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Literature in the Music Classroom #1, Pre-K-2

*This series of posts is authored by Orff Master Teacher, Linda Ahlstedt.  See the foot of each post for her bio and contact information.

Children love stories, they love to be entertained and they like to use their imaginations. Using children’s literature and storytelling in the music classroom is a fantastic way to encourage improvisation, theatric expression, a sense of rhythm and rhyme, while having some good old fashioned fun. Many of the books that are conducive to the music classroom are stories with which the children are familiar, and acting them out brings them newly to life. The incredible twists you can add in music class are just icing on the cake.
For pre-school, kindergarten, first and second grade students, select stories with lots of rhymes, numbers or letters. Choose stories in which the students can provide sound effects. In stories with cumulative or repeating  characters , particular sound effects or instruments can represent a character. At first you should guide your students in making appropriate representative choices, but as they grow in experience allow them the freedom to choose. Choose picture books without a lot of words on the page. Create a simple song that can be repeated several times to unify the action. Here are some suggestions for early learners.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (actors and selected instruments represent animals)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (a beautiful story of metamorphosis-act bit out and different instruments can represent the foods eaten)

Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle (create “walking music” for walk around the world and different instrumental music for each set of creatures)

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird by Eric Carle (a good story for expressive emotions)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Eric Carle (sing the book on sol and mi-teacher sings questions class answers)

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? by Eric Carle (sing the book and add sound effects or instruments for the animal sounds)

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams (use appropriate instruments to imitate the ghost’s sounds)

Old Devil Wind by Bill Martin Jr. (cumulative ghost story-choose appropriate instruments)

A Dark, Dark, Tale by Ruth Brown (choose different instruments whose sound can last for 4 beats to play at the end of each page-teaching whole note)

The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood (cumulative book with repeating characters-add a lullaby at the end of each page)

Silly Sally by Audrey and Don Wood (a cumulative story that can be acted out or sung-music by Gloria Fuoco Lawson in the notes-singing in parts for older children)

Rain Song by Lezlie Evans (rhyming story-create a sound carpet as you build the storm)

The Mitten by Jan Brett (add instruments for animal characters and sing-attached in the notes)

Good Night Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas (great story for introduction to the Orff instruments using glissandi)

Time for Bed Mem Fox (students can fill in the rhyming words as you sing the book using the A section of the pentatonic melody The Day is Now Over p. 19 Music for Children by Orff/Keetman Vol. I Murray edition)
Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slolodkina (act out and add glocks for up/down effect)

Three Singing Pigs by Kaye Umansky (a treasure trove of stories and music)

Nursery Rhymes (add instruments on special words-for older children add layered ostinati-repeated rhythm patterns using speech, body percussion or instruments)

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow (sing the book)                                                
Linda Ahlstedt loves teaching so much that she is still teaching while retired!  It's a joy for her and this pours from her like honey from a comb.  She has been honored by the Rochester Philharmonic and OAKE among other great organizations.  She teaches level courses during the summer months.  For her complete bio, click here.  She may be contacted by clicking here.


SherwinJTB said…
I have to agree with music expression and story telling. It was over 20 years ago, but television was used because it was new and also entertaining. It was only for the eyes though. Having instruments to play around with adds a little more excitement. That's what schools should be remembered by, a group of people having fun while learning.
Jamie K said…
Hi, my name is Jamie, and I'm a 4th year music education major at Illinois State University. I'm currently studying Orff process this summer under Dr. Kim McCord. I really love this post - what a great resource! Turning books into general music lessons is a favorite of mine; it's especially great, since it allows the students to have an opinion on what's going on! One of my favorites to do is to allow the students free rein of the Orff instruments so they can decide how to emphasize different parts of the book. They never cease to surprise me on what details they're able to pick out of the story. I'm always left with different ideas about the story afterwards!

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