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Use Storybooks in Elementary Music to Establish Historical Context

Children’s storybooks in elementary music are perfect for setting the stage and establishing a historical context for a song.

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Children’s storybooks are a perfect way to set the stage for a song or a new piece of music in your elementary music classroom. Carefully chosen books can provide valuable insights into the historical context of the time when the music was composed. When students are aware of the story behind what they’re performing, it adds depth and authenticity to their performance.

Teaching students about the history and time period when a song was written enhances their understanding of the lyrics. It adds an emotional dimension when students can envision themselves in the original setting. Plus, combining music with historical events is a fantastic way to enhance students’ retention of historical facts.

Using Children’s Storybooks in Elementary Music to Establish Historical Context for Songs

Patriotic Storybooks for Elementary Music

Patriotic songs are a classic example of the importance of teaching students about the historical events surrounding the writing of songs. The songs of our nation are rich with historical significance.

There are many different versions of storybooks available to teach the history of each of the patriotic songs below.

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This Land is Your Land

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America the Beautiful

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My Country 'Tis of Thee (America's Songs)

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Yankee Doodle

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What Does It Mean to Be American?: Teach Children the Importance of Unity and About the Diversity,...

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These stories are perfect for sub lessons as well. Most teachers already know the songs, even if they don’t know the history behind them.

For more on using patriotic songs in the elementary music classroom, click to see this post, Patriotic Songs for Elementary Students – The Big 6.

Pair Spirituals with Storybooks about Civil Rights Leaders

Songs that were sung during the civil rights movement are an authentic pairing with the storybooks below. Recent publications have provided a wealth of quality storybooks to enhance the cultural context and help students learn about civil rights leaders and understand some of the struggles.

Below is a small sampling of the quality children’s books currently available.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Caldecott Honor Book) (A Big Words...

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I am Rosa Parks (Ordinary People Change the World)

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The Story of Ruby Bridges

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Add Orff Accompaniments for Classroom or Performance

Spirituals are a perfect addition to any music program. The resources below are versatile music lessons designed for students in grades K-5. Each lesson is designed around a song and includes differentiated Orff accompaniments. Also included are two versions of a brief biography of a civil rights leader. One is tailored for younger elementary students, while the other is geared toward upper elementary students.

Children’s Storybooks Depicting Historical Events

Are your students studying westward expansion in their homeroom class? The storybooks below pair well with American folk songs.

Pair with The Eerie Canal
by Thomas S. Allen

Amazing Impossible Erie Canal (Aladdin Picture Books)

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Pair with I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad, American Folk Song

The Transcontinental Railroad (A True Book: Westward Expansion) (A True Book (Relaunch))

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Connect with Other Teachers at Your School

Connect with your homeroom teachers. Ask about their current social studies topics. If possible, integrate related songs into your music lessons. This creates a natural connection and helps students see the “bigger picture” and develop a broader knowledge base.

Librarians are a valuable source of information. Check out your school book fairs. If possible, select books to add to your music class wish list. Oftentimes, parents and grandparents are more than willing to purchase an extra book or two for your classroom.

Conclusion

The books included in this post only begin to scratch the surface. There are a plethora of books available to enrich your music lesson plans. Browse through the children’s sections at your local library. Or, take a peek at this selection of over 700 children’s storybooks which is curated especially for the elementary music classroom – Children’s Literature for the Music Classroom.

Choose a few books to begin with today, and in no time, you’ll build a well-rounded library of storybooks for your elementary music classroom. 📚


More About Using Storybooks in Elementary Music

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a former elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

More Ways to Connect – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

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