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April is Jazz month! The last few weeks, we’ve been talking all about ideas for teaching jazz (you can check out ideas for upper grades here or for lower grades here). Today, we’re talking all about activities for What a Wonderful World in elementary music.
I use this song with every grade level, just with different activities and different focuses. In the ideas below, I let you know what grade it will work with the best.
You can do all six of these activities with this What a Wonderful World Google Slides lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers. This is an interactive lesson from students to learn about and listen to the song. They’ll learn about Louis Armstrong, the instruments of jazz, the lyrics of the song, and it’s interactive!
If you want a FREE Jazz Google Slides activity, you can click here to grab the FREE Google Slide March Madness style bracket. It features 16 different jazz artists. Students will listen to two of the (imbedded!) songs, and vote for their favorite. Their favorite will then go to the semi and quarter finals until there is only one left.
Learn about Louis!
First off, I like to teach kids a couple of things about Louis Armstrong and jazz, so that they have a little bit of context. I try to add a few facts about musicians and composers as we learn the songs instead of spending a lot of time talking about a particular person.
Louis Armstrong is a particularly important person because he was present at the beginning of jazz, so he is integral to the style.
It also gives me a chance to let them know that he has a rough voice, so that they expect that and aren’t surprised (read: don’t start laughing) when they hear it.
Put them in order
After listening to a little bit, I’ll have the kids get manipulatives with each of the thing that Louis sings about. As we listen, the kids put these manipulative in order. This ensures that they are listening intently so that they know what order it comes it.
It also helps them to learn the song, because after this, you’ll have most of the lyrics in the correct order in front of you.
This year, we are doing a digital version of the same thing. The students are using the Google Slides What a Wonderful World lesson to drag the virtual manipulatives into the correct order.
It’s the same thing, just digital!
I typically do this with second or third grade.
Learn the Sign Language
This year, we’ve been learning a lot of sign language. With the kids on Zoom (or in class but not being able to sing), it is an interesting way to teach a song even if they aren’t singing. Or you can’t hear them.
I like to do sign language with fourth and fifth grade. We’ve done it with the National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing, so this was a natural extension.
I am not an ASL pro, but you can watch this video to learn some of the hand signs.
More Jazz Songs!
While we’re doing jazz, we might as well learn more jazz songs.
One of my favorites to pair with What a Wonderful World is Blue Skies by Ella Fitzgerald. This is one of my all time favorites, and I’ve used it with every grade K-5.
Typically, we trace the melody, and then keep the back beat the rest of the time.
Blue Skies has a similar theme to What a Wonderful World, plus you can talk about how Ella and Louis often sang together.
Looking for more?
While we’re talking about What a Wonderful World, we will add in a writing or writing and drawing activity.
There’s two different prompts that I like to go with:
- What makes our world wonderful?
- What could we do to make our world more wonderful?
The second prompt is even more important this year, because of all of the craziness that has been the 2020 and 2021. This can also lead into discussions about what happened at the capitol in January, the racism that is still around, and more.
The biggest thing about this prompt is that it encourages students to take responsibility to make the world better. Each of us should do our best to make the world better, and they can do this too.
Books for What a Wonderful World
And finally, there are two picture books that go along with the song. I have this one (click on the picture to view on Amazon):
A lot of music teachers also have this one:
So there you go! Six activities to teach What a Wonderful World. Which one is your favorite? Do you do something different? Share your ideas on Instagram and tag me @beccasmusicroom so I can see!