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.
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,
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.
March Reads for the Music Classroom
With spring around the corner I see this as a season of awakening and re-birth. Whether it be nicer weather or more daylight, spring brings energy back into the classroom. The books I am going to recommend for this month, reflect this renewal and springing back into life after a seemingly long hibernation in colder weather.
Crack-Crack, Who’s That? by Tristan Mory
This is a brand new book that will be coming out on March 1, 2022, and I am absolutely in love with it! It is about animals hatching in the spring, and comes with a handle that you can pull and the book makes a satisfying cracking sound while revealing the next animal that just hatched. What I love about this book is the element of surprise as my littlest learners will wonder who is hatching at any given moment.
The next part that I love is the potential for instrument playing for every single sound that is listed. You can start with playing sounds for “crack-crack” if you have preschool learners, for example. If you are reading this to older students, have them play all of the other sounds while you play the “crack-crack” sound. Take turns switching instruments to make sure everyone gets a turn.
This can also be great for center work. I would type out the individual words, print them out, laminate and give them to groups of five students and have them create compositions with the different sounds. I wrote a lesson plan on this for Musicconstructed.com, here is the link.
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
This is a wonderful book about the ballet Appalachian Spring written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. I love to read the book to my students first, and explain who Martha Graham and Aaron Copland were. Then, I explain what they were trying to represent in this ballet which is the simplicity of the early settler lifestyle which allowed for gratitude and celebrations of every occasion in their lives. I show my students the ballet version and ask them questions regarding the dancing, scenery and characters in the ballet. For a more detailed lesson plan, please click here for a lesson plan that I wrote for Musicconstructed.com on this book.
To continue exploring ballet, check out the Kennedy Center Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Performance. You have to register in order to receive access, and this usually takes one day. This is a wonderful opportunity to continue exploring modern dance with your students, particularly from a legendary American company such as Alvin Ailey.
Little Blue Truck-Springtime by Alice Schertle
Another great read from Alice Schertle! I enjoy her book series a lot and try to use these books for most holidays and seasons with my students. The rhyming text, colorful pictures and hardcover design make this an appealing read for my lessons. This book is no different since it covers one of the important aspects of spring which is rebirth and renewal. Little Blue travels throughout the farm, meeting all of the animals, only to find out that they have given birth to little babies! This is a great way to welcome spring in your classroom.
If you want some songs to go along with the Little Blue Truck series, I have written song tales for several of the books in this series, feel free to check them out here.
Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson
I really like using this book in the spring because it is all about food and an abundance of it! Bear will not stop eating and keeps asking his friends to bring more and more food. The rhyming text is once again, another attraction of this book. As an added extension, I have created a chant that your students can say after every time that the book says “But the bear wants more!” Here is a sample of the chant:
This is a great way to add a steady beat, and decoding activity to this book. Another plus is that you can learn about rests by figuring out what the exclamation point means. If you would like more on this lesson, please click here.
I hope these book suggestions help you ring in spring in your classroom. Would love to see how you implement these in your room!
Now that we have gotten back into the swing of things, February is a great month to celebrate love, honor the achievements of Black Americans and keep students motivated while having fun throughout the long and cold winter months. Here are some book suggestions:
Love Grows Everywhere by Barry Timms and Tisha Lee
This is a brand new title that just came out in January of this year. What I love about this book is that there is a rhyming text that students can keep a steady beat to. The characters in the book are also diverse, which makes this a great addition to your classroom library. Use this book to talk about love and the different ways we can love one another. Pair with song options such as Heart Songs for Kids and Valentine’s Day song by Jack Hartmann, and you have a wonderful lesson about love for your young students.
Little Blue Truck: Valentine’s Day by Alice Schertle
This is another classic from the Little Blue Truck Series which I love to use with my students around Valentine’s Day. This book is a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a child-appropriate manner since it focuses on the truck delivering cards, which is what most of the students do during this time. Since this is a series that I enjoy so much, I have created a lesson and song specifically for this book. The lesson focuses on practicing solfege by having the students sing to the truck at the end of the story when the animals yell “Surprise!”. In addition, I have created a song that goes with this book so you can sing it after reading to your students. To access the song, please click here.
Since February is also Black History Month, there are many resources including books that celebrate the achievements of Black Americans. Here are a few artists that I choose to focus on in my classroom.
Before John Was a Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford
Jazz is a quintessential American art form which was founded by African American musicians in the late 19th century. John Coltrane (who happens to also be one of my favorite musicians) pioneered the use of modal music as well as the concept of free jazz which was an experimental approach to jazz improvisation. I love to either read this book followed by a video, or show my students the video read along that goes with this book.
I love to use this book because it is concise, and very accessible for young learners to learn about this great musician. The pictures are very well done. They showcase his instruments and create a sense of constant motion with long lines symbolizing music weaving throughout the book.
A Voice Named Aretha by Katheryn Russel-Brown
Another icon whom I love to read about and show to my students, is Aretha Franklin. Well known for songs such as “Respect” and her singing of “Amazing Grace”, Aretha has earned her place as the Queen of Soul in the music world. She worked hard to not only entertain and be the best musician she could be, but worked to break barriers that prevented people who looked like her from being treated equally.
This is an inspiring musician that I love to introduce to my students. I then play videos of Aretha’s music for them to listen to as examples of her work as well. Some of the videos that I play are Climbing Higher Mountains from 1972 and Amazing Grace.
To conclude the lesson on Aretha, I then do this routine to the song “Respect” with my students.
Hope that these can help you in the upcoming month!
I always love celebrating Mozart in my classroom, especially since his birthday falls several days after mine! I have gathered some resources that I would love to share in this blog post, which could help you introduce Mozart to your students. I have used these books and videos with students from PreK up to 2nd grade. Feel free to use and adapt these materials in the best way for your classroom.
Play Mozart Play by Peter Sis
I like this book for the pictures, which are very attractive for younger learners and just enough text to convey the story. I usually start with this book as an introduction to the composer. I like to then play the variations for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and have them listen to the original and the variations while keeping a steady beat.
The Story Orchestra: The Magic Flute by Katy Flint
The next book that I like to use is The Magic Flute, as a great example of an interactive book that tells the story through words and sound, that my students really love! This is one of many books in The Story Orchestra series. It does a great job of telling the story of The Magic Flute, and showcasing highlights from the opera. The book has a button you can press on each page to hear a highlight from that particular section of the opera, which matches with the story.
After I have read those two books and we have done the listening, depending on the grade level, I like to show a history of Mozart’s life which can be found here.
If I am working with particularly young learners, I like to play this clip of a cartoon version of the Rondo Alla Turca, which features several different instruments. It is funny and I use this opportunity to ask my students the names of all of the different instruments that are in the video.
My final activity is this movement activity, courtesy of Mikaela Sammond. She created this wonderful scarf activity to one of Mozart’s many menuets. In this video, she gives very clear directions on what to do during different sections of the music, which can then be used to explore form in music with the older students. I love to do this as the final activity in the lesson on Mozart. Students get to move and play with colorful scarves as the culminating activity.
I hope this was helpful to you and you can use some of this in your teaching.
Now that winter break is over and we are all back in our classrooms, I thought I would suggest some books that I like to use with my students in the winter months. Sorry for the delay, as I have been battling Covid which is why this came out a bit late!
While there is a more famous version of this story, this one is also a wonderful tale which allows students to get creative with their uses of the mitten. I often start out reading this book by asking the students about ways that the mitten can be used. Then we read this book and then we read this poem that I composed for the book. I like to ask students about the words in the poem whether they rhyme or not. Then I have follow up activities in the form of decoding worksheets and rhyming words worksheets. For more on that lesson please click here.
Bear Feels Sick
Since it is cold and flu season, this is a good book to do with students. I like to discuss some ways to make someone feel better when they are sick. This is a great title to start a conversation about this.
In addition to the rhyming text, I have composed a small chant that can also be sung for this book. To check out that lesson click here. Here is a small sample of that chant:
Bear Snores On
Another classic from the Bear Series which fits the season since many animals hibernate and sleep. This is a lovely tale of a bear who snores on despite all of the happenings around him, only to wake up from a small pepper fleck. A great seasonal book to keep a steady beat as well as talk about hibernation and why that is important for certain animals. I created a small chant for this as well-here is a small sample:
For more of this lesson plan, please click here.
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow
This is one of the books from the Old Lady Series which I like to use during these months. The rhyming text is perfect for keeping a steady beat and I usually use this towards the beginning of the lesson. I also created a chant to go with this book that students can use so that they can be more engaged in what they are reading. Here is the chant:
Froggy Gets Dressed
This is a great book for the snowy winter days. The frog gets up and gets ready to go outside only to discover that he is partially dressed each time that he is outside. By the time he begins to dress himself the third time, he realizes he is too tired to go outside and falls back asleep.
What I love about this book is the possibilities for vocal exploration and instrument play that it offers. While the frog is getting dressed, there are different sounds that are made while he is putting his clothes on. These can be done as vocal exploration or you can have students play instruments to the different sounds. This is a great book with which you can start your first day back with your little ones.
Hope these suggestions help you start your January off right!
As we get closer and closer to the holidays and holiday break, it is important to still engage your students with interesting Christmas stories that are not necessarily the typical stories that one would read to students in this season. For this reason I have included Hanukkah and Christmas books that I love to use this season.
Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
I have long been a fan of the Little Blue Truck Series. This is a wonderful story about a little blue truck that delivered Christmas trees to all of his friends. The rhyming words make this story go quickly while helping your students keep a steady beat. The addition of a counting element as Little Blue distributes the trees helps with cross curricular connections in the classroom. In addition the graphics and the light up tree at the end are sure to engage and delight your young learners!
Gingerbread Man/Matzo Ball Boy/Runaway Latkes: Different Version of the Same Story
I have loved the gingerbread story for a long time and did not know there were any alternatives to this story. This article will talk about the original story and alternative stories you can use to celebrate the Jewish holidays in your classroom. What I love about these stories is the repetitive chant that makes the students more engaged as they cheer on the main characters, also opening up room to keep a steady beat and practice rhythm and solfege syllables.
I have used the gingerbread story around Christmas time since that is a common cookie that is baked around that time of year. There are different versions of this story, and I happened to get this book at a sale. I love the colorful pictures as well as the message that exercise is important.
I was surprised to find other alternatives to this story, appropriate for Jewish holidays, specifically Passover and Hanukkah. The first story, The Matzo Ball Boy is very similar to the gingerbread man, because the repetitive chant is almost identical.
Keep Running Gingerbread Man The Matzo Ball Boy
“Run, run as fast as you can, “Run, run as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me, You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man!” I’m the matzo ball man!”
This is thus a great alternative with a similar storyline that you can use to celebrate Passover with your students. The ending is different than that of the gingerbread man story. The only thing is that I would look up all of the Yiddish words and explain them to your students beforehand.
Another great alternative to this is The Runaway Latkes, which is a good way to celebrate Hanukkah. The repetitive chant is not the same as that of the other two books, but the storyline is similar. I would preface the story about latkes with why we eat latkes on Hanukkah as well as how they are made. Also, an explanation of some of the terms such as rabbi, cantor, synagogue, etc.
While the chant is not similar, the words lend themselves easier to being sung. What I have done with my students is sung the first two lines and then chanted the third, resulting in the following (the letters stand for solfege syllables so and mi):
S S M S S M
Big and round, crisp and brown,
S S M M S S M
Off we roll to see the town,
And you can’t catch us!
Bear Stays Up for Christmas
Another favorite of mine that I love to use in addition with a lesson that I created for this story. The Bear Series books by Karma Wilson are some of my favorites to use for various parts of the year and this is no exception. I have used most of these books and was delighted to find a Christmas one! This is a great way to celebrate the Christmas spirit while practicing steady beat as you read to the students. In addition, I have created a chant and corresponding decoding worksheet to go with this title.
Here is a sample of the chant:
These books can be used with students as young as preschool to celebrate the various holidays in your classroom, and I hope that they can help you as you get ready to acknowledge these special occasions with your students.
November is the month of all things turkey, Thanksgiving and gratitude. I love this time because I get to focus on the theme of gratitude which I feel underlies this holiday and is even more important to reflect upon.
Here are some books that I have found useful with my students in the month of November.
Run, Turkey, Run! By Diane Mayr
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!
Over the River and Through the Wood by Linda Ashman
While there is a famous song by the same name, this book describes the journey of a family eager to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Each time that their mode of transportation does not arrive, a horse drawn carriage comes to save the family and bring them closer and closer to their destination. Everytime that the horse comes up to the family, you hear the sound “Neigh”. Students can participate and say “Neigh” each time that the horse arrives, or you can make up a quick saying for them to say when the horse arrives.
Here is something that I thought of:
You can use this chant to then go over ta and ti-ti rhythms as well as getting the students to play along on rhythm sticks or small hand drums.
You can then introduce the song and create a lesson around visiting family during Thanksgiving with this book and the song.
Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
I like to use this lesson to talk to the students about gratitude and what they are thankful for. Then, I teach them a chant that I created for this book. I will post a short snippet of it here.
For the rest of the chant and the lesson please click here. Have students keep a steady beat while they are learning this. When reading, have the students say the chant after each time that you say “And the bear says thanks”.
Then, I show them the beat chart from the lesson above and ask what was the same and what was different? Have them go through the chant clapping and tapping the rhythm. Ask what is different and what has changed and then explain the differences between the two. Explain the differences between the two. Hand out the worksheets to students in grades 1 and 2 and have them match the words with the rhythm.
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.
Here’s to a productive and gratitude-filled November :)