The Autoharp

I had just met the children.  The classroom was overflowing with eager parents and not-so-eager children.  New + big + different = scary. For fifteen minutes we looked at each other, me smiling and children with big worried eyes.  The classroom may have looked wonderful, but all that children could see were too many other people – and new teachers.

I knew just what to do.  I pulled out the autoharp.

It’s big.  Really big, with twenty-one strings.  I sat down and put it on my lap.  Suddenly there wasn’t a sound in the room.  Nobody said a word.  I looked at the autoharp and touched a string.

Me:  “The strings make sounds.  Like this.”

And then I plucked a few strings, from low to high, pausing between each sound.  At the last one I winced my face, readying for the tiniest string that would play a really, really high sound.  This was fascinating.

Me:  “Now, if I push a button and play all the strings, it makes music.  Not just sounds.  Music!

My face is excited, and I… do it.  I push a button, strum the strings.  Then I do another button.  And another.  Still, no one has said a word.  Children are entranced.

Me:  “I know, let’s play music and sing a song.  Oh, there’s a song I think you know.  See if you can guess what it is.”

And, I play ‘The ABC Song’.  Children were eager to sing along, of course.  Oh, did they ever sing!  Now they were part of what was happening.  I was connecting with children.

Me:  “Wait!  There’s another song that has exactly the same tune.  It sounds just like ‘The ABC Song’.  See if you know what it is.”

I began to play ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.  Children immediately sang.  Two children stood up to sing.  Actually, they belted out the song.  We all had the best time together.  I looked straight at every child.  I was smiling and singing.  They were, too.  It felt good.  It was a moment, a big one.  I know the school year will be just fine.


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.
This entry was posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Inspiration, joy, Kindness, music, preschool, Singing, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder, young children and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

69 Responses to The Autoharp

  1. Ritu says:

    It’s amazing how music brings us together and breaks down barriers!!!

  2. Darlene says:

    What a terrific way to break the ice. Have a fabulous year ahead!! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

  3. Opher says:

    I can just see you. What a perfect way to start. Music is universal. It breaks down all barriers. Keep smiling Jennie.

  4. Aww perfect.. can imagine the widest smile ever..

  5. Ellen says:

    “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato. Music speaks to each of us and sometimes for us. Your school year is beginning on a happy note! Thank-you and best wishes!

  6. beetleypete says:

    A magical start to another school year. I am eagerly anticipating hearing about those coming adventures in education. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  7. Perfect icebreaker, Jennie.

  8. Lovely post on inspired action

  9. ren says:

    ….and A is for Autoharp, in Jennie’s class.
    Great start to another grand year ahead!

  10. You are a natural, Jennie – ‘music is to be shared’ and you are/have been doing this for years…remember your ‘I can’t …yet’ moment? Makes me think you have a musician’s heart, hon.

  11. frenchc1955 says:

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

  12. srbottch says:

    What a ‘nincompoop’ (I like that word…so does my wife), I just realized that those two songs have the same tune. Thanks, Jennie! I’m learning in your class…😉

  13. SatyaPriya says:

    Beautiful. Heartening.

  14. Norah says:

    This is gorgeous, Jennie. What a brilliant start to the year. I know you’re going to have a wonderful year of learning together.

  15. I think you are one of the most amazing teachers I have ever known. You clearly love your work and the children you teach. Thank you for that; it is so needed in today’s world.

  16. beautiful-Music is a treasure and quite a magical tool.

  17. Dan Antion says:

    What a wonderful way to ease them into a happy place. You’re the best, Jennie!

  18. A is also for angel! You are heaven sent, Jennie. Happy wings to you and your class! Loved your weapon of mass distraction — no more jittery nerves. 🎶🎵😊

  19. Wow! Flashback to Mrs. Miller in the third grade! I had forgotten having a teacher who did this exact same thing!

  20. L. Marie says:

    Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher!

  21. Clever. This is something that won’t quickly be forgotten.

  22. I am sure this was a very special first day for your children, Jennie.

  23. Awww. What a great way to break the ice, Jennie, and get all the kids feeling comfortable. You’re off to a great year. 🙂

  24. So vivid. You are so good with children!

  25. dgkaye says:

    Now, you know how to captivate an audience Jennie! Happy new school year! 🙂

  26. Jennie, you presented this post so beautifully. I’m sorry to be late. I was right there in the classroom, watching you play the autoharp. I remember a teacher from long, long ago who had one, but I don’t remember who she was. So she must have been a temp or a visitor. I was fascinated with it too. Loved your two little stars belting out the song. Hugs!

    • Jennie says:

      See, Maya Angelou was right. We may not remember what people said, but we do remember how they made us feel. Hats off to your teacher from long ago. Thanks so much for your warm words, Teagan! Hugs to you. 😍

  27. Two stood up to belt it out! I love that!! Sounds like your year together started off on the right note. 🎵😊

  28. Great post! As I read I found myself right there sitting in the room with you watching the kids sing. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s