Image Map

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: music lesson for "Bear Snores On"

I have been using this wonderful book by Karma Wilson with my kindergarten and first grade students for almost a decade now and it is still one of my favorites! This is a great lesson for introducing and exploring the concepts of timbre / tone color, sound sources, instruments (and their names), sound effects, and communicating meaning and emotion through music / sound.

*this post contains affiliate links*

First of all, the book itself is wonderful. If you aren't familiar with it, please go check it out. Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman have also done several other books featuring the Bear as the main character (like "Bear Stays Up" and "Bear Feels Sick", plus many more), so I've had homeroom teachers use some of the other books for read-aloud's in their class after the students did the lesson with me. You can get the book on Amazon here:

The story includes many different interesting sounds that are easy for younger students to identify, so this is a great way to introduce students to the idea of sound effects or soundscapes. In my lesson, I start off by reading the book and ask students to find the one sound that is repeated over and over. Usually they know what it is before I even read it (it's in the title and all!), and they say the repeated line, "but the bear snores on" with me throughout the story. Once we've read the story, I ask the students to remember other sounds they heard in the story. Then we go through each page of the book and identify all the sounds we can find. I put a sticky note next to each one they choose. Since I am usually doing this with multiple classes in a grade level at the same time, I use different colored sticky notes for each class. When I'm having them identify the sounds, I don't show them the page so they aren't swayed by the other class' opinions. It's always interesting to see what the students pick- some pick more abstract items like the sun peeking up, while others stick strictly to sounds that are identified in words in the story.

Before the next class period, I write down the names of students on each sticky note (I usually just do a simple rotation through all of the names by seating chart). The whole class does the sound of the bear snoring together (which helps keep students engaged in between turns). In the second lesson, I have each student choose how they will make each of their sounds. If I know they have a good understanding of timbre and sound sources, I tell them they have to use one of each different sound source category (instruments, voice, body percussion, found sound/object). I make a small note to myself of what they choose on the same sticky notes (like "clap", "pencil on floor", or "guiro"). 

The next class period we make a video recording of our story. I read the story out loud and the students add their sound effects when I get to each of their parts. Bonus concept: when they do the snoring sound together, I have them keep snoring while my hand is open, then I do the circular conducting motion and close my hand to have them stop. 

The students love putting their story together, and I have consistently gotten positive and enthusiastic feedback from parents, homeroom teachers, and librarians too! Have you ever used this book in your music classroom? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.


  1. I've never used that book, but it sounds like a great one for timbre. I learned about an activity that is similar at one of our conventions, using the book The Napping House. I liked watching students decide what instrument fit with what sound. Their choices were sometimes surprising :)

    1. I always love doing these kinds of lessons, and this book is my favorite!

  2. Thanks so much for linking up! What a fabulous activity for sound exploration! I'm not familiar with this book, but I will be soon!

  3. What grade level do you do this with?

  4. I love this book! I use it with Grizzly Bear and have students sing it each time we say “Bear Snores On”