I discovered this book recently and thought it was perfect for the month of March! Since March is all about celebrating women’s accomplishments, I thought I would highlight this amazing singer who fought for change and justice in her home country of India. M. S. Subbulakshmi was famous for singing carnatic music-a subgenre of modern Indian classical music. During her early years, girls and women were not allowed to perform for the public. If girls were invited to perform, people would walk out in protest.
Thus, M. S. Subbulakshmi had a long road ahead of her. She recorded herself singing at a young age, and that is where she gave herself the name M. S. Subbulakshmi which stands for Madurai-name of the city where she was born, Shanmukhavadivu-the echo of her mother’s name, and Subbulakshmi-the goddess of heavenly wealth. She continued to study with many masters until the Madras Music Academy finally invited her to sing. She was the first woman to sing at the Madras Music Academy. Soon M. S. Subbulakshmi was using her voice to sing Indian independence across the country. Soon, she was invited to sing at the United Nations. Use this book to explore and listen to a powerful woman who fought for change with her voice.
I hope this book adds another new female perspective to your classroom during Women's History Month and beyond!
This book came out two years ago, in celebration of the many talented Black visual artists that you may or may not have known about. It is a celebration of art from artists from across Africa, Latin America and the United States, who create art in a variety of mediums. There are 26 artists in total, from countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, England, Cuba, Sudan, Mali, and many others. While this is not a book about music, it is a beautiful celebration of Black excellence not just in the United States, which you can use to introduce various forms of art or perhaps discuss specific countries in the African diaspora, by focusing on an artist from that country. The variety of mediums and artists is what makes this book a great compendium of Black visual artistry to keep in your classroom year round. Check out some of the featured artists below:
Here's to a productive and reflective Black History Month in your classroom!
Book of the Month-Snow?
I discovered this book at a recent trip to Barnes and Noble. It was published this year, and is perfect for the winter season. It tells the story of two foxes who want to know what snow is. So, they go around and ask all of the animals in the forest what snow is. I loved the illustrations and sense of magic that the author brings to this book. There is a softness which makes you drawn into the story, as the tale unfolds throughout the book. The repetitive phrase "Can you tell us what snow is?" inspired me to create a lesson which will be in my TPT store very soon. I created a chant your students can do everytime that you read the repetitive phrase, as well as a song that they can sing at the end of the book. Here is a screenshot of the song.
Feel free to use this story to practice 6/8 time signature, ta and ti-ti rhythms as well as rests, solfege, as well as get the students playing on Orff instruments, all while talking about and hopefully enjoying the wonders of snow.
Enjoy all of the beauty of the winter months ahead,
This is probably one of my favorite times of year, because I love all kinds of holiday music! In addition, everywhere you go there are trees, lights, Santas, candles, etc. what’s not to love about that 🙂? This year, I thought I would talk about some different books that I came across, which can work well for December and even early January when you are not busy preparing for the holiday concerts with your kiddos.
The Littlest Night Before Christmas by Mary Engelbreit
For anyone that loves Mary Engelbreit’s illustrations, this book is a must for the month of December. The rhyming text is a great way to get your students into this story, and the illustrations will keep them glued to the pages of this wonderful book. This book differs from the original in that it is about a family of mice that is the center of the action when there is a happy intruder in their home. Great to follow up with the movie The Night Before Christmas 1933 Disney version, and then compare the two!
How to Catch a Snowman by Adam Wallace and Ande Elkerton
I love the rhyme scheme of this book, as well as many connections to science and engineering that can be useful to discuss with students. For example, one of the pages the children make a net of scarves. I like to ask my students, how we can make such a net out of scarves-what design would we have to consider? In another instance, the snowman comes across an igloo, and runs right through it. The book does not mention that it is an igloo, and this could be another great question to ask your students. I use this in the beginning of class, to get my littles to keep steady beat, while asking questions as we follow the snowman on his journey. So much fun!
Varenka by Bernadette Watts
I came across this book recently, through the Children’s Literature company. It is a beautifully told story of a woman named Varenka, who shelters from the war and from the Russian soldiers, rescuing several of her neighbors in the process. As the story develops, we see Varenka praying for shelter from the soldiers, each time taking in a new neighbor. Finally, there is a huge snowfall which covers her house, which ensures that the soldiers do not see the house as they are passing by. The war in that part of Russia is over. Once springtime comes, peace returns, and everyone resumes living their daily lives. This works for either December or January, since it takes place during the winter. I felt this was appropriate to include here, given what has happened recently between Russia and Ukraine. Even though this book takes place in Russia, it is important to remind students of the humanity of all people, including those living in Russia. As someone with ties to both countries, I try to remind my students not to label everyone on one side as good and the other one bad, but to find the humanity and pray for peace for both nations.
While there is not an obvious musical connection here, this can be used in discussions about Russia that can come up, or before teaching music of Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky.
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
While this book is not new in Carle’s repertoire, I just came across this last year and loved it. The story about how the farmer and his animals fell asleep, and dreamed about snow, only to wake up to real snow. The farmer then grabs a sack and goes to find presents for all of his animals. The sweetness of the story and the illustrations along with the flaps you have to lift to see the animals, inspired me to create a solfege based lesson plan practicing mi-re-do.
Here is a small preview:
For more on this lesson, please click here for a link to the lesson in my TPT store!
Have a wonderful December!
November Reads for the Classroom
November Reads for the Classroom
This is the month to reflect on what we are grateful for, especially as the year is coming to a close, I love to reflect on everything positive that has happened this year. In addition, since we are getting closer to the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday, I love to incorporate the following books into my lesson plans. I hope that you find these helpful to you as well.
How to Catch a Turkey by Adam Wallace
A fun way to capture the spirit of Thanksgiving, by following the turkey as he tries not to get caught! The rhyming text is perfect for young children to keep the steady beat as you read aloud all of the turkeys adventures as he goes from school stage to becoming a mascot! Great for practicing steady beat with your younger learners as well as going along on a turkey chase. The author also has How to Catch an Elf, How to Catch a Snowman, How to Catch a Toothfairy, How to Catch an Easter Bunny, How to Catch a Mermaid, How to Catch a Dinosaur, etc.
Run Turkey Run by Diane Mayr
I love this book so much that it is not Thanksgiving without this book in my classroom. Between the turkey running away from the farmer, which keeps students engaged in the story, to the song, this book is a gem for the month of November. What I love about this book is the repetitive saying “Run, Turkey, Run” which opens the door for a song or chant to replace this simple saying. There are various versions, although you can also compose your own song/chant. Here is a link to a sample lesson with this book which uses the song below.
I have used another version of this song, though I don’t have music off hand and accompanied myself with ukulele. If you do not have Orff instruments, simply have your students grab rhythm sticks and keep a steady beat while they chant/sing!
12 Days of Thanksgiving by Jenna Lettice
I love the 12 Days series, and this one is no exception! There are several books that use the 12 Days of Christmas melody for other occasions throughout the school year, and this happens to be another one in the series. I use this as we are getting ready for the holiday and sing through it with my PreK, Kindergarten and grade 1 students. I love the colorful pictures as well as the familiar melody, which makes it easy for my students to pick up the song and sing along! I also use this to ask my students what Thanksgiving traditions they have with their families, before launching into the song. Highly recommend this book as a circle time activity, beginning of class activity, etc.
Joseph Had an Overcoat by Simms Taback
I love this book for so many reasons. It is a book about gratitude, giving, recycling, and has a wonderful song to go with it! I have used this book on numerous occasions and always come back to this wonderful lesson.
I start off this lesson by talking to the students about what gratitude means and how we can practice that. I explain that one of the ways that gratitude can be practiced is through being thankful for and taking care of your stuff. As we go through the book, I love to ask the students what Joseph made next from the clothing/item he currently has. Then, we sing the song at the end.
As an added extension, I have also composed a chant that students can say everytime that you read the phrase “It got old and worn”. This chant can be used to teach about quarter rests as well as reviewing ta and ti-ti rhythm syllables. For the chant and the extension lesson click here.
In addition, if you would like a free lesson plan idea that incorporates this book and uses another popular book “Something from Nothing” to teach 6/8 meter, click here to read my lesson that I wrote for Musicconstructed.com.
Here’s to a productive and gratitude-filled November :)
October Reads for the Classroom
Now that you have settled into the classroom, October is here with its pumpkin spiced lattes, crisp cool air and most importantly, Halloween! I have compiled a small list of books that you maybe you can use in the classroom.
Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson
I am a big fan of the bear series by Karma Wilson, and have most of the books in my collection. I love that there is a repetitive pattern in every single book such as “bear feels sick”, “bear wants more”, “bear feels scared”, etc. This creates opportunities to create a chant or song that the students can sing/chant at that point in the book. The reason I like this particular book in the series for October, is because the pictures show a cold, windy forest, with the bear getting lost in trying to find his way home. This is relevant for how the weather is changing outside, and the types of weather that the students are beginning to experience, particularly in the Northern part of the United States.
The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis
This is another great book to use around Halloween time, that you can have fun with chant. The book is great for keeping a steady beat to, but the repetitive nature of the chant is the real winner for me. The repetitive chant that occurs as the pumpkin is rolling through the town, is great for students to chant with, play rhythm sticks with, and do the movements that go with the chant.
This book is also a great introduction to playing circle games such as Pass the Pumpkin, etc. I like to start with this book and then continue to Pass the Pumpkin.
Monster Trouble! By Lane Fredrickson
October is not complete without a book about monsters! This book is a great rhyming book to use during the month when all things ghoulish are in style. I love using this as an introduction to the lesson, and getting my students to keep the steady beat while I read. This book makes a scary topic like monsters seem funny and friendly, as she shows the monsters in the book that she is completely not afraid of them. In addition, there is possibility for vocal exploration in making hissing sounds along with the characters in the book.
As a follow up, I love to use the book Glad Monster, Sad Monster to have the students understand and discuss the various feelings they see in the book and that consequently can occur in music.
Dia de los Muertos by Hannah Eliot
This is a great introduction to the holiday of Dia de los Muertos! This year the holiday occurs on November 1st, and if you like to sing and dance to traditional Mexican music, this book introduces the holiday. It is short and very colorful, and delivers just the right amount of information to young learners about this holiday. One of the things that is done during Dia de Los Muertos is dance. This is a great way to teach your students some of the traditional dances like the “Mexican Hat Dance” or sing “La Cucaracha”, as dancing is seen as a way to honor those who have passed.
Another book that you can connect this to is called “Danza! Amalia Hernandez and El Ballet Folklorico Mexico” by Duncan Tonatiuh. This is an in depth look at the first ballet company specializing in Mexican folkloric dance, founded by Amalia Hernandez. I wrote a lesson on this book for musicconstructed.com and you can access that here.
I hope that these books can help you have a wonderful and productive October!
September Reads for the Classroom
Welcome back! I am excited to be back after a relaxing summer to talk about my favorite thing in the classroom: books! I hope that everyone has had a wonderful summer, and I hope that my posts can help you plan your lessons more effectively as well as diversify the books you have in your classroom.
I am going to begin with some new books that have come out this year, which would be good to use for community building as well as introducing some new musicians to your students.
I’s the B’y: The Beloved Newfoundland Folk Song
This book just came out in May of this year, and it is a beautiful illustrated copy of this beloved folk song. The illustrator, Lauren Soloy, did a great job in honoring the song by creating gorgeous illustrations of boats, whales, fish, and stormy seas, which is a nod to the birthplace of this tune.
This book is great for keeping a steady beat, singing along and then following up with a dance to the repeated refrain! Also great for doing any kind of ocean themed lessons that you might be doing, either in the beginning or any other time of the year.
The Greatest Song of All: How Isaac Stern United to Save Carnegie Hall by Megan Hoyt
This book was a surprise in the sense that I have not come across too many children’s books about Isaac Stern. Even more importantly is his role in saving Carnegie Hall, one of the most important musical performance venues in the world! Isaac Stern’s story is even more relevant for today’s times, because he was born in current day Ukraine and his parents fled Ukraine for San Francisco. Isaac practiced countless hours until he was good enough to play at Carnegie Hall, a music venue that he would later fight to save. This is a great introduction to not only Isaac Stern, but Carnegie Hall. In fact, after I read the book to my students I love to play some videos of the history of Carnegie Hall.
Here are some examples:
The famous New York Carnegie Hall | with Sarah Willis
But First We Nap by David Miles and Slow Samson by Bethany Christou
These books are great for instrument play and learning about slow tempo. I like to start with But First We Nap, and I give students instruments to play when the sloth says “But first we nap”. As a follow up, I read Slow Samson, which I discovered recently. This book tells the story of Samson the sloth who was always very slow to arrive at parties. Finally, his friends planned a party two hours earlier, so that Samson would arrive on time. I have composed a song and chant that your students can say at certain times in the book. To access this, please click here to purchase it from my TPT store.
How Messy! By Clare Helen Welsh
I included this book in my September post, because this is the month that we are working on setting routines in our classrooms. One of those is the reminder to clean up after ourselves. In this new book, published this year, Clare Helen Welsh describes the friendship between Dot, the little girl who is very neat, and Duck who is constantly creating messes. While the two friends learn to accept each other’s differences by the end of the book, this book can be a great reminder to your students to try and keep their space neat, whether in your music classroom or in their general class. I have created a chant that they can use at certain points in the book, part of which I will post here:
For the rest of the chant and accompanying lesson, please click here.
I hope these books help you begin your school year. Here’s to creating some beautiful musical messes and masterpieces in your classroom!
Best wishes for a wonderful year.
June Reads for the Music Classroom
This is the final homestretch! Some teachers finish in early June and some have to trudge it out until the end of June, depending on how many snow days their school took this year. Whether you finish earlier or later in the month, here are some books to make it easier to get to the end of the school year.
And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner
This is a great book to jumpstart discussion of summer with your students in the lower grades. I love the illustrations, and the scarcity of text which allows one to focus on the pictures. I love to start off reading this book by asking what people normally do in the summer, and making a huge list of activities. Then, we go through the book and see if any of these activities appear in the book. This is a great way to then introduce summer themed activities involving ice cream, the beach, etc. In fact, this can be a great segue into the next book that I will talk about!
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell by Lucille Colandro
This is another one of the Old Lady Series books that deals with specifically everything summer. Shells, sand, pails, etc…this is a great way to remind students of one of the beauties of summer which is going to the beach! This is great for keeping the steady beat, while getting students to think of all of the things they see, feel, touch and play with at the beach. If students are not keeping the steady beat to the original book, I have composed a short chant which you can use with your students everytime that you read the words “She didn’t tell”. To purchase this and other chants that I have made for the Old Lady book series, please click here.
Up, Down and Around by Katherine Ayres
I have loved this book since the first time that I read it. It has many possibilities for movement, vocal exploration and even singing! The subject of this book makes this a perfect read for the spring and summer months. The various directions make it easy to read while moving with the children as you are doing so, in fact this can easily be something to start your lesson with movement. I have created a lesson for this book that you can find on Musicconstructed.com. For more on this lesson, please click here. If you would like a matching worksheet that goes with this book which matches the vegetable to the direction, you can check out the full lesson in my TPT store here.
I hope these three finds can help you finish out the year strong as you transition into a restful summer!
See you back here in September,
May Reads for the Music Classroom
With this being the last full month of school, I thought I would offer some suggestions on how to make your last full month a meaningful and memorable one with your students. These books are intended to help you celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander month as well as May 4th.
Given that May celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures, I thought I would mention a book that talks about love from the Vietnamese perspective. In this book, the main character, a girl named Thu’ong asks everyone she meets, where do they keep love for others in their body-whether it is ears, voice, heart, etc. This is a great way to talk about love from a different perspective. When you are done with the book, learn the song that the author provides in English, and maybe even Vietnamese!
While there are very few videos of the song, I did find one Youtube video that teaches the song in Vietnamese. You can use the melody to teach the song in English, and then teach the main Vietnamese phrase “Yeu men me cha” to the students since it repeats throughout the entire song.
There Was an Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon by Lucille Colandro
This is a good book to begin your discussion about space. I love Lucille Colandro’s books and this is another great one for a steady beat that also happens to talk about space! Use this to introduce your lesson on space and get your students keeping a steady beat while learning about planets in a fun, rhythmical way! The little old lady turns into an astronaut in this book, and swallows a star, a planet, a comet, a meteor, a rocket, and a satellite. Have your students follow along and then have a discussion about space afterwards.
Here Come the Aliens! by Colin McNaughton
I first came across this book through Artie Almeida and Denise Gagne’s Music Symposium in 2020. Arite was doing a lesson on this book, and she had a song that she had the teachers play and sing every single time that she read “The aliens are coming!” I was inspired by this book and wrote my own chant to go with it. Here is some of the chant:
Have your students chant and move to this while they pretend to be aliens. For more information on this lesson, please see my TPT store-here’s the link.
Rapping Rhymes about Space by Thomas Kingsley Troupe
This is a fun title where students can learn about the planets through rap. This book covers all of the planets through fun rhymes that you can pair with facts about the planets as you are going along. There is an exercise at the end of the book, where you can have students practice writing their own raps about space. I like to use the software Groove Pizza to help them with the backbeat. There are many other lessons you can do with this software as well. Check out the Rap My Name Lesson and the Boom, Snap, Clap Lesson for some ideas.
In addition to these books, you can review rhythms using videos based on the video game Among Us. My students love these videos and they are a great way to review note values. Click here to get started!
Hope that these books help you celebrate May 4th and AAPI Month in your classrooms!
Only one more month left-we can do this!
April is the first month where I finally feel as if spring is coming and the cold can be left behind until the winter season. It is also the month to celebrate Easter and Passover, as well as our beautiful planet! In this blogpost I will discuss books that you can use to cover all of those topics in your classroom and educational environment.
Drum City by Thea Guidone
I love this book for how easy it is to begin any lesson on recycling, reusing and reducing with this title, while simultaneously engaging the students in the book. It is great for in class or remote teaching. I have read this book in class and used it for remote instruction as well. I usually either distribute instruments to my students to play along with, or if I am teaching remotely have them grab kitchen utensils to drum with. The students will then drum on the word drum, as I am reading the book. This is a great way to introduce repurposing materials, talk about recycling and have fun while doing it! For a more detailed lesson plan on this book and the next book I will talk about, check out my lesson plan “Recycle and Repurpose” in Musicconstructed.com.
Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood
This is one of my favorite books to use for not only celebrating the Earth but also Hispanic Heritage month, thus this book has multiple classroom uses. For more on how I use this book during Hispanic Heritage month, please check out this article I wrote for Every Teacher Every Day.
This is a great continuation to the first book, because I love to read this to my students and discuss ways in which Favio Chavez and his students have recycled instruments. My students get to hear about how instruments are recycled, and then I show them this video to make the story come alive even more.
As a follow up activity, I assign the students to make their own instruments at home and send home videos to watch on how to do this. Here is a quick list of those videos:
4 Musical Instruments: Crafts You Can Do Anytime
Easy Homemade Instruments for Kids
How to Make Musical Instruments for Kids
Pout Pout Fish Cleans Up the Ocean by Deborah Diesen
I came across this book recently, and really liked that it was an extension of the Pout Pout Fish Series that encourages cleaning up the beautiful planet. This is a book which rhymes, helping your young learners keep a steady beat.
However, being someone that loves to look for a repetitive pattern, I saw one in the words “A big….big…mess!” which is repeated numerous times.
I composed a short chant which you can use with your students as your are going through the book. They can chant this, every time that you come to the part about the big mess.
Here it is:
For more on a lesson about this book, please see my lesson in Musicconstructed.com, which recently came out.
Peter Easter Frog by Erin Dealey
I came across this book last year at my local Barnes and Noble store and really liked the story line. It is a hilarious title with the frog pretending to be the bunny, and asking other animals to join him in the fun! I use this as we get closer to Easter time with my preschool students, and it has been a hit with my students! This book inspired me so much that I composed a short song tale for it. To hear some of it and access the resource, please click here.
Little Red Hen and the Passover Matza by Leslie Kimmelman
Since Passover occurs around the same time as Easter, I did not want to end this blogpost without a suggestion for this holiday as well. The Little Red Hen is a classic story, and this Passover spinoff is a great way to introduce and talk about the holiday of Passover. I created a song tale to go along with this book as well, click here to listen to it.
Hope these books help you celebrate the holidays and our wonderful planet throughout the month of April.