The first month of school can be stressful with the start of routines, schedules and getting to know your students. Additionally, this will be our second year of teaching during a pandemic and so there will be more protocols and guidelines that will limit what we can/cannot do in the classroom.
As someone who loves to use books, I often love to plan out what books I will use in a particular month. While this is in no way a comprehensive list and the possibilities are endless, I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites that I will use with my students in September. I use these books with students from PreK-2nd grade.
Goodnight Owl by Pat Hutchins
I love this book because it helps me to introduce Snowy the Owl puppet which I use to help with classroom management. Since I use Snowy the entire year as my assistant in the classroom, this book helps me to introduce this puppet. I often have students do vocal exploration following Snowy’s path as well as have Snowy high five students (in pre-pandemic times). I use this book along with a lesson that I wrote for this book where students sing a lullaby to help the owl fall asleep. For a free copy of that lesson click here.
Essentially we read the book and every time that we come to the phrase “the owl tried to sleep”, students will sing a lullaby to the owl. You can add instruments to go along with the lullaby as well. The accompanying worksheets test the students’ memories of which bird and animals made which sound.
Another reason that I love this book is that it helps me to introduce students to the way that I use books which is to find a repetitive phrase and then use that as a springboard to have students either say the phrase that the author wrote or say/chant something I wrote to go with the book.
Pete the Cat and the New Guy by Kimberly and James Dean
A new school year means new students and one of the best ways to build a healthy classroom culture is to work on building relationships with those who are entering our classrooms for the first time. This book is not only from a classic series but it is one that teaches students about everyone’s unique gifts. The final picture of everyone playing music together makes it perfect for the music classroom!
This book is wonderful because the words rhyme, and so you can practice saying this like a rap and have the students keep a steady beat either on their palms or with rhythm sticks. The part where you can have them engage with the story even more comes when Pete says “Don’t be sad, don’t be blue. There is something everyone can do!” This is something students can chant or sing. You can create a solfege melody to go with this as well.
What I love about this book is the theme of inclusion and unique gifts of the individual. I think that this is wonderful towards building a classroom community where all students can contribute in their own unique way.
The Duck Who Didn’t Like Water by Steve Small
The reason I chose this book is that it is a great story filled with wonderful illustrations about rain. The subject of rain is perfect for the fall, between the weather changing and having more rainy days, to songs about rain, this book is a great way to introduce rain into your classroom!
A great way to engage with this book is to have students play either barred instruments or chimes to indicate rain while reading this book. Since there is no repetitive pattern, it is hard to know when students should play but I would set the students up with instruments and then practice gesturing towards them to play and then doing the cut off. Once you are reading the book, pick specific places to play and point to class to play when it is time to create some rain!
After reading this book, I would follow up with the song “Rain, Rain, Go Away” and have students echo and solfege the song. Then I would decode for so-mi solfege and have students echo various solfege patterns as extended practice.
The 12 Days of Preschool by Jenna Lettice
This one is another seasonal favorite with many spin-offs such as The 12 Days of Thanksgiving. It uses the popular melody to the tune “The 12 Days of Christmas” this book describes everything that preschoolers will learn how to share in 12 days and beyond. I love this book because you get to practice this famous melody so that students learn it well before Christmas and it is repetitive which helps students remember the words and be able to name all of the things they will be sharing as the song goes along. Another skill that it teaches is counting. I highly recommend using this book in the first week of your preschool classes!
Somewhere in the City by Yu Leng/It’s My City by April Pulley Sayre
One way that I love to get my students thinking about music is to ask about where they have heard it as well as what objects/instruments make music. One common question I like to ask is what sounds do they hear in their everyday life? The two books I listed do an in depth dive into sounds that one would hear in their everyday life. First we read the book, “Somewhere in the City” by J. B. Frank and make the noises we hear in the book. As a review (and depending on the age of the class) I give out a worksheet to have students review who made which noise. Click to find that worksheet here. However this book does not cover specific sounds made by machinery, automobiles, etc, but more of everyday sounds like hissing, gurgling, etc.
In the following lesson, I review what we had previously learned and ask if there are more sounds that can be made. I read “It’s My City” by April Pulley Sayre, which covers sounds made by clocks, cars, hot dog stands, etc. I have created another worksheet to go with this lesson as well. Click here to access this!
I have linked all of the books, puppets and worksheets in the post.
I hope that this is very helpful as you start this next year!
I came across this book through Amy Pfitzner at O Fortuna Orff Blog. I had no idea this festival existed but it seems like a great activity to do at the beginning of the year when we make wishes for the year. It is also a great way to talk about this summer's Olympic games and learn something new about the country which hosted them.
In this story, Orihime, the emperor's daughter becomes separated from her love Hiroboshi but on this day the two stars finally unite. The holiday of Tanabata is about making wishes, hanging up colorful decorations and eating delicious food. To purchase the book, click here.
This is a great lesson not only about this beautiful Japanese holiday but can also get students to think about what they wish for this year. Since I love to feature books with accompanying poetry, I wrote a poem to accompany this book as well, which I turned into a speech piece.
I also composed a speech piece for this poem which students can do in two parts using instruments. It is also a great way to introduce or review triplets. Here is a short snippet of the speech. For the rest of the lesson, please click here.
Hope this helps you to start your year off on the right foot! If you need more activities, please feel free to visit Amy's blog (listed above) for some more activities with this book and topic.
Wishing you a successful start to your year,
I have been enjoying my summer this year and have been trying to spend as much time in nature as I can, particularly at the beach. One of the things that this pandemic has taught me is to appreciate nature and how enormous and glorious it is. I love spending my days gazing at the water or swimming and watching the sunset. It reminds me of how small I am in relation to this big world and helps me keep my life in perspective.
I found this book at my local Barnes and Noble a while ago and thought that it was fitting for the times that we are living in. This book describes how we have progressed to being and enjoying the outdoors to being inside and disconnected from the outside world. The book goes on to describe the beauty of the outside world and how it reminds us of all of the magic that still exists in nature.
I feel that this book is well fitting to use with your students to remind them to enjoy being outdoors in a time when we are overwhelmingly stuck indoors. I was so inspired by this book and its evocative pictures that I composed a poem that I would like to share with you. Feel free to use this in class activities, or set it to music if you like, just credit the lyrics to me. Click here to purchase this book if you wish.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and do let me know if you end up using this poem in your classroom! I would love to see what creative ways you can incorporate this in!