This year seems to be the perfect year to do a semester long project with each grade level where we have a theme, but teach grade level concepts in that context. We are unable to do so many activities that we normally do in the music classroom that I wanted a way to connect our time together in a meaningful way. Literature is always a great way to introduce a new unit or concept and is perfect under our current “no singing” situation!! I also am looking forward to video taping each group’s final product and presenting it to parents online in light of a winter concert.

The second graders at my school study fairytales. I love how some stories have alternate versions ~ either because it is from a different culture or someone thought of a different perspective! It is fun to look at a story, compare it to another version and then use music to help express the spirit of each story.

A couple of years ago. We compared The Three Little Pigs to The True Story of the Little Pigs By Jon Scieszka (told from the wolf’s point of view). We had so much fun thinking about how the wolf would sound in each and how we could convey that with classroom instruments! The final version was used for our spring concert and was a hit! Click HERE to see what we did! With instrument sharing being difficult and the need to separate, here are some adjustments:

  • Each student creates 1 or 2 measures alone and combines it with another student’s work ~ for the B, C, D sections
  • If instruments are an issue, have kids use what is available at their desks ~ pencils as drumsticks or rhythm sticks, their desk/ table becomes a drum or stack different books for different sounds, etc.…
  • This took me about 6 weeks. If you have the time, here are some other activities to add:
    • Create sounds and orchestrations for all of the characters
    • Create music for different actions in the stories
    • Create 2 whole versions with 2 different orchestrations and play them separately or connect them in some way
    • Connect to variations on a theme in music

This year I want to compare the European version of Little Red Riding Hood to the Chinese version of Lon Po Po By Ed Young. Lon Po Po is an intriguing story of 3 girls who outsmart a wolf instead of the other way around ~ which of course, I love!! I also love how the author pays tribute to wolves everywhere for “lending their good name as a tangible symbol for our darkness”. It is written beautifully, and the artwork is stunning!! I encourage you to check it out!!

Here is my outline for this unit:

  1. Compare and contrast stories
    1. Oral tradition lives in both literature and music
    2. Expected role of girls
  2. Compare and contrast music from each culture
    1. Highlighting scales and instrumentation
  3. Briefly compare European and Chinese art
  4. Create a sound story for each.
    1. My classes are split in 2, so one class will take the European version while the other will take the Chinese version
    2. Will look at the events of the story and create them in sounds (depending on what the kids decide, we may or may not have a narration, but will certainly have an introduction)
    3. Talk about mood and instrumentation choices

This is only the beginning! In true exploration fashion, I will present it to the kids and see where it takes us! The above structure will not change, but what the students decide to do within that structure is up to them!! This journey is my favorite part of teaching!!