Always Go With The Flow- Books and Singing

From books, to mending, to singing

I have so many books in my classroom for children to access all the time.  Books are the doorway to learning.  If they’re available for children at all times, reading becomes exciting.  It certainly is in my classroom.

Every September, our books become torn, “well loved.”  The good thing is children are constantly reading books.  Reminders of taking care of books often go out the window when school begins.  In an effort to bring taking care of books into a hands-on lesson, I decided to set up a book mending table as an activity.  Children brought me any and all books that needed mending.  They watched me carefully tape rips so that words and illustrations matched.  They were fascinated.  More importantly, they got a big dose of book care.  There’s nothing better than hands-on learning.

What happened next was a surprise.  Thank goodness I always go with the flow.

I mended a favorite book, This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.

Children love this book.  The illustrations are so detailed that we often have an impromptu history lesson, from the Grand Canyon to Manhattan Island.  Interestingly, the cover of the book refers to the pictures as paintings, not illustrations.  That speaks to why children are drawn in.  We love singing the song, the words to the book.  My goodness, it was nearly on its last legs, so there was a lot of repair work involved.  As I taped the pages I couldn’t help but sing the words to myself, quietly.  The children who were with me, watching the mending, must have felt like a warm blanket had covered them.  They snuggled in and looked at the page.  They began to sing, too.

Music is the arrow that pierces the heart.  Books are the doorway to the heart.  The combination of the two is remarkable.

Singing a book makes the words come to life.  Well, music and singing makes life come alive.  I sing at school all the time, and rarely is it structured.  The playground and the bathroom have been the best places to sing, because it just happens.  A look, a hug, a sad face… that is a recipe for singing.  It doesn’t matter what I sing, it only matters that I sing.

Music is a stimulant to the brain.  Movement is a stimulant to the brain.  Put the two together, and children learn!  It was only natural that I pulled out the autoharp to sing “This Land is Your Land” after our book mending and singing.  With the autoharp we stood, belted out the song, moved and jumped.  It was a good thing.

Read with no boundaries and stop at every word or moment.  Sing with no agenda and stop to rhyme or be funny, or to help a child.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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71 Responses to Always Go With The Flow- Books and Singing

  1. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is another wonderful post from an excellent teacher!

  2. What a sweet sweet story and beautiful and practical way of learning to read and care

  3. This is so lovely, Jennie. I shared this to my Facebook page @SirChocolateBooks.

  4. Darlene says:

    I loved the video clip. There is so much energy and enthusiasm there!! Such a great song too. I used the Canadian version when I taught English as a Second Language. Music is such a great learning tool.

  5. beetleypete says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the mending of the books. So much better than just replacing them with new ones. Delightful to see you and the kids enjoying the song too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  6. Dan Antion says:

    I can’t help but feel the fun in this post. My father always said: “if you can read, you can do anything” and he always encouraged us to read.

  7. What a wonderful description of your day, Jennie, that I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely agree with going with the flow. Your children learned so much, even though it might not have been exactly what you planned! And they had so much fun in the process. 😊 – Susan

  8. I loved this post Jeannie. It’s so inspiring, and uplifting. I need to add that book to my library!

  9. Great post, Jennie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I wish I could be a kid in your classroom. 😀

  10. ren says:

    Loved your book medic table! I recall sharing the caring of books with my youngins, decades ago. Handle books with love, put back on shelf when done, be sure hands are clean before grabbing a book, etc. Books are made of paper. They will wear and tear.
    When I see other families allowing their kids to ‘abuse or neglect’ their reading books, my heart sinks and mourns, “Oh, poor books!”. So I look for the bright side and feel a huge thank you arise to the parents, for having books and reading to, their young children.

  11. The art, the words, the music…all weave that magic spell of being alive and being human! A wonderful post!

  12. Cecilia says:

    Absolutely wonderful! You have a great way with children!

  13. John Fioravanti says:

    A remarkable recipe for a happy and effective learning environment, Jennie! Kudos! Loved the video clip!

  14. Great idea to have the children witness the book mending at the beginning of the school year. And that video! What fun! It’s like I was right in your classroom. And you said it, they were really belting out the words! 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Marcia. I’m really happy I set up the book mending activity- many lessons there. I’m glad you liked the video. The children were so engaged, and it was fun! 😀

  15. thank you for this…I needed to see you and your kiddos singing with no agenda but to ‘be’.

  16. I do so like each and every one of your posts Jennie. You capture the essence of childhood imagination and the love of learning from a teacher who loves what she does. Thank you.

  17. Luanne says:

    I love this, Jennie! I know my love of poetry started with music. I had a little record player and some 45s when I was very very young, and I used to play them over and over again. They kept me from being lonely when I had to stay in my bedroom too much (naptime, time-out, very early bedtime). And then I learned the singsong nursery rhymes, eventually graduating to children’s poems. It was all a continuum of music and words, one leading to the next and then to the next.

  18. You are such a good teacher, children love to sing and combining it with books is wonderful.

  19. Liz Leighton says:

    This is a wonderful story and your students are lucky to have you as a teacher. I grew up in a very poor rural area and never had a teacher such as you. This was a long time ago. I was very fortunate because my parents were very different than my classmate’s parents. They both understood the importance of reading and education. I learned to love and treasure books long before I entered school because my Mother read to us all the time. Even though we were very poor, my Father always made sure we had plenty of books to read. This is what really struck me about your story: My Mother was constantly singing. Sometimes she would make up tunes and sing the books to us. Sometimes she would just make up lyrics and tunes as just a way of communicating with us. My sisters and I were never awakened by an alarm clock on school mornings when we were young. We woke to the sound of my Mother singing. She just made up lyrics that were never the same and the tune was always different. She is gone now but I will always be thankful for these wonderful memories and the love of reading that my sisters and I share to this day. Thank you for reminding me of this with your post. Teachers like you are a wonderful gift to the world.

    • Jennie says:

      My goodness, what a wonderful story. Thank you for that. Your mother sounds like me. I now get to sing anything and everything when I visit my grandchildren. Doing it every day at school is the best! Thank you for reading the post. I’m so glad it resonated with you.

  20. reocochran says:

    Yes, yes and always! Children love hearing singing! I’m blessed to read how you had your book repair table set up. I was especially loving this book, too. I would have to look at my tags on the full page of my book but I’m pretty sure Woody Guthrie is there somewhere!
    I made up songs for walking in a line, going to the bus or gym. . . Usually to tunes I already knew.
    To the Farmer in the Dell tune, I sang “We’re going to the bus, we’re going to the bus. Hi ho, the derry-o! We’re going to the bus.”
    Two of my autistic children’s preschool parents came in and recorded the songs and subbed “Going to the car” while having errands and used the people at church or at family functions in the song about being in the kitchen.
    They said songs calmed their children and any time we had a new one, we would let the parents know. Our newsletters were time-consuming but worthwhile.
    The Romper Room song we sang: “Good morning to you, good morning to you, we’re all in our places, with bright shining faces. This is the way we greet a new day.”🎶
    At playdough tabletime, we sang “Someone’s in the kitchen (we used cookie cutters) with _____ (each name in the group going clockwise. . . Repeating first line)” “Strumming on the old banjo!”
    It is the second part of “I’ve been working on the railroad.” Usually “Dinah” is the one in the kitchen. 🤗

    • Jennie says:

      I LOVE this, Robin. It is exactly what I do. Every chance I get… even in the bathroom. To Diana, I substitute the first letter in their name to Fe-Fi-Fiddley- I-Oh. So, Nancy becomes Ne-Ni-Niddley-Ni-No. Thank you soooo much for this, for making my day. 😀

      • reocochran says:

        So really cool that you found the tune which really works, Jennie. It is a continuation of story telling, chants and songs around ancient campfires. 🔥🕯
        It is within us, released as we play, sing, read and include activities which involve children in active learning. 🎶

      • Jennie says:

        Yes, it is! Ancient campfires… I love that. Thank you for putting words to what really happens with singing and music.

  21. ~M says:

    You’re such a great teacher Jennie! I loved this… 🙂

  22. Lara/Trace says:

    This warms my heart so much! Thank you Jennie!

  23. dgkaye says:

    Love your inspirational posts Jennie. My gosh the world could use more Jennie’s in the world to teach the young ones growing up in this chaotic time of right and wrong. This Land is the perfect book and song for children. 🙂

  24. Anu sharma says:

    There’s a way to do everything.. for children we have to find a way to make things easier for them.
    Learning through music, dancing and practically doing and seeing the things make it fun

  25. Ellen Hawley says:

    I can’t help thinking ol’ Woody would’ve been pleased.

  26. Pingback: Bookish Meet & Greet – Usborne Books and More With Niki

  27. Libby Sommer says:

    love the video. so cute. and your musical accompaniment. wonderful. what a fabulous teacher you are.

  28. Fabulous post, Jennie. I’m now following your approach when teaching older adults memoir writing at a local community center. Instead of pre-preparing my lessons I now ‘go with the flow’ and give the writers what they need at that particular time. Many thanks for your insights and observations

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Glenice. It took me many years to ‘go with the flow’, and now it is the most natural thing to do. I’m so glad you are following this approach. It really makes a difference. Please let me know how your writing class responds. Best to you!

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