Back to School Already?

I’ve been off for summer vacation for several weeks and still have until the end of August to prepare for the new school year. I’ve been reading the posts on the Musick-8 mailing list, however, and I see that some are scheduled to go back as early as August 8, so I want to get some of the promised sequential music literacy plans in place. Following will be my first lesson of the year with First Grade, although this particular lesson would also work with Kindergarten.

The first graders don’t know any of the warm ups that the older kids sing, so, after introductions and my first attempt at remembering their names, I explain that a “warm up” is the singing of certain phrases that we will do every time we come to music class, for the purpose of getting our voices ready to sing, and learning to match the sounds that we hear with our voices. We practice sitting forward on the chair, backs straight, feet flat on the floor, mouth open and trying to match exactly what they hear from me and the piano. I only teach them one warm up exercise per week. Once all phrases are learned we can sing them quickly in sequence, but I don’t want to belabor anything in short-attention-span land, so learning one per class period is plenty. I begin with “What shall we do today?” sung on the tones do mi sol do1 sol mi do. We begin in C Major, and sing each phrase up by half steps until we get to F Major, then sing back down again to C. What Shall We Do Today

All of the warm ups, primary and intermediate, can be found at

Now I ask the kids to come sit on the carpet in front of my chair, one row at a time, to keep chaos at a minimum. The first lesson of the year my goal is to get them singing, hear where the group is in terms of singing a recognizable melody and make them comfortable with me, with each other, and with the activity of singing together. I have a number of books which are illustrations of children’s songs, so we sing through several of them. Our class periods are 45 minutes long, and you can, if you like, take the rest of the class time just to do this, or you can move onto an activity designed to help them understand the musical meaning of the word phrase. Some of the books that I use are: The Wheels on the Bus by Paul O. Zelinsky, ISBN 0-525-44644-3. (This pop up book is better than T.V.!

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

The little barn with stuffed animals is a prop that I got from “Books Are Fun”, an organization that travels to our school, leaves a display of books and other items for teachers to look at, takes orders and delivers right to the school. Each animal can be removed from the barn and makes the animal sound. It’s a way to keep their attention, get them to sing the song for me one more time and, of course, to make music class enjoyable for them.

If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jan Ormerod, Lindsey Cardiner
ISBN 1-932065-07-5
If You’re Happy and You Know It by Jenny Tulip
ISBN 1-884628-85-0

Knick Knack Paddywhack by Paul O. Zelensky. (Another great “moving parts book.)

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Pop Up, Sing Along by Wayne South, ISBN 1-59223-357-0
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by Iza Trapani, ISBN 1-879085-87-9
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Child’s Play, illustrated by Annie Kubler, ISBN 0-85953-941-5

I think I will stop here, and add my first music literacy lesson on phrases in tomorrow’s post.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula Ransom
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 08:42:36

    Awesome! I enjoyed reading this!


  2. Mary
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 09:33:57

    This is wonderful! I ended the school year feeling truly burned out and have had a hard time getting excited about the upcoming return to the classroom…which typically is unusual for me. Your blog is re-energizing me. Thank you! Look forward to your new ideas and posts.


    • Write Every Day
      Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:55:54

      Hi Mary,
      I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes at the end of the year I wonder how I’m ever going to be ready to go back, but somehow I always am. It makes me so happy that this is a catalyst for you! I have until August 26th to get myself together. This is good for me too….helps me get my thoughts, plans and materials together. :0)


  3. Julie
    Jul 12, 2011 @ 14:52:10

    Love these posts! Always good to see what others are doing!


  4. Trackback: Goodnight, Irene « Tuesday Music
  5. Trackback: Here We Go Again « Tuesday Music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: