Written by Patti B.
A coworker of mine recently asked why I display children’s books in my music classroom. To this latchkey supervisor, the association was unclear, but most music educators know the strong connection between music and the language arts. Specifically for this blog, I will discuss the use of children’s literature in the general music curriculum. The list is now extensive as to how many trade books can be used in music. I have used many books with my students, and I have recently read some excellent articles that give me new insights and ideas on future ways to complement my curriculum.
Currently, I possess numerous books that are simply songs transformed into picture books. This is a great place for music teachers to start using children’s literature. My students enjoy looking at the pictures and large printed words as I read and sing to them. Eventually, I have the children singing along. This is consistent with the whole- language method for reading. These books can be used in a music center where students can practice their reading and singing skills at the same time. The classroom teachers are thrilled with this valuable practice. Here are a few of my favorites:
This book not only teaches a famous patriotic song, but each illustration is a beautiful landmark of our country and correlates music to geography and social studies. The African spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” also lends itself well to a social studies connection to African American history. “The Star Spangled Banner” connects to history as well.
The next way literature can be used is to find books that are about music and musicians. This can include biographies and historical books. However, the books might also be about normal even fictitious musicians and how they feel and experience our art form. “Some trade books just tell a story, but others –special gifts to us –manage to give a glimpse of the ineffable feelings that musicians derive from partaking in music” (Miller, 2008). Max Found Two Sticks (Pinkney, 1994) is one such book.
Max imitates a real musician and is even praised by an accomplished drummer. I have seen first-hand the power in the message of this book. After it was read, a student announced “I am like Max,” and his classroom teacher and classmates witnessed him drum on a variety of items in the room. His rhythms were advanced, accurate, and creative. Fortunately, this young boy who struggled to be successful in other academic areas finally was able to “shine” and show his strengths to all of us. This boy performed “Siyahamba” on the toms in our musical last year. He improvised his entire performance.
The final criteria I look for in children’s literature are the kind of books that teach musical concepts. This is the most important use of books by music teachers. A book can be an introduction to a skill and can provide a way to differentiate instruction to meet the learning strengths of all of our students (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile). It is important to remember that these books are enhancing our curriculum; however, they should not take the place of personal experiences with music. Here are two of my favorites:
Dinosaur Roar (Strickland & Strickland,) assists in teaching dynamics, tempo, and vocal exploration.
Mortimer (Munsch,) complements the study of timbre and melodic direction.
The possibilities for children’s literature in the music curriculum are endless. I located good articles that will aid my search for new books. The idea of combining separate musical pieces to related children’s literature is covered well in a General Music Today article called “Enhancing Musical Response with Children’s Literature” (Miller, 2008). Several specific titles are given followed by lesson plan steps. The author’s emphasis is the aesthetic rewards of music. We need a balance in our curriculum between music skills and affective behaviors. Children’s literature provides a way. Furthermore, I found numerous ideas on how to encourage composition through children’s literature. Beth Ann Miller (2008) provides meaningful ideas through four books, The Happy Hedgehog Band (Waddell, 1991), Sing Sophie (Dodds, 1997), Pickin’ Peas (MacDonald, 1998), and Listen to the Rain (Martin & Archambault, 1998). In closing, the possibilities are endless for using children’s literature to support the overall school curriculum and specifically the music curriculum. I look forward to proudly displaying and using more books in my room very soon.
Bates, K., & Waldman, N. (2002) America the Beautiful. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
Flohr, J.W. (2006). Enriching music and language arts experiences. General Music Today, 19, 12-16.
Key, F.S., Cate, M. F. & Franken/Corbis, O. (2002). The Star Spangled Banner, New York: Scholastic.
Miller, B.A. (2008). A harmonious duet: Music and children’s literature. General Music Today, 21, 18-24.
Mohr, F., Gruber, F. & Kincaid, T. (2006). Silent night. Morgan Hill, CA: Harper Collins.
Munsch, R. N. & Martchenko, M. (1985). Mortimer. New York: Annick Press Ltd.
Nelson, K. (2005). He’s got the whole world in his hands. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Norworth, J., & Gillman, A. (1999). Take me out to theballgame. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks.
Paul, P. M., (2004). Enhancing musical response with children’s literature. General Music Today, 17, 6-16.
Pinkney, B. (1994). Max found two sticks. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Strickland, P. & Strickland, H. (2001). Dinosaur Roar. New York: Puffin Books.