If you've never read the book before, the premise of the story is summed up in the first line of the book: "Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days, I'm different too". The book goes through descriptions of the way we feel on different days, using colors and animals to describe each one (like, "On bright red days how good it feels to be a horse and kick my heels!"). I have found that for many of my more emotionally challenged students, this book is very comforting because it provides validation for their experience of a wide range of emotions, including "negative" ones. Here is how I typically structure my music lessons around this book:
1. Read through and discuss the story
The first step, of course, is to read the book. After reading through it, I ask students to explain the message of the story: Is the author saying we actually change colors on different days, or turn into different animals? What is he really talking about? Once we've established that we're actually talking about emotions, we have a brief discussion about how it's OK and normal to feel different ways on different days (or even within the course of a day), and we give some examples of things that might make us feel sad, lonely, excited, busy, quiet, happy, angry, etc.
2. Use props and/or movement to show the different colors
Depending on the age of the students, I will either split this part up into different steps (for younger students) or combine them into one (for older students). I assign small groups of students to each color in the book, and give them some kind of prop (I like to use colored scarves like these because I have all of the colors, but you could also borrow colored t-shirts or jerseys from the PE teacher, or use other props they can hold like balls, bean bags, or even colored paper) to show their color. When I read their assigned color, I have them stand up and hold their color up, and at the end of the story when it talks about days where all of the colors are mixed up, I have them all hold up their colors at once. Then (or simultaneously for older students), I have each color do a motion or movement to show the feeling and/or animal to go with their color. For younger students I just ask them to move like the page describes the animal (like kicking their heels like the horse for red), but for older students I tell them to try to be creative with expressing the mood of each color with their movements.
3. Assign a timbre to each color
Here's where we really get musical! The movements, colors, and discussions of emotions all lead nicely into a discussion of tone colors, or timbres. Again depending on the age (and what they are studying), I will either limit the sound options to only classroom instruments, or expand to all instruments, use vocal timbres, found sounds, or all of the above! After spending time thinking about how to convey mood with more concrete things like colors, animals, and movement, it makes it much easier for students to understand how different timbres can convey different moods or "paint different colors" as well (and helps students remember why we call it "tone color", if you use that language with your students). After assigning students to a color, I have each group choose a timbre to perform while I read their color.
4. Discuss dynamics and/or tempo (and/or articulation)
Depending on the age of the students (and how much time you have), this is also a perfect opportunity to bring in a discussion of dynamics and tempo. After having students choose and perform their timbres with the story, ask students to reflect on how they adjusted the volume and speed of their playing (or vocalizing) to further match the mood- I guarantee most of them will have adjusted them both without you ever telling them to or even thinking about it, and if they didn't, they will have noted that it wasn't as effective as the others- and discuss the role that those musical elements play in conveying mood as well. If you're discussing it with older students, you can throw articulation into the mix as well. The possibilities are endless!
5. Put it all together
To make the lesson most effective and memorable, I love putting the whole thing together for a final performance. This would be perfect for a class performance, especially if you can get the homeroom teachers involved by including it as part of their reading lessons: assign some students to move and/or hold the colors, some students to perform the timbres, and even have some students recite the words to the story.
Have you ever used this book in your classroom? I'd love to hear what you've done with it as well- leave a comment below to share your ideas!