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Archive of Music

Page history last edited by Melissa Gibson 11 years, 7 months ago


Integrating Literature Ideas & Best Practices - Music


Book Title  Author  Activity / Idea / Weblink
Grade level
Submitted by
Louis Sachar

Madame Zeroni's Music -

Do you remember the lullaby, "If Only" that was handed down through the generations in Stanley's family? How do the lyrics of the lullaby relate to the story? Do you have a song that your family has loved for generations?  Students can share songs that have been passed down through their family or write a new one.  Taken from:


Middle School  J. Phillips 
Pennywhistle Tree, The
Doris Buchanan Smith
This story and others are about children who pursue their interest in music and the arts. How do those interests help the characters to cope in their world, with their friends, their families?  What connections do you have with those characters? Other books - Bridge to Terabithia (art talent), Thursday's Children (dance), Carver (wood carving), A Sound of Chariots (poetry), The Cartoonist (cartooning), The Glory Girl (gospel singing), Come Sing Jimmy Jo(voice), and Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear (violin). {Ideas from Moss, J. (1994). Using literature in the middle grades: A thematic approach. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.
Middle School, High School
Legend of the Bluebonnet, The
Tommie dePaola
Go to your Music Specialist and obtain the correct music terms your grade level is required to know- rhythm, tone, beat, tempo, volume,....  The music specialist would be a great source of music for this activity.  Play  Native American music and perhaps Latin or Eastern music.  Have the children compare and contrast using the music terms.  If possible, have some video of  dances for the children to watch.  Older students (grades 4-5) could compare 3 types of music.  The children might then enjoy moving the music as they feel it makes them move.
Diane Haase
Drinking Gourd, The
F. N. Monjo  Learn the lyrics to the original song, "Follow the drinking gourd."   Discuss the meaning and the significance of the lyrics.  This activity will help students understand how music is related to history and a variety of cultures. All Ages  Jennifer Phillips 
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry M. Taylor After reading this book, students will look at pre-depression time when slavery was the only way anyone knew. Students will look at various slave song lyrics and try to understand what the lyrics are all about.  They can also download and listen to them. These include Follow the drinking gourd, swing low sweet chariot, etc. http://www.osblackhistory.com/songs.php 6th Chassadi Strong
Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, The
De Paola
After reading this book, discuss aspects of the Native American culture... clothes, colors, tools, shelter, etc. Collaborate with the school's music teacher to have them learn about Native American culture and music. Have students be exposed to Native American dances that go along with the music also and discuss why this was such an important part of their culture. 
Marisa Gebert
There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly.  Simms Taback After reading the story, students can sing and clap out the song lyrics to the book. Teachers could challenge students to come up with their own song lyrics to their own song with the prompt, there was an (insert grade level) student who .....It would be interesting to see what students chose to do. Further connections to reading would be for students to make a book over their created song. 3rd-5th  Shannon Compton 
Sing a Song of Popcorn  Beatrice DeRegniers Choose a poem from this book.  Students could select 1 from the following: Sing the words of a poem; Rap the words to a poem; or Play an instrument inspired by a poem. K-5 J. Phillips
Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Dreams  Jack Prelutsky Divide students into small groups.  Students may choose a poem from this book, and make up a melody for the words.  The students will perform the song as a group in front of the class.  3-6 Sarah Faith Howard-Montgomery
Joyful Noise  Paul Fleischman Joyful Noise is a collection of short poems about insects.  The poems are meant for two readers and in some parts for the two readers to read words at the same time.  The sounds in turn come out sounding like a musical duet.  Lesson: each child should be given a partner.  Each group will be given a poem from the book to read and perform for the class.  3-5 Lauren Nichols
Duke Ellington Andrea Pickney After reading the book Duke Ellington to the students and discussing the book after, play many different examples of his music for the students to hear. After each song, have students talk in pairs about how that long made them feel. Students can also discuss different musical instruments they hear. Students can also try using their body and voices to imitate the instruments and sounds that they hear. K-2 Lindsey Dickson
Honey, I Love and other love poems Eloise Greenfield Honey, I Love is a book that contains multiple poems.  Each poem has a unique characteristic about it also.  I felt that I could have understood the poems better as a song than a piece of poetry.  I found myself giving the poems a beat or rhythm as I read.  This could be a cool lesson to do in class; assign each student a poem and have them make a song out of the poem.  They should design a beat, harmony or melody that would flow with the piece of poetry.  After students have done so have them perform their song in front of the class. 5-8 Jeremy Sanders
Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin  Lloyd Moss After reading the book Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin, plan an outdoor "concert" for children.  In an area where disturbances will hopefully be at a minimum, allow students to sit on quilts and blankets, possibly snack on something yummy, and listen to recorded classical music.  It would be great if an educator could find pieces of classical music where the different musical instruments could easily be detected.  I love classical music and use it a great deal when my students are working on assignments in class.  They love it and say that it helps them concentrate on what they have to do.
3-5  Lesley Whitaker 
Elijah of Buxton Christopher Paul Curtis

Read the lyrics of songs written during the time of the Underground Railroad:

(www.negrospirituals.com/news-song/index.htm) and as a class discuss how these songs represented freedom to those trying to escape slavery.  In the story, there is a ceremony each time a new slave is free.  It is customary to ring the Liberty Bell twenty times.  Plan a ceremony that happens when Elijah brings the baby Hope to Freedom.  Include poems, a speech by Elijah, and songs.

Lesson from: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/lesson-plan/elijah-buxton-extension-activity

Grades 5-6 Jennifer Green
Stone Soup  Marcia Brown This story is a traditional folk story about three hungry soldiers who teach a community of peasants the meaning of sharing.  This story would be great for music class because there is actually a song about stone stoup.  This website shows activities to use along with Stone Soup as well as the lyrics and a clip of the song.  http://www.songsforteaching.com/stephanieburton/stonesoup.htm.  Students could learn to sing the song is rounds as well as play instruments for each ingredient that goes into the soup.  This could be a whole class interactive song where each student could play a role in performing this story. In addition to learning the song, students could take turns acting out different parts of the story, playing the part of the peasants and soldiers.  This could be a very fun and engaging activity for the music classroom. Grades 3-5 Dana Brinkley 
Jack Tales, The
Richard Chase This collection of Appalachian folk tales can be used as a part of a unit on Appalachia.  Often, this culture is overlooked in the literature canon.  As part of the unit, students could listen to Appalachian music and explore instruments such as the dulcimer through a research project.  Students could use technology to create a PowerPoint on whatever aspect of the unit they chose to research. Any Grade Elizabeth Coomer
Affrilachia Frank X Walker



These sites show the power of poetry to engage young people by tapping into their own experience and passions. They are authenticating their own lives and in the process find the power to their individual identities.  Regarding the interdisciplinary dimension of IB MYP, I think it would really be neat to build units and/or lessons that incorporate music, theater* and dance*. For that, I would team with the teachers in the MYP Arts Subject group. Would look to do presentations at the school for other students and also possibly for parents. Could also be turned into a Poetry Slam Competition where the audience selected the best slam.

7th through 10th MYP Wendel Maunula
Sarah, Plain and Tall  Patricia MacLachlan The book can also be used in music and writing.  Singing is important to the family in the book because it makes them feel happy and reminds them of their mother.  In the book, Sarah begins to sing with Anna and Caleb and Caleb writes a song about a woolly ragwort.  The students could make up songs about things such as nature or people that are important in their lives and then put a catchy melody with it.  The songs could be shared with the class.  These songs can be funny, happy, sad, or convey another feeling that the students would like to use with their song.  This activity would also help students find a sense of audience while learning how to present something to their peers and using speaking and listening skills. Grades 1-5 Molly Fackler 
Ah, Music  Aliki Ah, Music is a wonderful book that combines a lot of pictures and information about music, instruments, dance and composers.  Aliki makes real life examples for all of the vocabulary that includes simple, colorful pictures to interest the reader.  Another think about this book that I love is that it can teach a wide grade range.  I teach middle school and they learned things from this book that they had forgotten or relearned, especially my low level readers.  One thing I had them do to increase their understanding of music vocabulary was to have them look at the author's examples and then think of their own and act/perform it out.  The book talks about how music and sound is all around us if we pay attention more.  I had them fill out a log that they carried around with them all day where they were to truly listen to everything around them and write out rhythms they hear from regular objects or noises. 1-6 Jessica Pelfrey 
Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices Paul Fleischman Discuss FLUENCY and the idea of choral reading to strengthen fluency. Guide children through choral readings of the poems in this book. The author's "booming/boisterous/joyful" way of using the world of insects will grab students attention in ways that lend itself to focus on fluency. Students can then work in pairs to practice and assist one another. This is a creative way of exaggerating tones to increase fluency focus. 3-5 Lauralee Samples
Wonders and Miracles  Eric A. Kimmel 

Not only is food an important part of the Seder feast, music is also integral to the celebration.  Students who have had the opportunity to cook the foods that are served, can now experience the music that coincides with the meal.  According to author Eric A. Kimmel, Debbie Friedman is one of America’s foremost contemporary Jewish singers and songwriters.  She has written versions of many of the songs that are sung at the Seder, including, among others, the “Kadish D’rabanan” and “Miriam’s Song.”  The famous African-American spiritual “Go Down, Moses” is also often sung at many Seders.  In music class, the teacher could download and play recordings of some of these songs and work with the students to learn to sing some of them.  Students could also do a web search for other versions of the songs to present to the class.  This might be an excellent moment to ask students to draw parallels between Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and Harriet Tubman (often referred to as Moses) leading African-American slaves along the Underground Railroad.  While some may shy away from studying Passover and the Seder in public schools because they are part of a religious observance, it is important that students are made aware of cultures and faiths that are different (but in many ways, very much like) what they are exposed to on a regular basis.   

Grades 6-8 

Kate Hendrix 


Abiyoyo  Pete Seeger  Abiyoyo is a traditional literature book based on a South African lullaby and folk story.  The musical notes are given throughout the book so it can be played using instruments.  After reading the book, children can retell the story using sound effects (ukelele and drums are mentioned in the story).  For technology integration, the children can record the story with the sound effects and use the recording in the classroom listening center.   Another musical adaption would be to have the audience sing along faster and faster until the giant falls to the floor.



Jana Harrison
Hush, Little Baby Brian Pinkney The song Hush, Little Baby is a common nursery rhyme that mothers sing to their babies. Although this is a baby song, the book could still be read by young elementary students. A great way to introduce rhyme to students would be to read this book to the class. As I read this book, I realized that I have encountered quite a few versions of this nursery rhyme. Some of the words that Pinkney uses are different the from the way I have sung this song to my baby. A great activity for young students would be to have them work in groups and come up with a new Hush, Little Baby song. I would have my students begin the same way with the original words, "Hush, little baby, don't say a word..." Then, I would have students finish the song, and try to change the lyrics. I would still emphasize that I want them to use rhyming words the way that the book and the nursery rhyme use them. As they come up with their song, it could also be written down in the form of a poem. Students should be given several days to complete this, and when everyone is finished, the class could have a mini concert where each group performed their new version of Hush, Little Baby. http://www.kidspot.com also has many other activities and ideas for many different nursery rhymes.  K-1 Morgan Hagedorn
Foreign Exchange: A Mystery in Poems
Mel Glenn 

In this mystery, the poems are presented in a multi-point of view, free verse form. There is a death and suspicions are flying high. This story connects to big topics like racism and class as well. Since the books is aimed at older students, I thought it would be great to introduce the activity by showing the students how to put different types of a poem into song. Scholastic.com had a wonderful way to do this: 

Teaching the basics - One of the best ways to introduce students to figurative language, poetic form, and sound devices is to use lyrics from popular songs. Take snippets from various songs and print them out so that students can read the lyrics as they listen to short clips. Here is a brief list of poetic elements that I've taught using songs with great success:
  • Metaphor - My Girl by The Temptations, Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve
  • Simile - Like a Rock by Bob Seeger, Turn Me On by Norah Jones
  • Hyperbole - Ain't No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye
  • Allusion - Hey Leonardo by Blessed Union of Souls, 1985 by Bowling For Soup
  • Persona - Beat It by Michael Jackson
  • Rhyme Scheme - Can't Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli
  • Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance - Dear Mamaby Tupac Shakur 

After you have practiced this with the students, you can break them into groups and have them create their own songs to the tune of some "hip" music by using snipits from "Foreign Exchange." Music is such a huge part of our students' lives these days and I think this is a natural way to help them learn.

7-12  Karen Rice 
Honey I Love Eloise Greenfield This poem could be used in a middle school music classroom by having the students make up a tune and a rhythm for the poem to be presented. The students could use instruments to add to the song. The students could choose which genre to perform the song in. Students could use current instrumentals to sing the song too. Of course this poem could be told through rap or hip hop but it would be neat to see the stories told through the country or folk style. It could be used to teach the students about rhyme and rhythm. This poem does not have a chorus to go with the verse so the students could create their own chorus for the performance. It would be interesting to see each groups adaptation. 5-8 Shakira Harris
Tales of Uncle Remus:  The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, The
As told by Julius Lester

Uncle Remus tales are folk stories written in the style of Aseop's Fables about the "Old South."  Reading selections from the book would be a great way to incorporate Appalachian music.  Students could listen to and study Appalachian music:  describe, identify, explain and analyze the conventions of the music.  Guest speakers could be brought in to play live music for the students and allow students to see firsthand the traditional Appalachian instruments.

3-5 Heather Conley

Rap a Tap Tap 


Leo and Diane Dillon 

Mr. Bojangles is an African American man who dances through the streets of New York City, he dances with the purpose to entertain, as he says in the book, he dances to make people smile.  The story rhymes and has a nice repeated verse on every other page.  Have the students discuss what type of dance Mr. Bojangles is performing for us (tap).  The time period in which the story takes place (1930's) there weren't many performers who were African American, the students could discuss how he paved the way for other African American performers.  After the discussions, the main activity would be to divide the class in two groups, one group will learn how to tap dance by watching the youtube video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp9cuqSDVvI&feature=fvwrel, the next group will create a beat to the rhythm of the story with sticks while the teacher reads aloud, this won't be complicated since the story is repetitive and rhyming. Then the groups will switch so everyone gets a turn to dance and create music! 












Walk Two Moons  Sharon Creech 

Students could create a soundtrack for the major events of Sal's trip out West.  The music should come from at least five of the following genres.  In a cross-curricular connection to Language Arts, students are required to explain their music choice, why they chose, and how it fits the moment from the novel:



-folk/Southern rock

-Rock 'n roll










Grades 7-12 Maegan Renick 

In the Time of the Drums

Kim Siegelson

This book talks about African traditions and how slavery takes away the memory of some traditions.  However the main character Twi remembered the traditional music and she teaches it to Mentu.  This traditional music was accompanied by a drum beat.

Art Extension

Visit the following website to get the steps to make a homemade drum using recycled materials.


Music Extension

Listen to an African drum rhythm at the following website; then discuss characteristics of African Drum rhythms.


Teach the students a traditional African drum rhythm. Then have students write their own version of an African drum rhythm.


Joanne Hicks

Arrow to the Sun 

Gerald McDermott

Students are divided into two groups.  One group plays authentic Native American instruments and the other group creates a dance to depict the story.  The dance must have elements of dance such as directions, pathways, levels, shapes and must describe loco-motor and non-loco-motor steps.  The dance and music are performed simultaneously and then the groups switch.  Classes could be broken into smaller groups and each group assigned a different Native American folktale.  Exit slip could be given as an opportunity for students to respond to other's performances and also to evaluate their own performance.

Link to Native American Folktales websitehttp://americanfolklore.net/folklore/native-american-myths/ 

3rd and up 

 Myra Kean

I Am The Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by African Americans

Arnold Adoff

The poems in this anthology use a variety of literary elements to explore the African American tradition in the United States, portraying a stigmatized people who became who they are by enduring hardship and developing fortitude in the face of racism and discrimination.  This collection would work well in any music class, but it is ideally suited for one in which the curriculum is aligned with the other departments.  This activity in particular is designed to be taught when the social studies department is teaching a unit that includes the American Civil Rights Movement.
Explain to students that music and poetry are quite similar in that both contain some of the same elements, notably rhythm.  Because of this, poems are the easiest form of literature to which one can attach a melody.

Music Activity:

Watch the following videohttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bijxZohnQvI After watching the video, organize students into groups of no more than three.  Have each group search the anthology for two poems for which they can build a beat or cadence (rhythm) in a way similar to what Common does with the poem he performs at the White House in the video.  Avoid scrolling to read any comments, as those posted on YouTube are unregulated and may contain inappropriate content.
Create a rap or song version of one of their selected poems.  The Rap should contain a tone that appropriately conveys the content or mood in the poem.  Explain to students that a choral or cumulative choral is also appropriate.

Grades 7-8

 Derek Po

Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, The

Christopher Paul Curtis 

As a music extension from the book, students could pick out the songs that are listened to by the Watsons on the book and research the artists that performed the songs and what those songs said about the times. Students could categorize those songs into genres and describe what elements made the song fit a particular genre. Students may also use the following link to go find the top 25 songs of 1963 and the performers of those songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvKbxP-1s4U.
About the 1963 Birmingham Bombing
Facts, news stories and songs about the bombing.


Tia Smith 

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Dr. Seuss

This song is a great activity to do with kindergarteners or other younger students after reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” Have children march around the classroom while singing the first stanza of this song, and stand in place while singing the second stanza.

“The Places I Can Go” (to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

Oh, the places I can go,

The places I can go,

Hi, ho, the dairy-o,

The places I can go.

I can go up-up! (Point up at the ceiling.)

I can go down-down! (Point down at the floor.)

I choose my way, every day,

Of where I go around. (Turn around in place.)

These “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” activities are the perfect way to extend a Dr. Seuss reading for kids of all ages – preschool through high school seniors. Try one with your students to see how much it helps them to relate to the book that they’ve read.


Lisa Moore

Poke in the I, A

Paul B. Janeczko

This book has 30 concrete poems in it.  It is a picture poetry book.  I thought it would be a good idea to have the children assemble paints, ink, colored pencils, torn paper (either construction, tissue, wrapping paper, etc.), foil, cellophane, fabric, glue and other items.  Teach them about concrete poems and how they work.

Now have them look on the internet or in various books to find pictures of musical instruments, music notes, famous composers or musical artists, and tell the students to make a shaped poem using the pictures to make a template and then to start writing the poem, making sure they evoke the subject of their template.  Then they can start applying their artistic materials to further evoke the subject of their poems.  When their artworks have dried they can be displayed on the walls of the classroom.  Make a CD that has appropriate music for each poem and play each selection as the students each go to their own particular work, then shares it with the class.

Grade 3 and Up 

Donna Campbell 






















































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