This summer we are trying something different with this series: we’re sharing the lesson ideas for children’s literature from our customers! We put out a call over the last few months for potential lessons, and we received many to pick from! (We’re still accepting lesson submissions – see the end of this blog for details). This month we are only featuring one book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”, but we’re sharing two different lessons for it! These were both too good – and different from each other – to not include them both. Enjoy!
by Bill Martin, Jr. & Eric Carle
#840110 – Board Book – $8.99
Lesson Idea #1
by Maren McNeil
General Music & Choir
Olympia Brown Elementary School – Racine, Wisconsin
This year I did a short creative unit on “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” with my 1st graders. This is a book they know from their PreK, KG, and 1st grade classrooms, and it is one we often read/sing during music class, so both the story and melody are familiar to students.
I start by having the whole class sing the call (example: Brown Bear Brown Bear, what do you see?), and I sing the response (example: I see a red bird looking at me). As they get more familiar with the story, I will ask the class to predict what animal comes next before I turn the pages. I’ve even had students want to do my part!
Next, we do a movement activity; as I sing the story, they have to move through the space like that animal without making a sound! At the end of the book when it lists all the animals, they must do a stationary movement for each one.
To prepare them for creating their own books, I ask them to come up with their own color and animal not found in the book. Everyone starts by singing “brown bear…” and then I start the circle with a color and animal. Everyone sings the call, and then each student gets to individually sing their response.
I bought a book template online containing pre-made pages with lines and covers for the books. I do an example with the class on the board, and then they each get to make their own books. This takes several music classes.
After they are finished with their books, they get to partner up and sing their book to a partner. Some like to sing them to the whole class.
Additionally, as we are doing this unit, I add an addition to our Hello Song every day. We sit in a circle and we sing the melody, but instead of singing animals, we sing each other’s names. They all start by singing my name: “Mrs. McNeil, Mrs. McNeil, who do you see?” and then I pick one student (ex: “I see Johnny looking at me.”) The class would sing the call, and students individually sing responses. After the student has been picked, they sit down, and we go until everyone has been sung to. The last student sings my name again, and I end with: “I see ______’s class looking at me.” This is a great way for me to informally assess their singing!
I will definitely be bringing this unit back next year! The kids love it!
Lesson Idea #2
Lesson by Claire Daubney
General Music Specialist
Bluffsview Elementary – Worthington, Ohio
The following instruments can be added to the singing of the melody. Students should play a simple “Ta Ta” (quarter, quarter) pattern each time their animal is mentioned. The only exception to that would be the glockenspiel, which can play a simple glissando for two beats.
Brown Bear – Hand Drum Purple Cat – Triangle
Red Bird – Glockenspiel (glissando) White Dog – Cowbell
Yellow Duck – Woodblock Black Sheep – Maracas
Blue Horse – Temple Blocks Gold Fish – Finger Cymbal
Green Frog – Guiro
Some Final Thoughts:
- Feel free to substitute instruments as you see fit, depending on your teaching situation and the resources available to you.
- As far as the accompaniment is concerned, I suggest the Teacher play the bass xylophone part if you are using this with your youngest students (like Kindergarten). It is possible that you may have some First graders who could keep a steady enough beat to accompany the class but use your best judgment!
- A good way to start would be to have the Teacher sing the melody as the book is presented to the class. Encourage students to join in singing as they become familiar with the melody.
- You may find it helpful to make some sort of visual cue for students to remember what animal matches with their instrument. For copyright purposes, I could not include artwork from the book, but you might choose to do that for use in your own classroom.
- Instruments too much for your students, or looking for a different activity? Use the melody and hand out color scarves for each of the animals. Have students stand in a scattered formation in your space, and creatively move and wave their scarves when their color and animal come up in the song.
Send Us Your Lessons!
If you have a lesson that you’ve used with your elementary students involving a children’s book that you’d like to share, send it in a Word document to Andrea Pelloquin at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll let you know when we might use it in a future blog!
Andrea Pelloquin is the Education Consultant specializing in print materials, recorders, Nuvo instruments, and puppets at West Music. She is a former public school music teacher and has spent the last 15 years in the world of music publishing and retail. She has also maintained a private flute and piano studio for over 20 years. She welcomes suggestions and recommendations from our community of teachers.