Monday, February 3, 2014

3 Books to Sing

Hello and welcome to February!

In my district we are getting into that time in the school year when the high-stakes testing starts. I am a parent of a 3rd grader this year and I have definitely noticed a change in his homework load. My job as a parent is to make sure my son continues to love reading, writing, math, and learning new things. Part of my job as the music teacher is to emphasize the fun and fulfillment that music gives us as individuals and as a society. I want my students to be musically literate but that won't happen unless they value music in their lives. So sometimes we sing for the sake of singing or enjoy listening for the sake of listening. Every musician was a music lover first.

So when the testing revs up in the year, I rev up the dancing, moving, and book sharing.
Children need a little extra nurturing during test season, some become quite stressed. 

The books I'm sharing today are books to sing to and with your students. When I sing and share a book I'm always amazed at how quiet and focused the children become. I pulled out three books last week that students always love.

Mama Don't Allow by Thacher Hurd

This is the tale of Miles Possum who gets a saxophone for his birthday, (from his Uncle Waylon, love that!) Miles forms a swamp band with other aspiring musicians and they soon  get their first gig; playing for the alligator ball! But when the music is done for the night and it's time for dinner, Miles and his friends discover what's on the menu- Swamp Band soup! The band finds a crafty way on saving themselves through music.

I share this book with my first graders. They love the word balloon retorts of the Swampville residents who would rather not hear the band practice. Read this book with lots of expression and different voices for each character. There is not a CD recording with this book so it's up to you to bring it to  life! Sing Mama Don't Allow with gusto and tapping feet and watch the kids swing and sway! When the band plays the Lullaby of Swampland, get creative and improvise a simply sung lullaby. I'm having as much fun as the kids when we read this in class. (My job today includes imitating different jazz instruments, singing and stomping this tune, and improvising a lullaby? SCORE!)

After we've read the book it's fun to pull out a recording of the song Mama Don't Allow. I play the version by The Rooftop Singers. It's a perfect "beat leader" song!

The Ants go Marching by Dan Crisp

Child's Play sure put out a lot of wonderful song books! 
This is one of my favorites. When the 1st and 2nd grades celebrate the 100th Day of School I pull out this book. Of course this is the old tune When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again with different lyrics. With each verse, ants are added in rows and columns, eventually adding up to 100. I'm always telling my students that music and math are BFFs. While this book does not show exactly what I mean, it's fun for them to see the math and ant visuals laid out in these pages. 
I sing this one to the students but I've never had a class who wasn't singing along by the 4th verse! (Don't forget those "boom, boom, boom!"s)

illustrated by Peter Spier

Here's an old ballad about a fox and his adventures as he hunts for food for his family. Peter Spier's artwork is beautiful. 

I initially sing this as we read it and then we listen to Pete Seeger or Jill Trinka version of the song. There are several renditions of this song, just look through iTunes. (I can amuse myself for hours poking around the internet listening to countless recordings of one song!)  My friend,(and fellow Kodály crusader in our district,) Steve Soich introduced me to Nickel Creek's recording of The Fox which is a huge hit with my students. Their version is a very rollicking bluegrass song that the first graders can't help but bounce to. 

That's (some) of what's going on in my music room. Have a musical week reading, singing, and moving!


  1. Love those books!!! There is also an awesome recording of "The Fox" by the bluegrass master Mo' McCoury. He has a whole cd of kids songs done in the bluegrass rocks!!!

  2. Thanks Karla! I'll have to check out that Mo' McCoury CD!