Music And Storytelling

A few months ago, the wonderful Tiny Owl children’s book publisher @TinyOwl_Books messaged me to ask if I would be interested in a copy of their new book, The Phoenix Of Persia by Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sherif to review. When it arrived, it was a visual delight for the eyes, but also presented a beautifully crafted story that would appeal to all ages. Then I discovered the magic of the musical element. Running alongside the story, you can play a musical soundtrack, that brings the story alive in a whole new way. I immediately knew I wanted to base my next unit of music around it.

Tiny Owl have put together a wonderful teaching guide, that gives a variety of ideas how to use the book, and I used their Skeleton frame work to create 4 sessions.

Session One:

Before we even opened the book, I felt it was important to give the children an understanding of the culture, backstory and context of the book, so I made a PowerPoint to highlight key features. The children particularly enjoyed seeing video clips of the various instruments used in the book and quickly were discussing their favourite new instruments and how it made them feel unprompted.

We then settled down to listen to the story. I dimmed the lights, put on fairy lights and just let the magical story play using the QR code in the front of the book. You could have heard a pin drop. They were completely mesmerised and drawn into the story in a way I haven’t seen before. I observed children moving their hands and bodies unconsciously to music and not one child spoke until it finished.

We ended the session with orally appraising and discussing the book, and where they were spell bound and silent before, they made up for it with their boundless enthusiasm to talk about what they had just heard.

Session Two:

We listened to the story again, but this time I wanted them to specifically focus on how the music made them feel. What quality did it bring to the story? How do certain instruments make them feel at key parts in the story? Again the oral discussion was significant here. To finish the session, the children chose their favourite instrument to research and explain how it made them feel.Session Three:

Session three involved exploration of Iranian rhythms using 7 beat time. This was completely out of my expertise but the power of Teacher Twitter is the community of sharing. The wonderful @andykeegan jumped to my rescue and created some excellent video tutorials for the children to follow and copy. They were able to use this to follow and then eventually created their own 7 beat rhythms. Thanks again Andy!

Session Four:

The final session involved the children creating their own musical soundtrack to accompany the story. I split the children in small groups of 3 and gave each child a page from the book. They then had to select instruments to represent the characters and provide rhythmical backdrop. When the music trolley comes out, it is like cat nip for kids and inevitably letting them just bash and crash for 5 mins is part of the joy. Once, the novelty wore off, careful focusing to keep them on task was needed.

When using the drums, I reminded them to use the 7 beat rhythms. I also reminded them of the impact haunting melodies had if using a recorder. One child in the group would read their section of the story, and the other members provide the musical accompaniment.

Once the groups were secure in their creativity and section, we made a circle and sat in order for the story. I then just allowed them to become the musical and oral storytellers. The piece flowed from group to group and was a very magical moment seeing the end result.

I have thoroughly loved using this book in our music lessons this half term and would like to thank Tiny Owl again for giving my class this opportunity.

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