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April is Jazz Appreciation Month!  The Smithsonian Museum started Jazz Appreciation Month in 2001 to encourage people of all ages to learn about jazz and its American roots and to experience jazz truly.  Listening, reading, playing, and watching are only some of the ways you can participate!

We’ve selected two books this month that center around jazz for kids in honor of Jazz Appreciation Month.  The first introduces Freddie the Frog to the Flying Jazz Kitten, who teaches Freddie all about jazz.  The second book tells the story of a famous photograph of 57 famous jazz musicians on a Great Day in Harlem.  Regardless of the age of your students, there is a story for everyone!

Early Elementary

Freddie the Frog and the Flying Jazz Kitten
by Sharon Burch
Illustrated by Tiffany Harris

841125 – Hardcover Book/CD – $24.99

Freddie the Frog is a character created by Sharon Burch to teach young students about the basics of music through his adventures. These include note names, rhythmic values, and now jazz!  Freddie meets the Flying Jazz Kitten and his jazz cat friends when they visit his island. Next, they take him to their jazz club to hear them play.  Along the way, they teach Freddie how to scat sing!  Freddie learns all about jazz and how to participate – even if you don’t play an instrument.

Classroom Application

This book was built for extending the story into the classroom!  An included audio CD provides a dramatized version of the story complete with music.  In addition, it also contains blues tracks for your students to scat sing along just like Freddie!  One of the last pages in the book contains instructions on teaching scat singing. Included along with a list of “scat words” to help the process.  You can also purchase a separate set of Scat Word Flashcards if you want!

First, read the story to your students and ask them what they think scat singing sounds like based on how the book describes it.  Then play the dramatized version of the story for them and compare.

Next, have students try their own scat singing with the audio tracks provided.  They could also try scat-speaking to a basic beat made with classroom rhythm instruments.  Finally, break the class into groups and have them come up with several new scat words and perform their scat verses for the class with the backing tracks on the CD.

Resources

Additionally, introduce them to some of the scat greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, and more!  Click here for a list of scat singing artists to pick from!

To learn more about other Freddie the Frog adventures, visit www.freddiethefrog.com.  Click here to browse the entire Freddie line of products.

 

Later Elementary

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
by Roxane Orgill
Illustrated by Francis Vallejo

867528 – Hardcover Book – $18.99

In 1958, Esquire magazine was running a special issue on American Jazz.  Art Kane, a graphic designer in New York, pitched an idea about getting a bunch of jazz musicians together to get a group shot in front of a brownstone in Harlem.  He sent out the invitation but had no idea how many or who would show up.  What resulted was a famous photograph that showcases 57 of jazz’s most famous personalities – all in one place.

This book is a unique collection of poems that re-create this special day.  There are poems about specific musicians, about what to wear, about the boys on the street, and even one about who wasn’t there (Duke Ellington).  In the back of the book are biographies of each musician in the photo, information about how the picture inspired movies and other articles, plus a bibliography of the books, articles, videos, and websites used to create this book.  This is a wealth of information for any student of jazz!

Classroom Applications

Find a poster-size rendition of this famous photograph and hang it in your classroom a few days before introducing this book.  Next, have the students try to guess the context.

There are 21 poems in the book.  Break the students into groups of 2-3 and assign one of the poems to each group. You’ll most likely have poems left over. It is recommended to pick the poems that mark specific spots in the story or specific artists first. Then you can take the rest.  Next, have the students read the poem and explore the subject – whether it’s a musician, the photographer, the kids in the street, or the dress code. Then students will report back to the class in the order their poem happened in the book.  Students could add music to each poem to represents the artist or group of people and read the poem in a rhythmic fashion with the music underneath.

Have the students label all the musicians in the photo (on the poster) with post-it notes – the “key” is in the back of this book.  Leave the poster hanging in the room for all of April as you celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month!

Resources

Here are links to news stories and documentaries about the photo as a place to start:

New York Times: A Great Day in Harlem

Esquire: Jazz Photo 1959

The Guardian: A Great Day in Harlem

A Great Day in Harlem Documentary

 

Do You have a Book Lesson to Share? 

We get our best ideas from teachers in the field, and we are looking for guest bloggers for our next season of Children’s Books of the Month.  If you would like to share a children’s book (and your lesson for it) with us, send an email to Andrea (apelloquin@westmusic.com) with the book and your lesson idea.  Thanks in advance for sharing your expertise with our West Music Community!

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