Song Books

America the Beautiful

Posted by on Jul 4, 2012 in Art, Craft and Structure, Early Learning, Holiday, Key Ideas and Details, Nature Smart, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Range of Reading, Song Books | 0 comments

When I see the words “O beautiful for spacious skies”, I  automatically sing in my head “for amber waves of grain”, but I didn’t know some of the other verses of this song that, for me, are so moving:
“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!”
Katherine Lee Bates wrote the patriotic poem America the Beautiful in 1893, and Wendell Minor illustrated the verses to make the perfect book to help us celebrate our Independence Day. An introduction at the beginning of the book gives a bit of history about the poem, but the rest of the book is filled with Minor’s gorgeous paintings that bring to life the words we’ve sung for over 100 years.

Before reading the book, sing the familiar first verse of the song with students. The imagery is lovely, but may be hard for young ones to envision. What do amber waves of grain look like? Or purple mountains above the fruited plain? Ask students to do a quick draw of what the song makes them picture in their minds. Then, read aloud a bit of the introduction where we learn that Katherine Lee Bates wrote this poem after traveling from Massachusetts to Colorado. As she traveled, she wrote in her diary about the amazing, diverse landscapes she saw in our big, beautiful country. Read/sing the book once straight through with your students without stopping to comment just for the enjoyment of the book. Then, go back and revisit how the artist interpreted the poet’s words.

Minor includes in the endnotes the settings for each of his paintings. On the map in the back of the book, show students where you might see those fruited plains, those purple-shadowed mountains. Bates wrote her poem back before Alaska and Hawaii were part of our country – what might she have said about those states in her poem? Talk about your state and what its natural features look like. Have students draw and write about the beautiful state they live in, and celebrate the America in which we are so lucky to live.

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We Will Miss You, Maurice Sendak

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in Early Learning, Letter / Number Knowledge, Music Smart, Phonological Awareness, Print Awareness, Song Books, Vocabulary | 0 comments

May 8, 2012, the children’s book world lost an honored artist/author/illustrator, Maurice Sendak. Most people remember his book Where the Wild Things Are, but Sendak was by no means a one-hit wonder. He wrote and/or illustrated dozens of children’s books, so today, I’m mentioning a few of my favorites by the master from his 1962 collection, “The Nutshell Library”.

Pierre: a cautionary tale in five chapters and a prologue is a favorite from my childhood. Pierre is so apathetic that he answers “I don’t care,” in any situation, even when a lion asks, “Then I’ll eat you, if I may.” Don’t worry, Pierre is fine when he’s shaken out of the lion by the doctor, and his close call with death has made him realize that he does care after all.

Alligators All Around is Sendak’s clever, alliterative alphabet book. It is short and snappy enough to keep the interest of the littlest ones, but the humorous art is sly enough for older kids as well:
“A: alligators all around
B: bursting balloons
C: catching colds
D: doing dishes”
It’s a great writing prompt for a whole class or small group activity, writing two word alliterative phrases for each letter of the alphabet, choosing an A animal as the character to tie all the letters together.

“Whoopy once
whoopy twice
whoopy chicken soup
with rice.”
I adore Chicken Soup with Rice: a book of months. I visited a first grade classroom where the teacher had a poster for each month with the verse by Sendak for children to illustrate. Every month has the repetition of (something) once, (something) twice, (something) chicken soup with rice, so even emerging readers can chime in with confidence.

The “Nutshell Library” books were set to music by Carole King. You can find the songs on her cd “Really Rosie”, and you can find the animated television special made in 1975 on VHS if you roll old school. I love how kids instantly spot the similarities of Pierre and the boy on the cover of Chicken Soup with Rice to Max from Where the Wild Things Are. Share some Sendak books with your kids and talk about the similarities and differences in the art and in the plots. Play the music from “Really Rosie” and let your students sing the “Nutshell Library” books so your students can be, to paraphrase Alligators All Around, “S: singing Sendak!”

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The Ballad of Valentine

Posted by on Feb 9, 2012 in Body Smart, Early Learning, Holiday, Music Smart, Phonological Awareness, Rhyming, Song Books | 0 comments

“Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling Valentine,
I have written forty letters, but you’ve never read a line.”
Alison Jackson and Tricia Tusa have me singing this Valentine’s Day. In their book, The Ballad of Valentine, a narrator tries most every way he can to let his true love know how he feels about her: he trains a homing pigeon and attaches a note with twine, taps a note in Morse code “asking you to please be mine”, rents out a mail car on the westward railroad line, but nothing works. Thank goodness his true love isn’t a gal who just waits around, for although his efforts fail, she’s been busy baking a cake and she asks him to be her Valentine.

After you croon this book along with your little darlings, have them take a look at all the “ine” words. We call our lists of words with the same endings “word families”, so make an “ine” word family with your little ones. You can go through the book and see which ones Alison Jackson used, and then brainstorm more to add to the list. Sitting in a circle, you can pass around a clementine to each student, or roll a ball of twine, and have kids come up with an “ine” word. Practicing rhymes with your Valentines  – it’s divine!

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Frosty the Snowman!

Posted by on Dec 15, 2011 in Body Smart, Early Learning, Holiday, Math Tie-In, Music Smart, Print Motivation, Rhyming, Song Books | 0 comments

When I sing to my own ‘tweenage kids, they roll their eyes and beg me to stop. But when I sing to preschoolers and kindergartners, I get instant engagement. That’s why I love books that can be sung, like Frosty the Snowman written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins and illustrated by Richard Cowley.  When I opened this book and started to sing the words to my kindergarten classes, immediately I had kids singing along (including one sweet girl who knew none of the words but still sang “laaa laaa la la laaa!” with vigor and obvious enjoyment.) Fidgeting stopped, and swaying in time to the music began.  Eyes followed each page turn. And when I was done reading Frosty the Snowman, eager hands reached for it so they could sing-read it themselves.

Books that can be sung are perfect to support early readers because they can easily memorize the words and then use that knowledge to match the words they see on the page with what they already know. Frosty the Snowman also has that great, catchy part at the end: “Thumpity-thump-thump, thumpity-thump-thump.” After we read the book, we practiced patting that rhythm on our knees. You can count it as “1-2-3, 1, 1, 1-2-3, 1,1”. For a listening activity that involves movement, you can make up easy patterns for your little ones to hear and copy: “1, 2, 1,2” or “A, B, A, B”. It can become a sequencing activity and a “reading patterns” lesson. I’ve had kids tap out rhythms we write on the board in words: “knees, head, knees, head” or you can assign letters, colors, etc. Kids can read the pattern, predict how it continues, and then tap out the rhythm with hands, pencils, or chopsticks (I asked my local Chinese restaurant to donate 30 pairs and they gave me a huge bagful! Thanks, Golden Buddha!)

Follow up the listening/sequencing activity with a drawing/writing activity. Give students a sheet of paper with this written at the top:
Frosty the Snowman was a jolly, happy soul
With a _________ and a ________ nose and two eyes made out of ________.
Little ones can draw a snowman and fill in the blanks. With so many fun ways to use this book, Frosty the Snowman is sure to warm your kids’ hearts.

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