Most music teachers include lots of books in their elementary music classes. I see this all the time on social media, in trainings, and in classrooms. But can I admit something to you? When I was first starting out, I felt like i was very unclear as to HOW to go about incorporating books. Like– what do you actually do with them? (And don’t say read them.)
A while later, and I am (finally!) starting to get the hang of using books in my normal classroom life. So if you are thinking, “I want to use books but I don’t know how!” Then this post is for you.
One book that I did not struggle with incorporating is the book I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello— a title which will from here on out be shortened, because wow that is long. I got this book from my mentor teacher during student teaching and I love it. It is based off of the There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly books, but everything the shy fellow swallows is an instrument!
Seriously, I love it.
And so do the kids.
So I figured it is the perfect book to introduce to you. Here are a few different ways that you can use this book in your classroom– some of them you could incorporate tomorrow.
If you don’t already have the book, you can get it here for cheap!
Acting it Out
This is one of my personal favorites.
As you read the book, have students look at the pictures of each of the instruments. Have them mime with their hands how to play the instruments. So every time you say cymbals, students can pretend to hit cymbals together in their hands. When you say cello, they can hold one hand up and use the other to play the imaginary bow.
This gets the students involved in the story annnnd the added bonus is that they are now thinking about how each instrument is played rather than “Oh a cello is some kind of instrument I’ve never heard of before.”
Speaking of which….
Show and Tell
For instrument show and tell, you can read the book and then have students look at pictures or posters for each instrument and talk about how it is played.
If you have any of these instruments (and, btw, you can get a fancy silver kazoo on Amazon for cheap here), bring them in! I love to bring in my cello and show the students what it looks like and how it is played. They are always super amazed (and impressed by my Mary Had a Little Lamb rendition).
Oh course, you probably don’t own a cello AND a harp AND a saxophone AND a flute AND cymbals AND all of the other things, but if you have one of them, it is still going to make a huge difference for the students.
And again. Kazoo.
Introduction to Instrument Families
This is what I used for my students this year, and it worked really well. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade about the instrument families. Later on, we read this book. While reading the book, I stopped at each instrument and had the students tell me what family that instrument belonged to. If they were correct, then they got to go to the board and put the picture of the instrument onto the section of the board.
For example, after the shy fellow swallowed the cello, I asked, “What instrument family is the cello in?” Athena says, “Oh it’s in the string family!” Athena walks up to the board, finds the cello, and puts it in the section of the board labelled “strings”.
By the way, Athena is my dog, not one of my students. She is sitting next to me while I write this, so I thought I would include her.
A few days later, I have the student do pretty much the same activity but on a printed worksheet. Students write or draw the names of each of the instruments in the boxes that correlate with that instrument’s family.
Did you know that there is a song that goes with the There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly books? There is!
Here is the best video I can find that has the melody, although we did it much faster than this.
I use the original book at the beginning of the year with my kinders to show the students the difference between singing voice and talking voice (read about that lesson here!). So I read it one day and I sing it another day.
This one is a little bit trickier, but cumulative songs like this are fun to use with instruments. You assign each instrument a word in the song, and every time the word comes, you have a student play that instrument.
Parts of this book would be perfect, and others would take more creativity. Cymbals and a bell would be easy to come by, but finding an alternative to a cello or harp that won’t confuse the students would be more challenging.
Although, it would be a perfect time to pull out all of the autoharps in my closet that I don’t know what to do with…
If you have done this before or have a good idea for which instruments to use in your classroom, let me know in the comments!
Also read: The Tick Tock Song (sol/mi and ta/titi)
So there are 5 ways to use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in your elementary music classroom! If you need the book, you can check it out here. If you are interested in the product on TPT so you can have more resources (many of which are really great for subs!), you can check that out here.
And don’t forget to sign up for the FREE resource library– all you do is put your email in, and you have access to all of the resources in the library (including quizzes, powerpoint, beat charts, lyric sheets, and more!)– and new resources are added monthly! Sign up here!