This post may contain affiliate links. You pay the same and I get a small commission. Yay!
All month, I have been sharing Jazz resources with you (since April is Jazz month!). I shared ideas for incorporating jazz and a jazz lesson on the song Blue Skies (which includes scarves!). This week I have another jazz lesson on the song A Train.
Now, if it is not April, do not panic. Jazz is great to teach all year long, and can be used to incorporate many different aspects of music—pitch, steady beat, instruments, mood, etc.
This lesson has some steady beat, but the bulk or it is actually making up lyrics for a writing connection. Because as we all know, incorporating academics is very important. I did this lesson with K-2, but you can definitely tier it up and use it with older students.
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.
A Train Jazz Lesson
Focus: I can keep a steady beat while listening to Jazz. I can make up my own lyrics based on the song A Train. Materials:
- Take the A Train recording (by Ella Fitzgerald here)
- White board
- Expo markers
- Crayons (I like to get these packs so everyone has their own)
- Paper (here is some for younger grades)
- Side note—If you are in need of supplies, try Donor’s Choose.
- I started this lesson with a review of the song Blue Skies from the week before (which you can read in this lesson). Students kept the steady beat, moved their hands up and down with the contour of the melody on the chorus, and pretended to play each instrument during the solos.
- Tell them: We’re going to listen to another jazz song. This one is a little bit different, because at the beginning, they use instruments to sound like something that is not an instrument. If you think you have figured it out, give me a quiet thumbs up.
- Have students close their eyes and listen to the beginning. I always have them close their eyes because than they are not concerned with their neighbors. Be prepared, some of them will start laughing, because it is funny.
- Ask: What did that sound like? (Keep letting them guess until they guess train) It sounds like a train! They use a drum to sound like the tracks, and a trumpet to sound like the whistle. What do you think the song will be about? Let’s see where we are going on the train…
- Allow students to listen to the rest of the song, and determine where the train is taking them (to Harlem).
- Tell them: This song is like a map. It is giving people directions to Harlem. Harlem is a place in New York where people would gather and write songs, write stories, make paintings, and do other artsy things.
- You can do the next part as a class or individually (or in small groups!). Have students come up with three directions to get to Harlem—the sillier the better! I put things on the board like “Go over….” And let them fill in the blanks. With some classes, I had three people pick and we wrote them on the board as class lyrics. Some classes have better writing skills, so they got to make up their own.
- Have students write their three directions and then “That’s how we get to Harlem!” on the bottom.
- Have students illustrate their map. Make sure they show all of the directions.
- Put on some Jazz music while you finish up!
- Have students share their maps with their classmates.
PS– Here is a really great video of Duke Ellington’s band playing the song!
And there you have it! This was a hit (even though I made them write) with all of my classes. And for those who cannot handle pencils and clipboards (yes, I have those classes and if you need some help with them you can read here), we came up with lyrics and then we just danced in our seats to the music.
If you’re looking for digital options, I have many different digital jazz lessons on Google Slides. There’s a Virtual Field Trip to Harlem, lessons about artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, a Slides lesson all about jazz (including instruments and scatting!), and more!
What is your favorite jazz song or lesson? Let us know in the comments!