Skip to main content

Literature in the Music Classroom #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 a list of literature for the PreSchool-Grade 2 Classroom, see the post dated May 16, 2011.  

Grades 3-6

Possum Come a Knockin’ by Nancy Van Leer (add instruments for characters and act out)

Fortunately/Unfortunately  by Remy Charlip (great story to teach Do based pentatonic “Fortunately” and La based pentatonic “Unfortunately”)

Crocodile Beat by Gail Jorgensen (rhyming book-act out and layer in unpitched percussion ostinati for various animals)
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema (cumulative book for creating music and improvisation)
Traveling to Tondo by Verna Aardema (use of instruments to imitate animals’ movements)
The Flute Player by Michael Lacapa (use of recorders with a simple improvised
 B A G E melody

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock by Eric Kimmel (use of instruments for sound effects)

Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott (use instruments to represent characters-add In the Jungle and Funga Alafia-attached in notes)

Jabuti the Tortoise by Gerald McDermott (use recorder music for Jabuti’s Song and instruments to represent characters from the Amazon rainforest)

Papagayo by Gerald McDermott (create a song for Papagayo, the Moon Dog and the Night Creatures-act out this trickster tale of the Amazon)

Sun Flight by Gerald McDermott (use Greek music and dance to act out the story of Daedalus and Icarus)
Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott (use Native American music to tell this Pueblo Indian tale-see attached notes)

The Stonecutter by Eric Carle (DeLelles/Kriske have composed a mini musical for this Japanese folk tale in grade 4 MacMillan)
Daniel O’Rourke by Gerald McDermott  ( an Irish tale)

Coyote by Gerald McDermott (a trickster tale from the American southwest)

See all Fiction Books reviews at Expotv
Zomo the Rabbit by Gerald McDermott (a trickster tale from West Africa)
See below how adults have taken this tale and turned it into a performance piece.  This is well within the Orff concept of performance.  Dance, singing (rapping), stage craft, and non-vocal music are used.  

Here is an upper elementary treatment of the tale in a classic Orff performance.
Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott (an ancient Aztec tale)

Raven by Gerald McDermott (a trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest)

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (a tale of the Amazon rainforest)
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Chief Seattle, paintings by Susan Jeffers
Cloud Dance, Mountain Dance, Water Dance by Thomas Locker ( three beautifully illustrated nature books for music and movement)

The First Song Ever Sung by Laura Krauss Melmed (compose music for the various songs of brother, sister, man, grandfather etc-add movement)

Thirty Three Multi Cultural Tales to Tell by Pleasant DeSpain (a tapestry of world folklore and storytelling-students add the music and movement)

Demi’s Reflective Fables by Demi (Chinese fables-create music and movement)

Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (quirky fables that relate to older children-add music and movement and act out)
Fables by Arnold Lobel (original fables-add music and movement)
Giving Thanks: a Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp (add music and movement)

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (use music from the opera Carmen by Bizet to act out)

Joyful Noise Poems for two Voices by Paul Fleischman (add drama, music, movement)

Haiku by Patrician Donegan (Learn to express yourself by writing poetry in the Japanese tradition-add music and movement)

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac (A native American Year of Moons in poetry)

Harriet and the Promised Land by Jacob Lawrence (story of Harriet Tubman’s life in rhyme-add instruments)
Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney (all time favorite to introduce “STOMP” to students by layering in ostinati found in the book)

American Folklore, Legends and Tall Tales for Readers Theatre by Anthony D. Fredericks (add music and movement)

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola (perform as Readers Theatre-see attached notes)
On Halloween Night by Ferida Wolff and Dolores Kozielski (create a melody and sing the book in dorian or Phrygian mode)

Demi’s Dragons and Fantastic Creatures by Demi (set the short poems to music from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and act out using Laban movement)

Rap A Tap Tap Here’s Bojangles-Think of That! By Leo & Diane Dillon (add some jazz and sing the repeating refrain-add movement-see attached notes)

Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp by Carol Diggory Shields (rhyming book-add music and dance)

Great books that correlate with songs:
Father Grumble by John Feierabend
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
There Once Was a Man Named Michael Finnegan by Mary Ann Hoberman
Mama Don’t Allow by Thatcher Hurd
Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger
5 Little Ducks by Raffi
Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi
Down by the Bay by Raffi
Baby Beluga by Raffi
Wheels on the Bus

Linda's Workshop on Literature in Music:

There is a wealth of quality children’s literature that will inspire and motivate children to improvise and create music, movement and drama.

This workshop will include the following literature:

Primary grades                                                       Intermediate Grades

Nursery Rhymes                                                     Hump di dumped nursery rhymes
Little Red Hen                                                          Rap a Tap Tap
The Mitten                                                               Arrow to the Son
Good Night Good Knight                                     Strega Nona (Reader’s Theatre)
Anansi the Spider                                                   The First Song Ever Sung            

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything

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.


Unknown said…
Hi Linda,
My name is Amy Beneke Hilliard and I student taught for you almost 25 years ago! I came across your blog on literature and thought...."This is amazing! Who wrote this?" Of course it was you! I can't tell you how much you inspired my teaching. I still play, sing, dance, and smile through some of the music and games you taught me. I just found some some songs I wrote for your students. Thank you for trusting me to do that. I have continued to write, and have co-written a few short musicals with a theatre teacher and some Jr. High students and write a little mini musical everytime an author comes to our school. Thank you.

Popular posts from this blog

D, Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba!

Back to the Orffabet! Today's letter is D, the shape of the popsicle prongs on a homemade Kalimba!

Lisa Lehmberg of the University of Massachusetts, has agreed to share this portion of her book chapter. Hurray, Lisa! Let's make a Kalimba out of popsicle sticks, paper plates, and some scrap wood!
You'll need: two small, sturdy paper platesone wood block (3cm x 7cm* x 1cm) To convert to inches click here.  This block is inside the plates and keeps them from collapsing.7 cm* piece of thin plywood five flat popsicle sticks7 cm* strip of flimsy wood moldingbrads or small screws (optional)paper gluewood glue*the length is determined by the size of the paper plates. These measurements are for the structural stability of the instrument, NOT the intonation. Just eyeball or loosely measure the wood.
Glue a block of wood to a paper plate near its edge. Glue another paper plate (plates facing each other) to the original plate and the wood block. Spread glue on both the rims of the…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass

Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

"P", The Bucket Routine for older students

Today's Orffabet letter is P, for the shape of buckets and sticks when they are in storage in our guest teacher's classroom.

The following post and series of videos is for Upper Elementary, Middle School, or High School Students.  This is a rare opportunity for you to learn a routine without having to go to a workshop or Orff level.  You will learn the routine as your students would.

John is a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools.  He has taught this routine to Upper Elementary students as an after school program.  John's students worked on the routine for an hour or so every day for 6 weeks.  To see John in an earlier post, click here.

The "students" in this video are Orff Level I students in the Worcester Public Schools class of 2010.  They learned the routine in a 90 minute session with Level III students who already knew it.  Here is the routine after those 90 minutes.

This routine, inspired by African dance and Orff body percussion, is well outside the …