As the leaves change colors and the air turns crisp (for most of us), we elementary music teachers have a unique opportunity to infuse some of the beauty of the fall season into our classrooms. One effective way to engage our kiddos in musical exploration is by using themes.
In this blog post, we'll explore how using a fall-themed storybook is the perfect springboard for teaching essential music skills this season!
7 Steps to Plan Your Fall-Themed Lesson Ideas...Quickly!
Themed storybooks can explore the magic of fall while introducing or reviewing critical music skills. Let’s talk about how this works.
1. Start with Your Theme:
Begin your journey with a clear theme in mind. Fall offers a ridiculous amount of possibilities. I mean there are so many to choose from! Changing leaves, cooler weather, Halloween, apples, harvest time...the list goes on. Pick a theme (or 2 or 3) that you love that also resonates with your students.
2. Find a Storybook for the Theme:
I love to start by finding a book that works with the theme. It should have colorful, vivid illustrations, loveable characters, and a great message. The three fall books I love are "Leaf Trouble," "Bella's Fall Coat," and "The Red Apple." These stories provide a perfect backdrop for your musical adventure.
3. Repeating Patterns:
As you read the selected storybook with your students, pay attention to repeating patterns in the text and illustrations. Repetition is a powerful way to teach rhythm and musical form. Encourage students to clap or tap along with recurring patterns they identify. Add some instrument play or a tiny melody.
4. Sound Words:
Many fall storybooks have tons of descriptive words that lend themselves to instrument play and vocal exploration. Words like "rustling," "crunching," or "whispering" can help introduce your students to music skills like loud and soft or high and low. One of my favorite things to do with any storybook is create a soundscape with words we find in a storybook.
5. Movement Words:
Incorporate movement words from the story into your music lessons. Encourage students to move in ways that mimic the actions described in the book. For instance, when reading about leaves falling gently, students can sway gracefully to simulate falling leaves. Movement improvisation is super easy with fall books.
6. Steady Beat:
Many storybooks have a natural rhythm. You can use the steady beat of the story and have students tap their feet, clap their hands, or use non-percussion instruments to maintain a steady beat throughout the story. You can even use the beat to mimic the pacing of the story's events.
7. Add Instruments:
My favorite way to teach instrument techniques is through storybooks. Take a repeating pattern or a rhythmic part of the story and add instruments that seem appropriate.
Fall-themed storybooks for music class:
One Red Apple
The book describes the growth cycle of an apple, using beautifully painted illustrations and an easy-to-read story. I love to add improvisational movement to this book. Use each page of the book as a guide to give your elementary music students an opportunity to explore being a seed, a sprout, a small tree, a big tree, a blossom, and an apple. Guide your students to move through the entire growth cycle while they listen to some appropriate music.
Bella's Fall Coat
Bella's Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde is the adorable story of Bella, who has grown out of her well-loved fall coat. She loves her coat because her grandma made it for her. This storybook has lots of opportunities for vocal exploration through words like whooosh and zoom. If you’re more into instrument play, look for words like crinkled, crunched, and popped. You can also use this storybook for movement with words like whiz, sneak, and snoop.
Brother and sister squirrels are very anxious because the tree they call home is losing its leaves. While they’re trying to put the leaves back on the tree, their mom discovers them and explains what’s happening. The falling leaves create a wonderful opportunity for playing from high to low. Words like waaaah and oof are perfect for vocal exploration. I also love to use the running and jumping squirrel to explore hands together and alternating hands on Orff instruments.
Want 3 done-for-you storybook lesson plans? Download these ones for FREE!
Using books in music lessons is one of the best ways to embrace any theme. You, as an elementary music teacher, get the opportunity to ignite your students' creativity and enthusiasm for music. Through repeating patterns, sound words, movement words, and a steady beat, your kiddos can develop essential musical skills while they’re learning about the season. By finding appropriate songs and incorporating instruments and movement, you can make your fall-themed lesson ideas even more immersive, musical, and memorable.