Friday, March 25, 2016

The Mitten

One of my absolute favorite lessons each year goes along with the children's book, The Mitten, by Jan Brett.

I got this idea from my mentor teacher years ago and have adapted it and tweaked it over the years. I use it as a way to culminate the major units that my first graders have been studying throughout the year - rhythm patterns and basic mallet skills. It is also a great way to ease them into preparing for their Spring Musical.

First, I read the story to the students and we discuss the various characters in the book. For each character, we learn a rhythm pattern and I have the students practice playing the rhythms on various percussion instruments.

Then, I teach the students a song that goes with the book. We add a simple bordun and an octave glockenspiel part at the end of each phrase.

Finally, we add some actors! I choose students to represent each character and they follow the narration of the book. I created some masks that I printed from Jan Brett's website, laminated them, and added some elastic bands.

I used a cheap white sheet and cut it into the shape of a mitten for the actors to sit on top of during their performance.

After the students have practiced all of the parts, we put together a performance that we show to their classroom teacher. As the story is read, one student plays the rhythm pattern on the percussion instrument while that character "gets into" the mitten. When the bear sneezes in the story, the actors toss the mitten up into the air and pretend to fall into the snow while the percussionists play all together. We begin and end the performance with our mitten song accompanied by the mallet instruments.


If you have larger classes, you can add actors for Nicki and his grandmother, Baba. You can also double instrument parts and even add sound effects on the sneeze part (think: crank, vibraslap, slapstick, etc.) This activity makes a great "informance" piece at PTO meetings or other school events.

The students LOVE it and it is definitely a crowd-pleaser for teachers, too. Fun and learning - that's how we roll at HSES! :)