Books, Elementary Music, Lessons

Book Based Lessons for Elementary Music

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When thinking about going back to school– from six feet away!– the first thing that came into my mind was books. Book based lessons for elementary music seemed like the most logical answer.

But how do we make books fun?

That is the question.

I love to read. I really, really love to read, and I always have. Once when I was young, I took the kitchen timer up to my room and setting it for an hour and reading the whole time. This was hard, because I was 6, and all of my books were very short, but I did it.

I’ve always loved reading because it’s always been a source of joy. It was fun. My parents read. My parents read with me. Books are where your imagination comes alive and you get transported to other worlds.

The fact that most of my students say they hate reading makes me very sad.

So that brings us back to the question: How do we make books fun? Especially when it comes to book lessons for socially distanced music classrooms?

I definitely don’t have all of the answers, but here are a few ideas….

Before we get started, I want to mention that I have a FREE PDF Guide for Teaching Music from 6 Feet Away. It includes games, songs, book ideas (not included in this article!), and more.

You can get if for FREE by clicking here!




Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?

How many times have I talked about this book lately?

I absolutely LOVE this book. So when I found out that you can sing it AND play a game with it…. I was sold.

You sing the book to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Then you play a singing game in which you use the song to have students solo sing.

  • All students get a stuffed animal, or a printed picture of an animal
  • All students sing, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?”
  • The student holding the brown bear looks around the room and picks another animal. They sing to that animal. So if they see a gorilla, they sing, “I see a Gorilla looking at me”
  • All students sing, “Gorilla, gorilla, what do you see?”

And if you need printed pictures instead of using stuffed animals (it’s more sanitary!), you can get them included in the Brown Bear lesson pack in my TPT store. It also includes a PowerPoint to go along with the whole lesson, and a printable lesson plan because…. everyone needs that. Get it here.


Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear?

After Brown Bear, this is the logical next step.

This book has the same format, but different animals. It talks about the noises that the animals make, so it uses words like “snarl” and “hiss”.

We usually do Brown Bear one week, and the next week, I pull this one out.

Then, I look up animal sounds on iTunes (I use Apple music, which is $10 a month and gives you access to EVERY song on iTunes. It was a game changer for my classroom.) or YouTube. Then we try to guess what animal sounds we hear!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was my favorite book when I was little. I still remember pulling it off the shelf and “reading” it before I could read– I actually had it memorized.

So I knew my students needed to fall in love with it too.

With this book, we keep the steady beat. Then we figure out the rhythm of a few common phrases, like “Chicka chicka boom boom” and “will there be enough room?”

They are all quarter and eighth note patterns.

Then I read through the book again, and the students play their castanets or drums or clap their hands because #socialdistance when we get to those parts of the book.

This lesson could easily be adapted for six feet away or even for distance learning in elementary music.

I have printable lesson directions, printable manipulatives, worksheets, and a powerpoint on Teachers Pay Teachers, which you can get here. Annnnnd I now have a digital version! You can get the digital version here!





Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa

This is probably the simplest of all of these book based lessons for elementary music. I don’t have a specific lesson to go along with Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, but I do like to read this book when we learn about salsa– which is typically around Hispanic Heritage Month.

Also see: Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month

This book is great for third graders or fourth graders, and teaches all about Celia Cruz, who was one of the most famous salsa singers… ever.

We typically learn about salsa (you get get free video lessons here) and then we read the book and talk about the word choices– they use very descriptive words!

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello

Am I allowed to have an all time favorite? Because I think this would be it.

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello is a hilarious book about a guy who goes around and swallows different instruments. We read it, we can sing it, we even act out the motions of each instrument.

And then, we talk about the instrument families and sort the instruments by which family they are in.

It’s amazing.

You can get the manipulatives, directions, and worksheets here. Annnd I now have a distance learning version on Google Slides, which you can get here!




You know the lessons that just hit it out of the park– the kids love it, they learn, you love it, and it’s great?

That’s how I feel about this one.

While learning about sol and mi, we learn the Cuckoo song (check it out here). It is only sol and mi, and it’s a call and response. So once we learn it, the students take turn holding our owl Bizet and making him sing the call part.

AKA I get to put an assessment grade in the grade book for solo singing.

Then, we read the book CuCu. As we read, every time we get to the word “cucu”, I sing it on sol and mi, and then the students echo it back.

It’s super simple, but it allows them to continue to be engaged in the story.

Afterwards, we drew pictures of what we think the cucu bird looked like, since in the story she is the prettiest bird around.



I Know an Old Mermaid who Swallowed a Shark

Typically, at the beginning of third grade, I like to do the song Seashell, Seashell as a review of half notes. Because of this, the first few weeks of third grade have turned into sea-themed lessons– we do Seashell, Seashell, Charlie Over the Ocean, and we use this book.

When we read it, we talk about the rhythm of the words. Every time the old lady swallows something, we figure out if it is a quarter note word, eighth notes, or half note.

It’s super simple, but it’s a really good review and they always love it.

You can get the lesson here! There are both digital (Google Slides and Google Forms) and printable versions of it.



What a Wonderful World

Our next book based lesson for elementary music is super simple:

  • First, talk about Louis Armstrong
  • Next, listen to the song, What a Wonderful World
  • Read the book
  • Then students can write or draw about what a wonderful world looks like

Giraffes Can’t Dance

I could keep going with book based lessons for elementary music, but I will restrain myself at last. For my last one, we have Giraffes Can’t Dance. This is a super cute book about how everyone can dance if you find the right music.

I like to do this book right after doing folk dancing. We read through the book, then we look at short YouTube videos of each of the dances mentioned in the book. (I have a Google Slides Presentation about it, which you can purchase by clicking here!)

Then comes the fun part.

Then, I put on some music, throw some animals on the screen, and we try to dance like that animal! So if it’s a cat, we crawl on the floor. If it’s a penguin, we do the waddle.

So. Much. Fun.

Then, we typically do one of my Zoo Animal Rhythm Activities. There are printable activities and Digital, plus there are Levels 1 (quarter, eighth, and rest) through level 4 (dotted eight sixteenth, triplet, whole notes), so whether I do this with kinder or with second grade, we’re covered.

You can check out all of the Zoo Animal Rhythm Activities here.

Books are a fun way to teach concepts to your elementary music students! In this post, we talk about 9 different book based music lessons that are FUN and easy to incorporate. There are lesson for grades kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Becca's Music Room


I could keep going but…. We have to stop sometime.

Which of these book based lessons for elementary music was your favorite? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Or if you have one that’s not up here, let us know!

Happy teaching!

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3 thoughts on “Book Based Lessons for Elementary Music”

  1. Thank you for some great new ideas for my Music Room. I have enjoyed watching your videos and will be purchasing some of your TPT products. Thank you! I will be using Brown Bear, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Cello and I Know An Old Mermaid Who Swallowed a Shark. Thank you again!

  2. I teach K- 6. What books do you recommend for me to use with my lesson plans and to teach the lessons?

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