As music teachers, we are always looking for wonderful stories with loads of musical possibilities.
One of my favorite stories for this time of year is The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams and Megan Lloyd.
Basically, the little old lady helps spooky characters work together for a surprisingly non-Halloween finish. (Which means even our students with Halloween restrictions can enjoy the story! More on cultural competency later!) You're definitely going to love this one!
I love using books like this in class because it puts the teacher in control. I can spend as much, or as little, time as I want to on each book. I have 3 activity ideas for you about how you insert music into this story during the lesson!
1. Song (+ a free download!)
Each time the old lady speaks to one of those characters she meets in the story, you could sing a song to that character. She always says the same thing, so you can sing the same song each time! (I wrote a piece that I use just for this book. Click here to download it for FREE!)
If you'd like, you could add instruments to accompany the old lady song. I like to have older students play the melody of the old lady's song on barred instruments - mainly because this is one of the harder things for them to do.
(BONUS: If you really want to go crazy, add instruments for ALL of the incidental sounds in the story! You can add sounds for the wind, the slamming door, the sun going down, the lady walking, etc!)
The 2nd activity I like to do with this piece is a chant (where I'm speaking with rhythm). You could add in a chant on the cumulative part, that says: "two shoes go Clomp, Clomp…"
You can add instruments in here, too! Perform "Clomp, Clomp," "Wiggle, Wiggle," "Shake, Shake…" each on a different unpitched percussion instrument. For example, play "Clomp, Clomp" on a woodblock or temple blocks. Students can decide which instrument to play for each one.
3. Resting Tone
Let's say you wanted to keep the lesson strictly vocal...the resting tone or tonic pitch, (D in this song) works as a drone to accompany the old lady's melody. Students can practice keeping that pitch in their minds by singing a D on every downbeat while the teacher sings the melody.
After the story, when students are familiar with the melody, you could even have students split into two groups. One will sing the melody while the other sings the resting tone!
Who is this Book for?
This story is versatile enough for any elementary grade, K-5. (I have taught it all the way up to grade 5!)
You might keep your performance purely vocal in K and 1st grade. For instance, you could just read the story. Whenever the old lady says, "I'm not afraid…," sing the old lady song. And every time the book says "Two Shoes go…" speak that with a chanting voice.
You might add a broken bordun (D and A as notated in the xylophone part, here) to be performed during the story in 2nd or 3rd grade. I've found that the entire arrangement, including playing the melody, works well for 4th or 5th grade.
Kids these days...
In terms of reading level, this book may be considered a bit young for your 4th or 5th graders. You'll definitely want to consider "hooking" these older students with the instruments and the music before telling the story.
Now I want to hear from you: what 'fall' books are you using in the classroom this year?