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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Whistle for Willie: vocal exploration lesson

Vocal exploration is so important in elementary general music as students develop their singing voices, but it's something I often forget to consciously include in my lessons. This book was a perfect way to get in lots of vocal exploration with a story that my younger grades loved hearing- even my shy singers were using their voices with gusto for this one!

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This year I used Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats for the first time with Kindergarten, but this would work well with 1st or even 2nd grade as well. Not every page has natural opportunities for vocal exploration but a good portion of the story does!

Before I begin the story, we do a little vocal exploration practice. I model how to follow the contour of a line by drawing a line in the air in my finger and following it with my voice, then have students practice following my line with their own voices. Then I tell students that I am going to have them make different sound effects to go with the story.

In the beginning when the book describes Peter spinning in circles and then up and down, I draw circles, hills, and valleys in the air with my finger and have students follow the line with their voices as I read the words. Every time it mentions Peter trying to whistle, we blow hard like we're trying to whistle.

Later when the book shows Peter drawing on the ground with colored chalk, I trace the line in the pictures with my finger and students follow with their voices. I draw a curvy line for when Peter is following the crack in the ground, and go up high when it says he jumps.

Eventually Peter is able to whistle. This is when it's fun to stop and have the students try to whistle- depending on the age this can be quite a challenge, but there's usually a few who can!

After reading the story, I give each student a pipe cleaner and have them make different shapes and lines, then trade with a partner and sing the other person's line with their voice. The book is a great starting point for any vocal exploration lesson!

I love Ezra Jack Keats, so I was thrilled to find a meaningful way to incorporate this book into my lessons. What other ways have you used this or other stories by Keats? I'd love to hear more ideas in the comments! If you'd like to see all of my book-based lesson ideas, you can see them all in this post.

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