfect punctuation mark for the large sentences we had created.
I still prefer groups of 12-16 kids for the core Orff work, but good to know it’s possible with these extra-large super-size groups. One more class with each group tomorrow—we’ll see if my good luck holds out.