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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

3 Books for Back to School Music Class

I love using children's literature in the music room. It brings ideas to life and sparks kids' imaginations! This summer I discovered a few new books at our local library that I can't wait to use to kick off the school year with my elementary music classes.

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Each of these books is perfect for motivating students to do their best in music class, each in a slightly different way. Click on the picture to find the book on Amazon :)

1. Mole Music by David McPhail

This book tells the story of a mole who, inspired by a violin player he sees on TV, practices the violin every day for years and years and learns to make beautiful music. At the end of the book, Mole imagines how his beautiful music might change the world, and it does (without his knowledge). This is a great book to both talk about the power and importance of music but also the value of persistence and hard work. Mole definitely didn't start out sounding good! This will be a great way to talk about the many times we will have to work hard and keep practicing to get it right in music class this year.

2. Song of Middle C by Alison McGhee

This book is about a girl preparing for, and performing in, her first piano recital. In talking about her practice beforehand, she talks about how she imagines the characters in the song to perform it "with artistry" (great way to introduce the importance of expression!). Although she is very well-prepared, when she gets on the stage her nerves get the best of her and she forgets her piece. But she ends up improvising a song by playing just middle C in lots of different ways- like thunder, like wind, like a question- and receives a standing ovation. I am always talking to my older students, especially, about performance skills. So many of my students get extremely nervous performing in class, and I always tell them to just pretend like it was fabulous and continue on no matter what mistakes they may make. And I think I will steal the expressive ideas for when we're learning new notes and practicing them on the recorder! 

3. The Really Awful Musicians by John Manders

This book is set in Renaissance period and includes lots of extension opportunities. There are Renaissance instruments, characters named after (and embodying) music vocabulary (like "Fortissimo", the sackbut player), and even a reference to the invention of musical notation. But the reason I think it's perfect for back to school is because of the overall message that musicians have to listen to each other and play as an ensemble to make beautiful music- if everyone just does their own thing and ignores the other players, they'll sound awful (and in the case of this book, get eaten by alligators)! What a great message to send at the beginning of the year! One of the unique features of music, unlike other school subjects, is the emphasis on team work. This book will get kids thinking about the importance of ensemble playing right from the beginning in a humorous way that kids are sure to remember.

What do you think of my new finds? I can't wait to share these with my classes at the beginning of the year. What are some of your favorite books to use in music class? If you want to see some other books I use to teach more specific musical concepts, go check out this post:

Looking for more ideas for the beginning of the school year? Download my September lesson plans for 5th grade for free right here.

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  1. I just put 2 of these books on hold at my public library so I can check them out and see if I want to use them in September. School doesn't start for me for a few weeks yet and I really don't want to be thinking about it so soon your post has inspired me. I love reading books to my classes and it's always great to get ideas for new ones. Thank you.

    1. I think having a book to spark some important conversations is a great way to start the school year, and makes lesson planning so simple! Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation :)

    2. Our students return on July 30th. Thanks for these book ideas and as always, you are the best at organizing everything !

  2. Looking for The really awful Musicians and cheapest I can find is for $42!!!! What in the world... suggestons?

    1. Wow, you're right! I have no idea why the price is so high right now. I would check with your school and local libraries- it's not an uncommon book so there's a good chance they'll have it. I hope you can find yourself a copy!