Ball Pit Beats with Mates of State
I love using popular musical genres to help teach classroom concepts. Kids zero in when you pull up YouTube and get so excited to see real, live musicians performing right in front of them. Why not use a engaging medium (music videos/YouTube) to reinforce the very thing you’re teaching in class? I wanted to share one of my favorite videos to teach steady beat with my younger learners: “My Only Offer” by a band called Mates of State. The song is super catchy, it’s got a nice quick tempo, and there are ball pit balls! It follows in the same vein of the Jimmy Fallon/classroom instruments videos even though it came out before Jimmy made that style famous. The kids will freak when they see it.
In this music video you see two musicians inside little glass boxes in some sort of clothing boutique shop. They play along and sing their song as shoppers and a shopkeeper go about their business, basically ignoring their existence. All the while, colorful ball pitt balls fall around the musicians and they become more and more lost in the sea of plastic. My students always sit mesmerized as they watch and listen.
So, how do I use the video in my classroom? For younger grades I’ll often use it when I want to reinforce steady beat. There’s a nice quick tempo and I usually have students pat their legs to the steady beat. We don’t pat for the whole song, but we’ll do it on and off during the song… maybe just for the verses but not the chorus. It depends on the class and the day. Often I’ll start with more focus on the steady beat and then drop it so they can just watch as the video progresses. I choose to have them pat (instead of clap/snap/something else) because they can continue listening when they pat, but when they clap that makes it hard to stick with and hear the video.
There’s a lot for students to see in this video. Kids like seeing a glockenspiel being played and they LOVE watching the drummer. The steady beat keeps up for a while but eventually students get so caught up watching the ball pit balls that they pay more attention to that than keeping the steady beat and in the end I’m okay with it. This video is fun and quick and keeps students interested. Often I’ll bring back the video a week or so after we first see it so that they can watch with more familiarity and focus on the task of keeping a steady beat. Students especially love when I tell them that this band is from Kansas (actually from Lawrence, just a few miles away from where my kiddos live!).
I choose to focus on reinforcing steady beat when watching the video, but you could use it to highlight harmony or ensemble or whatever you want to talk about. There’s a lot to watch for and see in this video. You could even talk about the story line. Why are the musicians in the middle of the clothing store? What’s up with the ball pit balls? What makes the musicians freeze? There are many avenues for discussion. Videos like this are great for reinforcing content and for filling a few minutes at the end of a class or the end of a hard day.