Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jazz Appreciation Month Program, 4/11/12

My library system partners with the Smithsonian every year to provide jazz-themed programs during Jazz Appreciation Month. Last year, I just did a jazz-themed story time during one of my regular story time slots. This year, I wanted to challenge myself to do something for older kids, and something where kids might actually learn a little something about jazz.

Thankfully, my fiance is a jazz expert, and I was able to ask him for help. He suggested borrowing some ideas from Apple, Banana, Carrot, a program designed to teach kids to be creative with music before they even know how to read music or play an instrument. I didn't adhere to the method very closely; however, I borrowed some of its basic ideas and built a program around them.

Here is the outline of what we did:

Opening Song (with musical instruments): Hello, how are you?
We did the same hello song we always do, but instead of "Clapping my hands" I sang, "I'm playing music, you do it  too." The kids got the biggest kick out of singing an old favorite in a new way. Instruments we played included rhythm sticks, shaker eggs, and triangles.

Book: This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth (2006)
I really wanted to read a book that would be fun as well as educational. What I came up with was this great picture book which can be sung to the tune of This Old Man, but which also provides biographical information about some great jazz artists. Before sharing the book, I read it twice and noted the names, nicknames, and birthplaces of each "jazz man" so I could introduce them to the kids without flipping to the back matter every single time I turned a page. I attached my notes to the back of the book, and encouraged the kids to join me in saying "Satchmo" and "Bojangles" and trying to imitate some of the scat syllables. And of course, I sang the book, too, which makes all  the difference. 

Book: A Tisket, A Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald, illustrated by Ora Eitan (2003)
I did my best to sing the parts of this I felt comfortable singing, and then I read the rest. Last year, I used the recording, and I think I would have done better to use it today as well, but it still worked out okay. 

Book: Bring on that Beat by Rachel Isadora (2002)
I'm a big fan of Rachel Isadora, and was really glad she had a jazz-related title. It was just short and succinct enough to be the perfect third book in this story time. 

Song with Musical Instruments: "I Love Jazz" by Louis Armstrong
This song was on the long side, and the kids did not get excited about playing their instruments. I tried to make it exciting by giving them directions - "Play your instrument above your head!" etc. - but they mostly stared blankly. 

Powerpoint Presentation: Click here to download.

The Apple, Banana, Carrot Method uses objects, animals and animal sounds to substitute for notes. In measures of four beats each, the selected objects can be mixed and matched, along with "shhh" (rests), to create different phrases.

The first "song" I created looked like this:

I set the animations in the PowerPoint slide to "pulse" each object at one-second intervals. Each time one of the objects lit up, we clapped and said its name.

After we did this one a couple of times, we tried more complicated ones:

The kids absolutely did not understand what was happening, but they got into the clapping, and even got good enough that we could stop saying shhh and actually pause for the rests.

Craft: Composing Worksheet
My fiance happened to have the Apple, Banana, Carrot materials left over from his past life as an elementary music teacher, so he made copies of a simple activity for me. Basically, the worksheet mirrored the tables in my slides - four boxes per line - and it gave the kids animal faces to plug into the boxes. The kids cut and pasted their animals of choice, and then grabbed a musical instrument to try playing it. Some very musically inclined kids got really into it - others just liked gluing. I even had some babies and toddlers who just liked being in on the action and trying out the sounds of different instruments.

The biggest lesson learned today was that all ages programming works best when there is something in it for every age. I often get frustrated when my programs for older children are "crashed" by the little ones, but today truly felt like a success, and I think that was partly because there was such a wide range of ages.  I'd like to experiment with more programs like this, where the activities work on a number of different levels for all different types of kids.

Additional jazz titles which have been on display in my library so far this month include:


  1. What fantastic ideas - I loved the actvities on powerpoint! Steal, steal, steal!


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