Sunday, July 8, 2012

Carnival of the Animals

One of my favorite units to teach every year is the Carnival of the Animals.  Over the years, I began to notice that I was spending alot of time on the unit, but my students weren't really connecting with the music.  So, I made it my mission to "revamp" my unit into something that would grab my students.  What was it you ask?  Literature!!!  I love using literature in my music classroom.  I began hunting down storybooks that I felt best portrayed the characters in the music.  My favorite of course, the Aquarium.  With the help of several great librarians, my friends Jamie Davis and Marianne Price. here's what I came up with.

I introduce my students to one movement per class period.  Any more than that can lead to confusion.  I spread the unit out over several weeks.  I start each movement by reading a poem from the book of poems called Carnival of the Animals by Judith Chernaik. Then I read the book Carnival of the Animals (Classical Music for Kids).  This book discusses each piece including the instruments you'll hear and has a very detailed discription of the piece in terms that students can relate.These are the two books that you see pictured above.  You can find them on Amazon.  I also use Christi Cary Miller's Music Zone Books, you can read about those in my previous post.  We listen to each movement before I tell the students which animal Saint Saens was trying to portray.  We then discuss tempos, articulations and such.  I then tell them the name of the movement and we read a story to go with it.  Afterwards, we discuss how the character in the book is similar to the character being portrayed in the song.  It has led to some great conversations with my 1st and 2nd graders.  Here are a few of my favorite "connections" that can be made with the Carnival of the Animals.  :)

 Royal March of the Lions – I use the Aesop Fable The Lion and the Mouse. It’s a great way to bring their teacher in to the picture for the integration that we all love so much. I usually let them know that we are reading a fable, so that they can address it in their class as well. I usually have the students paint their interpretation of the story. The results are usually interesting. It’s great to see the kids perspective and discuss the moral of the story on this one.

Cock and Hens – or as I call this movement the Rooster and the Hens. It just makes things a little easier. LOL I use the book called Bob written by Tracey Campbell Pearson . Over the years, this book has become a classroom favorite. They love it! It's all about a rooster who doesn't know how to cock-a-doodle-doo.  So, other animals teach him how they sound until he finally finds his voice.  It's an awesome book.  So check your local library!

Tortoises – I have two books that I use with this movement. I use the old Aesop’s Fable The Hare and the Tortoise and The Hare or the Tortoise by Toni Morrison.  The Hare or the Tortoise is just a variation of the original story.  There are also some great youtube clips with this story. I use the two books so that we can compare and contrast the two stories. This is a great time to teach the vocabulary words Largo and Presto. Check out The Music Zone as listed above.

Elephants – I have two books that I use on this depending on the grade that I’m doing the unit with. One is called the Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert and Robert Andrew Parker. It’s a great book based on the true story of Stravinsky writing the “Circus Polka” for 50 tutu wearing young elephants. The kids love it and love looking at the old black and white photos of the elephants actually wearing tutus and dancing with the ballerinas. The other book that I use is Ellison the Elephant by Eric Drachman. It comes with a cd that tells the story. It is very cute. It’s about a trunk tooting elephant who finds his voice with the help of his imaginary friend weasel. It’s also great if you are doing this around February for Black History Month. It’s a great introduction to jazz. I pair this one up with Denise Gagne’s “Elephant’s Have Wrinkles” from her book Movement Songs Children Love. If you don’t have that book you should definetly check it out. It’s a great one for the little ones. This is also a time when I introduce the term Largo.

Kangaroos – This is a fun one, we read the book Katy Kangaroo by Emmy Payne and H. A. Rey. It’s about a momma kangaroo who doesn’t have a pouch, so she goes in search of a pouch for her Joey. It’s a very sweet story. I found a movement on this one from Lynn Kleiner. It is in the book Kids Can Listen, Kids Can Move. It is a phenomenal resource for movement activities to do with classical music. We hop through the forest as we are looking for our pouch, stopping periodically (you’ll hear it in the music) to put our hand on our forehead and take a good look around the forest.

Aquarium – This movement is my personal favorite. I’ve paired this movement up with The Rainbow Fish written by Marcus Pfister. It is perfect for this movement. I step outside the room or send a student and cover myself with scarves. This year, I had a few “paras” that chose to be the Rainbow Fish. We read the book, then the person covered in scarves comes in swimming through the classroom. As the Rainbow Fish swims he shares his “scales” with the children in the class who are so excited that they join him in swimming. This is probably one of my most movement activities that I do every year. We also make rainbow fish. I use a templet. The students use tissue paper and foil to create their rainbow fish. It’s always a huge hit with my students.

People with Long Ears – I just came across a new one that I will be trying out this year, it’s called Donkey-donkey written by Roger Duvoisin. It’s a book first published in 1933 about a donkey who thiks that he looks ridiculous with long ears that stick straight up, so he consults his friends on the farm. Sounds perfect for this movement. In the past, I have used Pedro’s Burro by Alyssa Capucilli. It is a great book that has a kicking donkey that fits this movement well.

Cuckoo in the Heart of the Woods – I use the Mexican folk tale Cuckoo by Lois Elhert. It’s a great story that fits perfectly with this piece of music.

Aviary – The book Hey Al is a great story that tells of a man and his dog Eddie who are down on their luck when they get an amazing opportunity to fly with the birds. This is another free movement activity using scarves or ribbons. We also wear our bird hats. They are made of foam. You can pick them up at Oriental Trading, party store or where I found mine the Dollar Tree.

Fossils – I use the book Dinosaurs love Underpants written by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort. It is about the dinosaurs love for the cavemen’s underwear. They loved them so much that they had the great briefs tug of war which wiped all of the dinosaurs out. The kids as you can imagine love this one. You could also use the books Dem Bones written by . If you use Dem Bones I suggest you teach the song. This is a great one for Halloween. There’s a great video of it on you tube with dancing skeletons. It’s awesome! On this one my extension is a youtube clip. Search: Carnival of the Animals Fossils Disney. You can’t miss it. There is a great clip that Disney created for this movement using skeletons. The kids LOVE it!

The Swan – I use the old story The Ugly Duckling. We then get our scarves out and move to the music. I have the students imagine that they are the swan on the water for the first time after he realizes that he is not the ugly duckling he thought he was. He is a beautiful swan. It’s a great activity for free expression.

Finale – I use John Lithgow’s book The Carnival of the Animals. It is a story very similar to a night at the museum. It’s a great end to the unit.

Your Take:  I hope that you find some of these ideas useful.  If you have any questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to send me a message.  I have found these to have enhanced my Carnival of the Animals Unit. 

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