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Engage, Inspire, Educate: 5 Ways to Use Picture Books in Your Music Classroom

Jun 7, 2023 | Adding Literacy to the Music Classroom, Literacy Tip Tuesday, Tips and Tricks for Music Teachers, Tips for First Year Music Teachers

Title: Unleash the Musical Magic: 5 Funky Ways to Teach Music Skills with Picture Books

Storybooks aren’t just for bedtime tales and giggles. They hold a secret power—the power to teach music skills in a fun and lively way! Picture books are engaging and interactive, and they captivate your young learners, making them a fantastic tool for music education. Today we’ll explore 5 creative ways to use picture books in the magical world of music. Get ready to unlock the musical wonders hidden within the pages of a storybook!

  1. Melody/Singing:
    Ready to turn a repetitive phrase into a catchy tune? Picture books often have phrases or sentences that repeat throughout the story. Using a technique, I call a “tiny melody,” you can transform those words into a delightful song. Choose a rhythm that fits the text, consider the mood of the story, and compose a melody that resonates with the tale’s essence. From lost birds to hopping bunnies, let the melody soar and watch your students sing along.
  2. Mallet Technique:
    Picture books are brimming with vibrant characters and action-packed scenes. You can use these visuals to your advantage by linking specific movements to instrument playing. For instance, if the story features a playful dog running, encourage your students to alternate hands while playing their barred instruments, mirroring the dog’s energetic strides. Likewise, if the dogs are leaping, they can play with hands together.
  3. Timbre Exploration:
    Timbre, the unique quality of a sound, is one of our essential elements of music. Develop your students’ natural exploration abilities by giving them a variety of instruments, like rhythm sticks, frame drums, and tambourines. Encourage them to discover different sounds and decide where to play each instrument in the story. Another technique is to give them one instrument, like rhythm sticks or frame drums, and challenge them to find four distinct ways to play the instrument, each producing a unique timbre. Once they’ve unleashed their creativity, incorporate sound words from the storybook—such as “crunch” or “snip”—and let their newfound sounds accompany your storytelling, creating a symphony of timbres.
  4. Movement Magic:
    Movement and music go hand in hand, and picture books are filled with words that inspire action in your kiddos. Turn the pages of any storybook with movement words, into a playful movement activity by selecting movement words that spark the imagination. Write these words on the board or create a PowerPoint presentation, set the mood with appropriate music, and read the words aloud. Watch as your students mimic the movements suggested by each word, bringing the story to life through their expressive and rhythmic gestures.
  5. Instrument Skills:
    Beyond teaching music concepts, picture books can introduce young learners to various instruments. Choose a picture book that showcases different instruments or musical elements, and embark on an instrument exploration adventure. Or use sound words in the story like shakey, shakey or pat-a pat to teach students how to play different non-pitched percussion instruments. For example, you can teach your students how to hold and play maracas as they play on shakey, shake each time it occurs in the story. They can learn how to hold and play frame drums while they play on pat-a pat each time it comes up in the story.

With picture books as your musical allies, teaching music skills becomes a journey of imagination and creativity. From crafting tiny melodies and exploring instrument techniques to embracing timbre and encouraging movement, the possibilities are endless. Dive into the magical world of storytelling and music, creating unforgettable experiences for your students.

Do you have questions like, “What kind of books do you read?” or “What lesson topics do you pair with the books?“, or “What kind of lesson ideas can I use to tie books into my normal elements of music lessons“. If so, you’re in luck! Check out my course, Simply Music Skills to learn what kinds of storybooks to use and HOW to use them in your elementary music classroom.

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