Monday, March 23, 2009

Teach Your Kids About Music

We all enjoyed 'creating' this 'trumpet' from a tube and funnel.
Best of all, our son thinks it is the best trumpet of all and has enjoyed making more music with it!

Although the title of the book is 'Teach Your Kids About Music', I think I finally found a book with simple suggestions on how to integrate music with almost anything we do. The activities listed seem fun for any music and book loving young child - and easy enough for any parent to do. Some of the activities my son already does very naturally, but the author validates their importance and brings the activity to a higher level. We love the informal instruction in Music Together, but it seems our son is yearning for more music experience. We listen to different music all day, already read books that have something musical about them, we bring him to music events - and he still wants more. These passed 2 weeks, he has begged to learn the violin - thus our current research on music education.

Activities and summary excerpts from Teach Your Kids About Music: An Activity Handbook for Parents and Teachers Using Children’s Literature by Ruby Chroninger: (The book also includes a list of books and recordings that are appropriate. Yeah! Less research for me!)


1. Using children's books to introduce the study of sounds: after reading a book, ask children to name sounds noted in story; name sounds heard in other locations

2. Make a sound collage: using old magazines cut out pictures, imitate the sounds depicted

3. Produce sounds with body parts (this already sounds like fun!)

4. Creating handmade drums: from oatmeal boxes or coffee cans, decorate and play

5. Making a tape of sound effects: with a tape recorder (we've done this and our son LOVES listening to himself and making more 'music'!), you can make a whole cassette based on a story and play it in the background while reading the same story at another time

6. Using children's books to introduce the study of beat: explain any steady motions in the illustrations, i.e. windshield wipers, turn signal of a car, flashing lights on machinery

7. Following the green lights: make 8 green circles and arrange in 4 rows of 2 circles, teach them that each time you point to a circle, they can clap; after a while teach the word 'beat' and say beat each time you point to a green circle as they clap; also teaches the process of reading from left to right and top to bottom

O O
Clap Clap
O O
Clap Clap
O O
Clap Clap
O O
Clap Clap

8. Counting in 2, 3 and 4: same concept as above - adding 1 or 2 more circles per row to create counts of 3 and 4, show them that the first count of each row can be accented so that there can be strong beats and weak beats

O O O O O O O O O
1 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4
O O O O O O O O O
1 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4
O O O O O O O O O
1 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4
O O O O O O O O O
1 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 4

9. Echo clapping favourite songs: clap and say short for a short note, clap and say long and clasp hands together to illustrate a long sound and whisper rest while swaying hands apart when there is silence in the song, ask child to echo, practice with favourite songs

10. Integrating children's poetry with the study of rhythm: stress rhythm while reading and ask child to echo it, clap it out, play guessing game with clapping

11. Exploring rhythms in fingerplays

12. Listening to participation recordings that stress rhythm

13. Integrating pitch with children's books: when reading assign high or low voices to characters by varying the pitch of your voice, ask child to imitate

14. Listening to high sounds and low sounds in the environment: ask child to list sounds heard and tell you if they are high or low

15. Locating high and low sounds on a keyboard or barred instrument: help child discover high tones are on right side and low tones are on left side, xylophone bars are different lengths - help discover that high bars are short and low bars are long, compare high instruments (violin) versus low instruments (bass)

16. Using body movements to match a melody: while singing a song move up and down in place to illustrate shape of melody

17. Have child create original stories and improvise voices for the characters

18. Combining children's literature with dynamics: when reading vary voice volume loud vs soft

19. Illustrating dynamics with movement: use recordings

20. Playing and conducting dynamics on instruments: very soft, soft, loud and very loud (crescendo) vs vice versa (decrescendo)

21. Using children's literature to introduce tempo: alter voice when reading to correspond with how characters might move (i.e. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - read very slowly), discuss fast, slow, got faster, got slower, etc., allow child to role play with movement and speech

22. Listening for tempi in musical recordings: listen to Peter and the Wolf or Carnival of the Animals and discuss how tempi creates mental pictures of different characters, discuss how they might move

23. Guessing who spoke or sang: in a group close eyes and adult will tap one of the kids on the shoulder, whoever is tapped will say 'hello', other kids have to guess who spoke, ask "How did you know who it was the spoke?", try same activity but singing 'hello', try same activity with kids speaking or singing or disguising their voice, discuss voices in a favourite book

24. Guessing the rhythm instrument: with eyes closed, children will guess which instrument was played

25. Grouping orchestral instruments by families: use pictures to group into percussion, string, woodwind, brass families - discuss them in terms of sounds of family members (bass as daddy, cello as mama, violin as baby), have child attempt to group them

26. Combining children's literature with an introduction to the symphony orchestra: listen to recordings and as various instruments are introduced, show pictures of same instruments, this activity may be done with electronic instruments, Eastern instruments

27. Integrating children's books with the study of texture: read 2 books that very in number of characters, discuss how it produces a different mood or feeling (1 character vs 2 characters), discuss how it sounds like when 1 person is talking in a room vs 2, 3 or more, play music selections with a different number of instruments and discuss the different textures: thin, thick, light, heavy, play a recording while reading a book (i.e.a duet for a book with 2 characters)

28. Creating sound effects to produce a textured story: read a story in which earlier portions are repeated each time something new is introduced and assign a repetitive word or sound effect for a word cue (i.e. every time the word 'cat' is heard, a child might say 'meow, meow, meow', if you're doing this at home - start with a recording of the story - so both you and child can use vocal sound effects to produce a layered texture

29. Using children's books to create spoken rounds: begin by explaining the concept of a round, play a recording and see if child can detect entrances of each new part, see if a favourite poem can be spoken in rounds

30. Reciting spoken rounds with the addition of ostinati: in a group, 1 child can recite a poem, 2nd child recites an ostinato (a line that repeats over and over again), vary with 2 children reciting a round of the poem with a 3rd reciting an ostinato

31. Singing rounds: movements may help children keep track

32. Composing rounds and ostinati: have child create poem and sing them to familiar tunes, add movement and ostinati (i.e. poem about ocean, ostinato can be 'boom, crash, boom crash' for waves)

33. Combining literature with study of musical form: read books (i.e. Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? where certain words or portions recur), listen to music where melodic and/or rhythmic patters repeat, discuss same, similar, different, discuss how music can be arranged in a variety of ways and structure or form of a composition is the outcome of arrangement

34. Using right hands and left hands to illustrate phrases: ask child to raise right hand when they hear the first line/phrase and left hand if different, or draw on a board as you sing

Mary had a little lamb, A______draw an airplane
Little lamb, little lamb, B______draw a boat
Mary had a little lamb, A______draw an airplane
With fleece as white as snow. C______draw a car

35. Creating books based on the forms of songs: as above, ask child to draw a symbol for each 'line' from a book that is based on a song.

36. Comparing musical symbols with written language: music symbols enables composer to preserve ideas and emotions so that a performer can duplicate them

37. Creating musical symbols: ask child to come up with his/her own symbols for high and low notes, long and short notes, etc... and draw symbols for a favourite song, does the picture address tempo, dynamics?

38. Choral reading as a prelude to singing and vocal arranging: teach a poem - where to breathe or enunciate, recite poem as a group, play with number of participants in 'chorus' i.e. solo, duet, trio or quartet, do the same for a song

39. Combining recordings with vocal arranging: listen to many different types of vocal arrangements and see if kids can identify solo voices, duets, trios, choruses, etc., if listening to a solo - ask 1 child to sing, if duet ask 2, allow children to arrange song differently from way it was presented

40. Integrating children's books with instruments: after reading a book, decide what instrument would best represent a character or event in the book, combine vocal and instrumental sound effects when rereading the book

41. Reading and writing about instrumentalists: after reading a book on instruments or instrumentalists, ask child to pretend he/she is a great musician and ask child questions - What instrument do you play? What kind of music do you play? When did you start playing? How do you feel when you perform?

42. Creating an instrumental arrangement to accompany a recording: prepare child by keeping a steady beat with a percussion instrument or other instrument, play a recording and accompany it with the beat

43. Using children's books as an aid to choreography: play a recording and ask the child if it sounds happy or sad, does it make you think of birds, animals, the ocean? Now read a book that corresponds to their answer. Then act out the story.

44. Creating a dance based on a folk song: ask children to create a motion for each line of the song. Sing and perform.

45. Using poetry as an aid in composing: select a favourite poem, tell the children that together you will be transforming poem into song, use the notation they created, create own lyrics if desired, read on composers

46. Drawing a picture of what the music is about: discuss how music may cause one to think of images, play a music selection, have children draw a picture in black and white, then listen again and add colour, discuss a picture book - what would it be like without pictures? what would music be like without musical elements?

47. Music is everywhere: examine where music is heard during the day (grocery, dentist, tv, concerts...), discuss what role music has in each situation, how does music make you feel? what are the words telling you to do? draw pictures of various places where music may be heard and make it into a book.

48. Using children's literature to demonstrate the purposes of music: use books from #47, sing songs as you read the books, music = communication, expressing emotions, recreation, discuss holiday song, lullaby, work song, patriotic song

49. Why was the song composed?

50. Creating a historical time line: listen to recordings from various musical periods, look at magazines with pictures of art, architecture and clothing from corresponding periods, make a poster for each period

51. Using literature to demonstrate the influence of multicultural music: sing or listen to music selection that is representative of book or specific culture being discussed

52. Learning folk dances

53. Learning that musicians come from different backgrounds: racial and cultural

54. Exploring music created for an imaginary place: in reading The Little Prince, ask child to imagine what clothes, houses, building, cars, music might be there, create musical instruments found there

55. Using favourite books as a springboard for discussing personal preferences: discuss favourite book - why, ask about their favourite recording and why

56. Creating a listening center: select 5 recording from various parts of the world, 5 from various periods of Western music and 5 from today's popular genres - allow child to listen to these and rate them using star stickers, discuss why's, you can do the same with books

57. Using children's books as an aid in selecting repertoire: read books in preparation for an upcoming holiday and discuss how certain music goes hand in hand with the holiday

58. How do you wish to participate: read books about characters performing, what would child like to do in his/her own upcoming performance? plan a programme and repertoire, include dances, artwork, stories

59. Making a musical quilt


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