Friday, Nov. 4, 2011: The Week in a Nutshell, Primary

Well, Halloween is over. Moving right along to Thanksgiving:

Grade 1

Once the kids have warmed up their voices they spend the rest of the class on the floor in front of my chair.

The first graders read the rhythms for “5 Smart Turkeys”, learn to sing the song, (by rote), and play a “hidden turkey” game.

5 Smart Turkeys Rhythm Chart

We first speak the rhythm on doo, dooday and rest. (Silent hand over mouth.) Then we speak and clap it simultaneously. It takes some practice because they instinctively want to repeat the pattern they just clapped, but in this song, each line is different.

The melody is all mi, sol and la, so it’s a good activity for second grade as well, having them read pitches as well as rhythms. Once they’ve learned the song, I play it in C, using C and F chords.


S S LL L M S Z 5 Smart turkeys are we-ee

S S S L LL MS Z We slept all night in a tree

SS S SS L L SS S L When the cook came around we couldn’t be found

L S SS L L M S Z Z And that’s why we’re here you see-ee.

Game: 1 child is chosen to be the cook and leaves the room. (After promising not to peek.) While he/she is out in the hall I magically turn 5 of the students into turkeys. The class sings the song just loudly enough for the cook to hear it. That’s the cue to return. The cook gets 5 chances to find turkeys for his/her turkey dinner. If he/she taps a turkey on the head, the “found” turkey stands up, but if an “unturkey” is tapped, nothing happens. Because you are choosing 6 kids at a time, (1 cook +5 turkeys,) you can cycle through the whole class in 4 or 5 plays.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

At the beginning of November I teach “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, because the following week I’ll be able to segue right into the Thanksgiving version: “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie”. (A Thanksgiving pie that was really too dry.) The book is ISBN 158117267-2, and the authors/designers are Claudia Rueda, Treesha Rummells, Bruce Reitel and Rodger Smith. This is a pop-up book, which is always fun and attention holding. By the time I’m up to the 3rd or 4th verse the kids are singing along, and I can even cut out near the end and let them finish it by themselves.

The “Little Old Lady” puppet causes a bit of a stir, but I really enjoy how much the kids love her, so I go along with it. She comes with a large pocket inside, filled with the animals in the song: fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, goat, cow and horse. I pass out the animals to those who are sitting quietly on their bottoms, telling them up front that I do not have enough for everyone to get a turn today. Then we begin the song. The Old Lady tells the class that she’s hungry, and in the mood for just a little snack. A fly would do nicely. Then she notices that “Justin” is holding a fly. “Oh Justin,” she sing songs, “Bring the fly to granny.” When “Justin” comes forward and offers the fly she GRABS it and gulps it down, and we sing the verse. The kids are delighted, but of course, as this goes on you have to be prepared to wait for them to settle down after each “snack.” Once you get to the bigger animals it takes 2 hands to make her swallow, by the way. I got her at a book fair, but I’ll bet if you google “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” you can find her online.

First and second grade both end the class by looking at a picture of Tchaikovsky and hearing “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, which they always recognize. I make sure to congratulate them on knowing their classical music. :0) The book that I use most to read to the kids and show pictures is called “Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times and What the Neighbors Thought.” It’s great for reading TO them, but I would not give it to a child for research purposes or independent reading because it often gives details of their lives that I, as a teacher, don’t particularly want to answer questions about.

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times and What the Neighbors Thought.

We call it “The Big Head” book, because all of the illustrations are caricatures of the composers.

Second Grade

The second graders learned “The Turkey Tango” from Music K-8, volume 8 #2. (By the way, if you’re trying to decide between volumes and issues of this excellent resource, volume 8 was a particularly good year, in my opinion.)

It takes us about half an hour to learn the song, because there are a lot of words and a fair amount of vocabulary that needs to be clarified. (Tango, fandango, chic, suave, tux, bauble, Albuquerque, to name a few, not to mention explaining who Fred Astaire was.) Once we have read through the words together, we follow along and read silently as we listen to the song. I teach it to them by rote, phrase by phrase, because this is early second grade, and there are still plenty of them who need that much help and practice with the words. Once we know and can sing the song, I teach them how to tango. (Not really, but they like it.) You stand facing your partner and lock fingers with them on both hands. Point one arm facing in the direction you want to go, the other down, behind them. I start by counting to 8, and switching which arm is up and which is down while snapping the head in the other direction. This alone is hysterical to them, but then we actually take 8 steps, and on step number 8 switch and go back in the other direction.

The Turkey Tango

This is all great fun, but will serve a purpose next week, because the form of “The Turkey Tango” is so easily understood by the differences in the A and B sections. They can’t miss it, and they don’t.

Sheesh, these posts get long. Separate post for the intermediates, coming up.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. P. Conrad
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 16:35:36

    Hello Jane,
    This is a great collection for any elementary music teacher. I put a link to TuesdayMusic on my WP site at
    P. Conrad


  2. Mindy K
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 08:27:50

    Thanks for such great ideas! I’m pretty much copying your entire lesson for next week with my 1st and 2nds. I’m only in year 2 of teaching elementary,so I need all the great ideas I can get!


  3. Tina Morgan
    Nov 07, 2011 @ 20:47:41

    I have the Old Lady! I got her from vendors who sell discounted books, etc. to our teachers. There’s a website on a tag attached to her dress – can’t remember it but I looked it up this year. Costs way more than what I paid! My kids LOVE her, though.


    • Jane
      Nov 07, 2011 @ 21:15:43

      You’re right Tina…I think the company was called “Books Are Fun”…. They leave samples in the faculty room and then you can order. Might be a division of Scholastic. My kids love her too. When the second graders see that I have her out for the first graders they always want to sing her song. :0)


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