While lesson planning, I kept finding all of these songs about bears. And I thought, I should do a bear unit. One of my top ideas was to sing and play the song Grizzly Bear. If you have been around Pinterest or any music blog, you will find people playing and singing Grizzly Bear to teach dynamics. At some point that caused my bear unit to because a piano and forte unit with mice and bears.
Now, you may have read that and thought, “Wait– what?”
Yes. I am teaching my first graders that mice are piano and bears are forte. It gives them a visual to put with the words, and it allows me to tie in all of the bear and mice songs with it!
I did mice and bear songs all week long– we sang:
- Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?
- Grizzly Bear
- We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
- Mouse Mousie
- Hickory Dickory Dock
We did those five songs plus a bunch of other activities– responding to piano and forte on drums, moving our bodies piano and forte to music, and– what I am really going to talk about today– playing instruments piano and forte.
Also read: Beat v. Rhythm with Soul Music
Mice and Bears for Piano and Forte
- First, warm up with Hickory Dickory Dock. I like to do some actions with this nursery rhyme. We start on the floor and keep the beat on our legs. On “the mouse ran up”, we pretend our fingers are mice and stand up. For “the clock struck”, open your arms like the hands of a clock. Then we have the “mouse” go back down at the end.
- Ask the students: “Is a mouse loud or soft? We have a special word for soft. We call it piano. Can you say piano?” I always have them whisper it so that they think of it as being quiet.
- Then, ask what kind of animals are loud. They will say a bunch or things, but we keep going until I lead them to bears.
- Next, pick one of the bear songs so sing. I suggest Grizzly Bear, because it has dynamics built into it, so it emphasizes the point.
- Tell them, “In music we have a special word for loud– forte. Can you say forte?” (side note– there are slides for this dialogue in my Piano and Forte Rhythm cards set)
- Now onto the instruments! Get some rhythm cards ready. You can make them and put a bear or mouse clip art onto them. Or you could print a picture of a bear and a mouse and just hold them next to the rhythm cards. Or you could just tell them whether to play forte or piano. I have a set of ta-titi-rest rhythm cards in my TPT that I used. They come with both stick notation and regular notation. You can get them here.
- Next, have students play rhythms on instruments. My go-tos are rhythm sticks and egg shakers. Alternate between piano cards and forte cards.
- After students play instruments, have them write their own rhythm. You could use the heartbeat charts in my FREE resource library do this. (Sign up here!) Have them draw a mouse or a bear next to their rhythm so that they can choose whether it should be piano or forte.
So there we go! This is just one day of my five-lesson-long bear and mouse and piano and forte unit with my first graders. Of course, many of these activities can be used with students older or younger depending on your group, but I used it with first grade.
What are your favorite bear or mouse songs? How could you make this lesson better– maybe with puppets? Let me know in the comments!
And don’t forget to sign up for my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY. Once you sign up, you will get a password so that you can download any or all of the resources– including the heart beat charts I mentioned in this lesson. Make sure to check your email every other week to hear about any new items going up in the library. If you’re already a member, go to the resource library here.
And you can check our my Piano and Forte rhythm cards here.