Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Story Time Music: Extension Songs (and Rhymes)

Welcome back to my continuing series on story time music. All the previous posts in this series can be read here. Last week, my post was all about the opening sequence of story time. Today, I'll look at using songs and rhymes to extend the story time experience beyond the pages of a book.

Though it’s not always possible to find a song or rhyme to accompany every book I read at story time, I do like to find songs and rhymes that extend the reading experience whenever possible. If I read a book that introduces colors, I might then sing a song about a rainbow, or present a flannel board about coloring with different-colored crayons. If my book involves counting, I’ll follow it up with a song about “five little somethings” or a counting fingerplay. Not only does this help kids internalize the information they’ve heard in a given story; it also makes it easy for me to choose which of the many songs and rhymes in my archives I will use at a given session. While I think it’s great to repeat some songs at every story time, or at least regularly for a number of sessions, it’s also nice to have some variety and to match books with thematically related activities, even if the overall story time does not have a theme.

There are tons of extension songs and rhymes out there on the internet, and they can vary greatly in quality. The best ones seem to have the following:
  • Natural-sounding rhythm and rhyme. Songs shouldn't attempt to squeeze too many syllables into a line and they shouldn't use particular words just because they rhyme. Each word should make sense and clearly belong to the song.
  • Accurate and relevant information. Songs should reinforce correct information from the books, instead of making things up just to create a cute song. (Penguins don't fly for example, so a flying bird song doesn't work in a penguin theme.) 
  • A catchy tune. Since audience participation is a key part of story time, it helps to find songs that have familiar tunes, or at least tunes that are easy to learn after just a few repetitions. Sometimes it might help to write your own piggyback songs based on the tunes your groups know best. (Check out my post on writing piggyback songs for more information!)
  • Motions, sounds, or other ways to encourage interaction. Story time audiences stay engaged when their contribution matters! Find songs with simple motions for the kids to act out, and teach them how to make the movements. 
  • Versatility. While it's great to find a perfect song that suits an obscure theme, it is much better to find a song that will suit a variety of themes so your groups can learn it once and sing it many times over. I like Chickadee, for example, because it works for multiple themes: birds, spring, flying, counting, and happiness.  
A long list of thematically organized extension activities that I have pulled from various sources can be found on my wiki.  Feel free to share your favorite resources for extension songs and rhymes in comments!

Next week, I'll be focusing on getting the wiggles out with movement songs and stretches.
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