Putting Music to Your Tall Tale: Storytelling in the Music Room

Stories just aren’t for the library or regular classroom. They fit into all areas of the school environment from Art to PE to even Music. Meant to engage students and teach lessons that the audience will remember for a long time. Telling stories predates writing. Meant to pass down history and share and interpret experiences; story telling is an ancient and time tested way to teach the lessons we learned to a younger generation. 

Some of the best memories I recall from when I was younger were the times I would listen to our local story tellers. It was enchanting to listen to the pictures they painted in my head. Weaving tales of giant blue ox and glass slippers with magic, mystery, and inspiration. I always loved telling stories to my students, when ever I needed to get a point across I would pull a tall tale from my head, bringing in singing, dancing, and acting. I could engage a room of 5th graders if I wanted to!

Music tells a story, It always has. Even if there are no words, through dynamics, tempo, even articulation, it expresses to the listener what the composer is trying to convey. Musicians are storytellers.

Here are some ways I use to incorporate storytelling into my lessons:

Freddie the Frog- I was and still am a big user of Freddie the Frog in my lessons. I love the way he weaves musical concepts into story and becomes a fixed staple in my students lives, so much so that he is asked for over and over again. One of the activities I would do with him was to re read his first book Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the Night to my 3rd graders who were learning about how to read the staff. The class would then go around the room taking turns adding one note to our class melody by telling me the note name and letter. After everyone had a turn, the class would then challenge me to turn our melody into a Freddie story because each note represented a place on Treble Clef island. I would then go through our melody making up a story about Freddie’s day with Eli before we labeled the melody for solfege to sing it and then move it to instruments.  Students could understand the melody so much more relating it to our friend Freddie.

Puppet Pals– A free app recommendation that lets the user pick different characters and add scenery and then create their own story. Has a recording feature to capture student work! Would be a great activity to have students write their own story and then set music to it.

Isle of Tune– A music generator that looks like a neighborhood! Place trees, houses, cars, everything you would need to create your own block. After, as students are listening to the music it created, have them write about their new musical neighborhood. They create their own stories about what they made on the screen.

Book Creator ($4.99)- Another app recommendation, students make their own books. They can create their own stories and set music to it or put their knowledge of a subject you have been teaching them into the book showing off everything they’ve learned. You could create some great books about composers for a composer unit!

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What stories will your music write?

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