February has lots of holidays– which means lots of great lesson ideas! There’s Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and of course the entire month is Black History Month. This week our school is hosting daily “experiences” focused on Black History Month. So I figured I’d share with you what we have been doing in the library during the month of February to celebrate Black History Month. For younger students, I like to concentrate on cultural history, like music and art.
First I brought out the book Dancing the Ring Shout, by Kim Siegelson.
Before reading I explain what a “Ring Shout” is: a harvest celebration that dates back to the 1800s in which African Americans gathered to sing, dance, and make music with homemade instruments. During the story we practice sequencing events by calling out each character and the instrument they plan to bring to the Ring Shout. With the really young kids (Pre-K and K) we make the sounds of each instrument, which is a lot of fun. After reading, we sequence events and talk about what happens at the Ring Shout and what the community is thankful for after the harvest.
From that point, I segued from making music with handmade instruments to another form of music, jazz. I played an audio book version of Ben’s Trumpet, by Rachel Isadora, which includes lots of jazz music to really give kids a good feel for the music.
The main character loves listening to the band at the jazz club down the street, and he pretends to play the trumpet. Before starting the book, I tell the kids that they can pretend to play the instruments in the book just like Ben does in the story. I show them the pages with specific instruments, and we practice how to “play” the instruments–the piano, saxophone, trombone, drums, and trumpet–with no sounds. Then I played the cassette and the kids pretended to “play” each instrument that they heard.
After the book is over, we recalled the instruments that Ben heard (and pretend to play them one more time, just for fun). Then I show them the craft: chalk drawings. I should’ve snapped a pic with my phone, but I didn’t think about it in time. Each student got a half-sheet of black construction paper and different colored pieces of chalk for a night-time jazz scene. The content was up to them as long as it showed something to do with jazz music–some drew instruments, or the band, or how the music “looked.” Pretty impressive results, and the kids loved using an unusual medium.
I like using the music angle for Black History Month and young students. The school curriculum covers a lot of the history part, and I like to celebrate the positive cultural contributions by focusing on music. For the older students, I’m more comfortable delving in to the tougher aspects of African American history. Tune in tomorrow for part 2: grades 3-5.