Music and Literacy

Risa Cohen

Risa Cohen

Risa Cohen calls herself, “a Literacy teacher disguised as a Music and Movement teacher.”

As Children’s House students arrive in the morning they sing and dance with Risa. Then, during work time, the students do shared reading, independent reading, and literacy activities, using the songs they sang as their texts.

 

I want to thank all the families that came to First Thursday today. I also want to share with you the handout (below).

Structure of the Music/Literacy Lessons

CH_MusicI start with a Music and Movement lesson for the whole class. We warm up our voices and bodies and have a lot of fun. After a couple of songs at circle I spread the children around the room so that we have space to hop, jump, and wiggle without bumping into our friends while we sing action songs. During this time, I also sing songs related to content areas that children are studying in the classroom and seasonal songs.

After singing our hearts out and shaking our sillies out we come back to the circle for the Shared Reading lesson. At this time I refer to the song I have written on chart paper, and point to each word as the students and I read the text together. Even the youngest students can be successful in this reading environment because they have already sung the song and they have the support of their classmates and me.

During work time I work with the students in small groups reading their folders. All of the students have their own folders that contain copies of the songs we have used as Shared Reading texts. This gives students the chance to read the songs independently, allowing them to make one more mental imprint of the song. Songs are illustrated to provide picture support so that even the youngest readers can be successful through recognition and recitation. They see the picture of the water, and they know it is the song, “Listen to the Water,” so they begin reciting it from memory. Emergent readers use their fingers to practice left-to-right directionality and begin tracking print. Developing readers use one-to-one correspondence, touching each word as they say it, and self-correcting when they notice that the word their finger is pointing to does not match the word they are saying. The differentiation of instruction is inherent in the activity because all of the children can approach it at their own levels and be successful.

When we work in small groups, in addition to reading our folders for independent reading, there are many other literacy extension activities that we do. For example, we did a lot of work on our names with the song “What’s Your Name” including comparing names and “letter hunting.” I sometimes ask students to illustrate a song as a comprehension activity. Other times I use “zipper songs,” asking children to fill in a blank, and “zipping” their ideas into the song. When we fill in gaps in a printed song, my expectations are different for students depending on their individual levels. I might model the writing and fill in the blanks myself, stretching out a word to listen for every sound in it. I might ask children for the initial sound of a word, or to write the word independently, depending on their abilities.

The best way for you to understand the curriculum and appreciate the incredible work the children are doing would be to come in and observe on a day when your child has Music. I am in Sassafras on Mondays, Black Cherry on Tuesdays, Perrysburg on Wednesdays, Poplar and Sycamore on Thursdays, and Maple on Fridays. Please join us. I would love to see you there!

Keep singing!

Please join Amy Wagner and me this Thursday, February 4, 8:30- 9:30 a.m. Amy will talk about the Montessori materials that support language, and I will talk about how the Music/Literacy program works. We will do a quick demonstration with some of the Children’s House students, and be available to answer questions. Hope to see you there!

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed your holidays and your break. It is great to be back reading and writing, singing and dancing with your children. I hope the New Year brings you joy, health, happiness, and much music!
Here is a favorite song for this time of year, “A New Year’s Round,” by Christine Lavin. Ring it in!

Keep singing,
Risa

My Dad, one of 7, comes from a large family. Growing up, we would get together with most of the extended family about once a month. The things I remember most about these family get-togethers are food, laughing, and singing. My mother and my Aunt Ruth knew how to play the guitar. They taught the other adults one song each. When we gathered we would pass the guitar around and everyone would sing their song. My Dad always played “Dark as a Dungeon,” my Aunt Jane always played, “Bottle of Wine,” and so on. We all sang along with every song. When I turned 12, I asked my Mom to teach me a song on the guitar. She taught me “This Land is Your Land,” by Woody Guthrie. This became my song. From then on I played it at family gatherings.
When I came to this school I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it and it immediately felt right. “This is my school,” I told myself. Later I discovered that our school song is based on my song!
A parent asked me to share the School Song. If you would ever like the lyrics to a song or a melody please email me. (I can sing it into your voicemail.) I love sharing songs! So here it is…my song, my school, your school… This school was made for you and me!
THIS SCHOOL IS YOUR SCHOOL
music by Woody Guthrie
lyrics by Lynn Fisher
CHORUS
This school is your school, this school is my school
From the natural playground, to our computers,
From the Pink Tower to grammar boxes
This school was made for you and me.
Verse I
As I was thinking about our history
I saw behind me a small beginning.
I saw before me a bright new future;
This school was made for you and me.
Verse II
And I’ve been making some very good friends
From tiny toddlers to Middle Schoolers.
This school is people.  This school is caring.
This school was made for you and me.
Verse III
And our horizons keep on expanding
With special classes and master planning
From parents’ hard work, to annual Spring Sing
This school was made for you and me.
Verse IV
Throughout the good times and times of sorrow
We build together a new tomorrow
This school is your school, this school is my school
This school is our community
I enjoyed singing this song at the Thanks and Giving celebration in Perrysburg yesterday. I look forward to singing it with you this Tuesday at the Toledo Campus Thanks and Giving Celebration.
Keep singing,
Risa

 

Continuing our name studies, we created and read a predictable chart. Each line of the chart started with, “My name is,” followed by the name of a child in class and a period. In a predictable chart, only one word or phrase of each line changes, so most of the text is predictable. After learning the pattern, even the most emergent readers in class were able to join in reading, “My name is.” And the readers who are decoding were able to figure out some, most, or all of the names as well. A few of them feeling especially successful declared, “This is fun!”

We have also been drumming our names. Try repeating your name 4 times, drumming each syllable. You will notice that many English names contain two syllables: one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. For example, Risa, Brandi, and Kathy all follow this pattern. The students noticed that many names have the same rhythm, but some do not.  Some names have only one, or three or more syllables. Others, like Brianne have two syllables but it is the second syllable that is stressed. Try drumming the names of your family around the dinner table tonight.

Keep singing,

Risa