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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: dynamics lesson for "too much noise"

I'm back with another lesson idea for using literature to introduce and practice music concepts with lower elementary students! Today's post is on a book that is brand new to me this year: a wonderful book by Ann McGovern called "Too Much Noise".

I just used this book this past week (you can get it on Amazon here) with first grade to review loud and soft, introduce the vocabulary forte and piano, and review classroom instrument names and playing technique. You could use this book with any lower elementary grade to practice or introduce dynamics and/or timbre.

The first thing we did was read the story. This book is a wonderful story about a man who thinks the quiet sounds in his house are too loud, who gets a bunch of loud animals at the advice of the town's wise man, and then realizes how quiet his house actually is when he gets rid of all of the animals. The illustrations are wonderful and there are several sound words in the story- the swishing of the wind, the mooing of the cow- which I had the students say with me as I read.

At the end of the book, I asked the students to retell the story, and then asked them which sounds were loud and which were quiet (or soft. I know some teachers care deeply about which word you use- I use them both interchangeably but will use "quiet" in this post for consistency's sake). We practiced saying the animal sounds loudly and the house sounds quietly. Since I was using the book to introduce the vocabulary words "forte" and "piano", I introduced those words here, having the students say the words loudly and quietly, respectively. That was the end of the first 30-minute lesson.

In the next lesson, we reviewed the basic story line, reviewed the words "forte" and "piano", and I had students sort the sound words into categories of forte and piano. I did this on my interactive whiteboard, but you could also do this on a regular whiteboard and just write the words, or print the words on cards and have them sort as a class or in small groups.

Then I told the students that I wanted to use instruments for each of the sounds instead of our voices. We quickly reviewed the classroom instruments we used last year, including small percussion and barred instruments, and for each discussed whether the instrument could produce sounds that are forte, piano, or both (An egg shaker, for example, is hard to play forte, but a cowbell, on the other hand, is difficult to play quietly, although it can be done. A hand drum could easily be used for either forte or piano).

Once we reviewed the instruments, the students chose one instrument to represent each sound, and I assigned a few students to each one. Then we read the story again, this time playing the appropriate instrument each time the sound came up in the story. I reminded the students before we started that they should play their instruments at the appropriate dynamic level that we had discussed, but that they should never play over the sound of any other instrument or my reading.

This lesson was a great way to review dynamics and instrument names, give the students a chance to play some instruments, and introduce forte and piano. Have you ever used this book in your music classes? I would love to hear your ideas as well- leave a comment! If you want to see some of the other lessons I teach with children's literature, click here.


  1. I love all of these ideas! I especially love using instruments with literature. I feel as though students don't argue as much over which instrument they get when they recognize how vital each one is to the story :) #fermatafridays

    1. So true! Although I did still have a couple of students who were upset... But since they chose the instruments themselves they mostly chose instruments that were all interesting and exciting to them, so most of them were happy :) I am a little obsessed with using literature with my younger students this year, in case you couldn't tell from my recent blog posts... The students remember the lesson, they are so engaged, and it just fires up their imaginations!! I love it. Thanks for commenting! :)

  2. Can't wait to try this! Thank you for sharing it!