Submitted by Caryn Mears, Kennewick, Washington

Idea posted April 19, 2004

I use a "Composer of the Month" idea with all grade levels, first through fifth grade. Originally, I chose the composers from the Composer Birthday list at the back of the Music K-8 magazine (also available in the Downloads area). However, there are just too many composers for one year. I rotate eight different composers a year for two years, so I cover about 16 composers.

I ordered two different books that have CD accompaniment. One is "Magnificent Seven: Great Composers in Song" and the sequel to that. Both are by John Carter, Mary Kay Beall, and Alan Billingsly. They include a rhyming script, which I put up on the board, and each day the students come to the music room, we read a stanza. By the time the month is over, the students pretty much have the information memorized. Some of the scripts I tweek a bit to suite what I want the students to know.

Also included is one of the Composer of the Month's famous songs for the students to sing along with or present as a performance. We usually have a culminating activity (i.e., we can listen to a song, draw pictures, dance to a song, pretend we are directing a song, watch a video of the composer's life, read a book about the composer, or have an assembly in conjunction with the composer's music). In December, we use Tchaikovsky because our fifth graders get to go see The Nutcracker. I then do the story The Nutcracker with the rest of the students. This month, we are learning about a jazz composer because the middle school jazz band is coming to our school to do a concert.

I will also add additional composers. John Phillips Souza and Edvard Grieg are not in the book, but I can't resist their wonderful contributions to today's music. The students love listening to commercials on TV and recognizing "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" on the Keebler cookies commercial.

By rotating the composers, the students can get a lot more composers covered than just doing the units in their textbooks. It is amazing the number of parents who have said, "I'm so impressed with the fact that my child wants to buy Handel's Surprise Symphony!" The students themselves also remember and say, "Can we listen to the story, 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King?'" In addition to the above activities, I also do all of the activities in Smart Music with first through fifth grade, and I modify as appropriate. The students love it. We do a little each day, and by the end of the month they have learned the "Composer of the Month."