Music Is More than Melody

 Ellen Hoffman

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


(Look for handouts on the NELA webpage)


Ellen first started her program with parents, then with preschool teachers, and is relatively new to libraries.  It started with parents saying that they couldn’t do music with their children because they “can’t sing.”  Actually, language is rhythmic, so if you can talk, you can break it down into song. 


She suggests that libraries have sets of instruments – not a box of one of each.  Choose 2 or 3 instruments, and then have several of each.  This avoids dissension among the group, and gives children a sense of how that instrument sounds.  It makes it easier for them to follow along with the song.  She uses Rhythm Band Instruments.


Rhythm and Language: Start out by finding out children’s names. She then claps their names, demonstrating its unique rhythm.  She makes a chant as she claps out each child’s name.  This is a pre-reading skill to learn that words break down into parts.  You can do this with a lot of things – animals, food, etc…  When doing Stone Soup ask children to put food in the pot and when they say the name of the food, they find its rhythm. Books that are good for this: Mary Wore a Red Dress (and Harry wore his Red Sneakers.  It can be turned into a chant.  Where Does the Brown Bear Sleep? She looks for books with a rhythmic refrain, or one word that repeats.  She also likes books that might identify notes on the scale – words go up, and words go down. Books with different characters can be given voices with different instrumental voices (kind of like Peter and the Wolf).


Using Instruments:  (Most of the information in this section is on the handout).  Show children an instrument, and asks “If you didn’t know what this was, how would you use this?”   Example: rhythmic sticks. “How are they alike?” “How are they different?”  “What can you make out of them?” “Hammer and nail.” “Rolling pin.”   “Oars.”  “Ski poles.”   Triangles lead to discussion of three – triceratops which leads to stegosaurus which has scales that look like triangles, which leads to discussing a waltz beat.  She also uses pom poms, which are not technically an instrument, but do make a sound.  Look at instruments, think about all the sounds they can make and apply to a storytime.


Movement: Children tend to feel music with their whole bodies.  Try to engage their bodies as you do rhymes, chants and songs.  You can do this by having them rock back and forth as they chant.


Sound Awareness: This is a pre-reading skill.  She does a chant of What Sounds Do Different Things Make?  For example, “What does a clock say?”  TICK tock, TICK tock.


Ellen encourages librarians to have fun with sound and music, you don’t have to have formal musical training to do this; just listen for rhythm and sound and incorporate this during your storytimes.  Also, children are active listeners, playing a part in storytime and hearing the rhythm of the language.


A few suggested CDs to use with instruments:

David Polansky

Parachute Express


Sharon, Lois and Bram

Laurie Berkner

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