My First Week of Co-leading

This week I began co-leading classes and sessions. “Co-leading” means that I have to plan my own activity to lead for each class and individual MT session. Let me just say that I never thought I could learn so much in 1 week. I also never thought that my first time leading activities would be so scary and stressful! Yes, I was ready to jump in and start participating, but more goes into planning just one activity than I realized. Thoughts ran through my head like “What if I mess up?”, “What if this doesn’t do ____ any good at all?”,  and “What if the residents hate it?” But one more thing I realized: it’s ok if I mess up; this is a learning experience. Ain’t nobody got time for stupid worries!

After receiving helpful feedback from my internship director, I thought I would share with you some of the activities I did this week and what I should have done differently.


President 1st Name Game.

This activity was done with the older retirement group at the Baddour Center. Since Monday was President’s Day, my ID planned a president/patriotic-themed session. The game I planned for them was to write on the white-board the 3 most common first names of U.S. past presidents (James, John, and William). I divided the group in to two teams, and they took turns naming all of the president’s last names. The team who could get the most names got to sing the song of their choice.

What I would have done differently:
When I got up to lead them in the game, sometimes all I could think about was how quiet it was. I know they needed time to think about their answers, but I don’t like silence, so I probably will add some patriotic background music if I use this activity again. Also, I might create a board in which I reveal all the correct answers as they are named, instead of writing them on the board. I could just use the board to keep tally of the scores.


Tap Tap Your Rhythm Sticks

This is a great music therapy song by Rachel Rambach ( It can be used with various populations and is adaptable for groups or individuals. The song basically instructs the client/resident to tap their rhythm sticks loud and soft, but you can add in lots of other adjectives (fast, slow, ect.). I used this activity in an individual session with a resident whose goals include increasing attention span and impulse control. The resident (we will call him M) has trouble with following directions and many times during his session, M will say “I wanna go eat cookies on the couch.” So if we can get him to complete an activity without him interrupting and have him engaged and listening, then we will have made progress.

What I would have done differently:

Before I began, I asked M to demonstrate tapping his rhythm sticks loud and soft, which he was able to do. But when I sang the song, he tapped along, but didn’t understand the concept of loud and soft when I prompted him. My ID suggested that I try a different activity that requires him to respond quicker so that he doesn’t lose focus in the song.


I Went Down To The River

Ever since my sophomore year of college, this has been one of my signature activities. This was one of the silly call-and-response chants we did at cheer camp when we had some down-time, and I’ve always loved its spunk and silliness. I decided to do it on a whim with a group at a music therapy conference and it was a hit.  It’s a great creative movement activity for gross motor skills, following directions, and group involvement. The group I did this with was the Open Music class, which means any resident could come to the group and participate. Since that day was National Pet Day (who knew?), I thought an activity that had to do with an animal would go along with the theme of the session. The chant goes something like this:

I went down to the river,

and I took a little walk,

I came across some turkeys,

and we had a little talk.

I washed that turkey,

and I hung him on the line.

I said we can meet some turkeys,

oh any ole time!

What I would have done differently:

Although the residents were somewhat familiar with this activity, some of them seemed a bit confused on what the motions were and what to repeat. Next time I will review the motions and words with them before I begin to eliminate any confusion. Although the residents caught on to doing the chant loudly and softly, my ID also suggested that I give verbal cues to how I was going to do the chant next (fast, slow, ect.)


My week of co-leading also included a cowboy-themed group sing-a-long, an individual piano improvisation, and a Sandi Patty song (the resident is crazy about her). I am less than a month away from fully leading sessions (aaahhhh!), so hopefully I will take what I will learn in these next few weeks and apply it when I have a full case-load. There is much to be done and prepare for, but I am looking forward to finally jumping in and utilizing what I’ve learned these past four-and-a-half years!


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