10 November Session Plan Ideas

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Looking to add some pumpkin spice into your November session plans? Our music therapy intern, Olivia Harrington has curated a diverse list of interventions to use in varying populations.

Early Childhood

We Are Thankful

To the tune of “Are You Sleeping”, this rewrite is a perfect way to work on expressing gratitude. In a recent group session I asked clients what holiday was coming up. Once they identified Thanksgiving, I asked them what being thankful meant to them. Some classes jumped straight into naming who and what they were thankful for; shouting things like “my parents”' and “my favorite toy!”. Other classes defined being thankful as “someone or something that means a lot to you.” Once we had our definition, I prompted each individual client with the question, “what/who are you thankful for?” and added their responses into the song. Singing through the newly rewritten lyrics allowed group members to recall one another’s responses and helped promote group cohesion. Consider implementing clapping or instrument play to address additional goals!


Additionally, a choice board can increase inclusivity for non speaking clients within groups. To create more meaningful connections, add a picture of the words they choose.


If You Like Turkeys

To the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, this movement activity is designed to increase creativity and provide opportunities for sequencing and silliness! For my group session, I used this song as a cool down activity. I would suggest starting this activity with a “warm-up” movement (like moving your turkey head!) as a way to transition into more complex movements. One client suggested we play “Turkey Says,” where they decided the movement and the rest of the group mimicked them. You can also chain multiple movements into one: “If you like turkeys ... pat your head, flap your wings, and stomp your feet.” 

To address goals of impulse control and receptive listening, consider adding fast/slow prompts, or prompting with a “freeze” and “go” in between verses. Remember to allow everyone to get creative while layering in new goals and objectives. 


We Are Family

The classic song, “We Are Family” was featured in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. This is a great song to promote rhythmic entrainment and maintain a grounding beat for clients. Going around in a circle, I prompted clients to tap two beats and pass the drum to the next person in the group. Another idea for this song is to open up discussion about family and friends and facilitate a lyric analysis. Analyzing the lyrics of this song is a great way to promote reminiscence and open discussion about client families and support systems.


Thank U, Next

While Ariana Grande’s original song “Thank U, Next” is a hit, a rewrite to fit music therapy sessions is even better! I got this idea from the Music to Grow On Music Therapy team, and being a Grande fan myself, I wanted to implement this in my sessions. I changed some of the lyrics to better fit the needs of my clients and I recommend using relevant topics for your clients as well. There are many different ways to increase engagement throughout this intervention! One idea is to add in drumming to keep the beat during the rewrite. This intervention is sure to promote reminiscence, reflection, and joy.


Lean on Me

The classic, “Lean on Me”, is sure to be enjoyed by clients of all ages. For adults, I used this song as a movement activity to get their brain chemicals flowing. The American Psychology Association states that “physical activity triggers a release of dopamine and serotonin, which can improve mood.” Using movement within music therapy can be highly motivating and reach deeper than the surface level sing along. I recommend using this activity with a lyric analysis while facilitating a discussion about who and what clients ‘lean on.’


With a Little Help From My Friends

The Beatles song, “With a Little Help From My Friends” discusses friendship and mutual support. Use this song to promote positive social interactions in a group setting, engage in discussion about friendship and support systems, or as a piano play along! To add some creative expression, cut out lyrics from the song and lay them over a picture that resonates with clients. 

Older Adults

What a Wonderful World

One of my all time favorite songs is “What a Wonderful World”, famously sung by Louis Armstrong. I have used this song as a cooldown/mindfulness activity for older adults, encouraging them to raise their scarves when they hear the corresponding color in the song. To address movement goals, prompt clients to sway their scarves side to side, tap their shoulders, and move their scarves in circles to the beat. In between verses, you can also ask clients what their favorite things are about this world, and implement their responses in a lyric rewrite.

Another idea is to use Bob Thiele and George David Weiss illustrated book of this song to teach clients the sign language of colors within the song. 


Mashed Potato Time

In the 1950s, Dee Dee Sharp released her “Mashed Potato Time” dance song that quickly rose to fame. I used this song in my older adult group to increase reminiscence and movement. I start by asking my group what their favorite dish is on Thanksgiving. After group discussion, I turn on the speaker and model this dance through chaining. I have found that going up to each person to encourage their dancing skills helps with engagement and positivity in the room. This dance is a ton of fun and I hope you try this one out!


Ode to Thanksgiving

While searching for Thanksgiving session plans, I came across a choral song titled Ode to Thanksgiving with Vocals. I plan to incorporate this song in my own sessions by playing piano with the song, keeping a steady beat on the drum, practicing food identification, playing boomwhackers with the melody, and promoting rhythmic entrainment by emphasizing the syllables of the lyrics.


Treat People With Kindness

Another fun way to include multisensory experiences in your sessions is through body percussion. I fell in love with body percussion in my second semester of grad school and now I implement it in many sessions. A video I came across that is Thanksgiving related is Treat People with Kindness by Harry Styles - Body Percussion w/LYRICS. This can be used as a brain break or at the start of the session to get energy out. I used this song with two clients this month and both of them enjoyed the challenge of matching the rhythms of the song. This can be used in tandem with a lyric analysis to discuss the importance of treating people with kindness. 

As we come to a close, I encourage you all to continue to promote gratitude throughout November. Happy planning!