I hope that you have begun your school year and are transitioning into the school year smoothly. As a lover of books, I am getting to see what new books I can incorporate into the classroom and I came across two more books I wanted to highlight on my blog.
Little Ghoul Goes to School
I discovered this book through childrenslit.org where I serve as a book reviewer and receive books in exchange for book reviews. I read this tale and initially thought this might be a Halloween story, but it is a story about the first couple of days of school.
What I love about this story is that the little ghoul thinks all of the worst things about school, some of which come true and some of which do not. Halfway though the story, we realize that the first day we have just read about was simply a dream, and that the real first day is yet to come. However, while the real first day does have its low moments, all of this changes when our main character sees the librarian that she envisioned in her dream and bonds instantly.
This is a great reminder that we do not know where our children will find what speaks to them in the school environment, and it is important to try and make our spaces as welcoming as possible. Another great lesson from this book is that often our fears about situations are just fears and it is important to give new situations and experiences a try.
Time for School: Little Blue Truck
I love the Little Blue Truck series due to the seasonal nature of many of their books as well as the rhyming prose, which naturally lends itself to a lesson on steady beat. This one is great because it talks all about getting to school on time which many students will no doubt struggle with. The illustrations as well as the sounds of the animals and the truck throughout the book provide children with an opportunity to participate and vocalize those sounds. The rhyming language gives this book a wonderful momentum that will help to set the tone for the beginning of school.
Hope these books help you in your first few weeks of settling into routines with your students!
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!
How to Use Puppets in Your Music Classroom
Have lots of puppets and don’t know how to use them? Don’t have any puppets and want somewhere to start? You’re come to the right place! In this blog post I will discuss some of the ways that I use puppets, provide some product links as well as link some lessons where you can use puppets to engage your students.
Snowy the Owl
My first puppet is probably my favorite and I use this one all the time. Snowy the Owl was one of my first acquisitions and I have used it for many purposes. The first way is that I use Snowy is for classroom management. The turning head of this owl allows me to turn its head and tell my students that Snowy sees and hears everything. Snowy is thus my assistant in the class and is either traveling with me (if I am on a cart) or sitting in a prominent spot in the classroom where all children can see the puppet. For more tips on fun classroom activities (especially for first day of school) click here.
The second way that I use Snowy is for vocal exploration! I love to have Snowy fly in the air as the students follow Snowy’s path with their voices. Another fun trick is to stand behind the piano and have Snowy fly up in the air and when it is flying down, have Snowy hit a key. Students burst into laughter every time and it makes the process of warming up so much more fun! I often turn to Snowy and scold the puppet for not following directions. In this way Snowy becomes more real and engages with the students. For some more activities for different types of voices please click here.
Yet a third way is to use Snowy as part of a book lesson. There are many books written about owls but one of my favorite is Goodnight Owl by Pat Hutchins. I have used this book with my students and even wrote a lesson plan for this book. I sing the lullaby while Snowy is in my lap, and invite all of my students to sing along to Snowy to put the puppet to sleep. This helps to give the lesson more focus since students have someone to sing to, instead of simply singing because they were asked to.
Sally the Squirrel
I love to use this puppet to do a movement activity with my students. I have named this squirrel Sally after a suggestion from the students, but you can have the students come up with a name. This works great as a transition activity for students or can be great to begin or end a lesson with. I love to use the song “Hop Old Squirrel” which can be found on the Musicplay Online website. I ask the students what the squirrel is doing (I am hoping they will say she’s eating) and then tell them that the squirrel also loves to hop. I then sing the song while hopping along with my students and holding the squirrel in my hands. I then ask what else the squirrel could do and usually get a variety of answers. I try to do as many of them with the puppet to show the children that the squirrel can do a lot of these motions. This is a great way to give students a movement break while engaging them in the activity!
I love to use this puppet as a way to show my students how to keep a steady beat. The flapping of the mouth helps students see the alligator keep a beat. I have the alligator keep a steady beat while chanting the lyrics to the song Alligator Alarm. The first time that we chant, I have the alligator bite my arm at the end of the chant. After that, I ask the students what other body part the alligator should bite. I have the alligator bite only me for hygienic reasons. The students (particularly PreK) love this activity, and get to keep a steady beat while coming up with different body parts for the alligator to bite.
I use this puppet along with the book “Wakey, Wakey, Elephant!” by Linda Ravin Lodding. I keep the elephant in my lap and tell the students that the elephant is sleeping and we are going to try and wake him up. I don’t have a name for the elephant but you can ask the students to name this puppet. Using the chant I wrote for the book, the students chant out loud during specific points in the book. I check on the elephant puppet to see if it has woken up and then keep going until the elephant wakes up. This keeps the students motivated to wake up the elephant and they love it when the puppet finally wakes up and waves to them. Link to the lesson here.
This puppet is fabulous to teach about conducting! I got this idea from David Row who is a fabulous music educator that presents weekly Facebook lives with great ideas. I have used this puppet along with the book “Wendell the Narwhal” by Emily Dove. I read the book to the students first and discuss what a conductor is. Then, using the puppet, we practice conducting without music first. Then I put on the piece “Morning” from the Peer Gynt Suite and we practice conducting to this music. Depending on the level of the students I also show them a Youtube video "What Does a Conductor Do?" about conducting, featuring a female conductor where they can get additional practice conducting with a real life conductor!
Snowy the Owl
If you need help with curriculum or more songs in your classroom, please click on the links provided!
Hope that these suggestions help you in your puppet journey! As always, feel free to email me with questions!
Side note: As a new blogger, I am always trying to learn from others. If you or someone you know can benefit from learning from one of the masters in her field, head on over to http://kaysemorris.com/blogpost to learn how to blog like a boss!
Ever wonder how to go about choosing books for your music classroom?
Here are some tips that I use when choosing books to use and create resources for.
1) Artwork-A well designed cover and book will instantly draw the attention of your students and hopefully keep them interested in what you are presenting to them. Also, beautiful artwork is a reflection of the love that went into the book, so I always look for this when choosing something!
2) Wording-Are there many words on a page? Not many? What is the ratio of words to pictures per page? Do the words distract from the picture or allow children to enjoy the artwork? I like books with roughly 2-3 sentences per page so that the book can be a visual as much as an auditory experience for my students.
3) Rhyming-Do the words rhyme? If so, is it easy to read these rhymes? Usually when all of the words of a book rhyme that gives it several advantages. The first is that the reading of it has a natural flow which help the lesson on this book flow better. The second is that even if a rhyme or song does not exist yet, the book already rhymes which can help students practice keeping a steady beat while reading it. If there is an additional song/rhyme added then one book can cover multiple concepts in one lesson, which is always wonderful.
4) Pauses-Does the book have convenient stopping points which invites an additional rhyme/song at that moment? This is one of the principles that I have built the majority of my lessons around and thus I try to look for this when book shopping.
5) Interesting storyline-If I cannot add a rhyme or song.....can I make a songtale about the book?
If you need suggestions on great books, check out Melissa Stouffer's Ultimate Book List here:
Hope these tips are helpful to you when choosing literature for your classroom!
I have been waiting for a long time to finally have a digital platform to share all of my ideas with the world and here I am! I started this journey in October of 2020 and have since continued working on my TPT store and online presence to share my work. I have created a Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram account for my store as well, however it has taken me a while to create a website. This first blogpost will focus on my process and why I decided to start Creating Musical Literature.
I became interested in using books when I realized how much more engaging music class can be when I am using them. However, the problem was in relating what the book to music class. Oftentimes, there weren't any songs or chants that went along with it and the book was simply a way to set the tone for another lesson. Thus, I began looking for ways to add songs or rhymes to the books. One way to do this is through looking to see if there are repetitive sections/phrases in the book, after which students can chant or sing something. This gives students an opportunity to be more involved in the story and keeps their attention as they are waiting for the next moment they can make music along with the story. Another way was to simply write a song tale about what is happening in the book to sing after the students have finished reading it, with some song tales offering possibilities for students to insert their own words into the tale, particularly those that talk about wishes and dreams. After I have found a repetitive section, I look for what can be done there..a chant, a song, perhaps both? Then I add instruments if the chant/song calls for it.
Here are some guidelines that I use when choosing a book to use in my class as well as to write material for:
1) What is the topic I am focusing on-is it loud vs. soft, fast vs. slow? Is it an animal themed lesson? A season themed lesson? Then I pick a book that can fit with one or more of the topics.
2) What are some questions I can ask prior, during and after reading the book? I always try to engage my students through questions so they can practice critical thinking.
3) Are there pre-existing songs/chants that exist for this book?
4) Are there repetitive sections throughout the book where you can insert a chant/song if there isn't one already? This is where I usually look for opportunities to create something to go along with the book.
5) Are there places where we can do a movement?
6) Is there a puppet that you can use to help you engage the students even more? Since my material is from the primary grades, I use a lot of puppets to have a visual aid that the students can sing/chant to or to demonstrate motions with. I like to use Folkmanis puppets which can be found on Amazon, Ebay, Mercari, etc.
7) Can you use instruments with the chant/song? If so, how?
Hope that this helps you understand my work further. Looking forward to connecting with and learning from you.