Art and Music and Italy – Part 3

In Part 1, children began to learn about Italy through maps and a big atlas. First we ‘travelled’, then we learned fun facts (pretzels were invented in Italy, pasta was not).  We learned that opera is from Italy, and children listened to and watched a symphony orchestra.  I showed children major pieces of art, and they recognized Starry Night, as that poster hangs in our classroom.

In Part 2, I laid the foundation for creating our own art masterpieces, in preparation for our annual Art Show. We looked at important pieces of art once again, from The Scream, to Large Blue Horses, to Haystacks.  The colorful art of Kandinsky struck a chord, so we read the book, The Noisy Paintbox. Kandinsky was moved to paint the sounds he heard, after going to the opera.  Of course, we listened to an Italian opera, La bohéme.  Ah, the combination of art and music is powerful.

Part 3:
In order to properly introduce music, I needed the tools that would make music come alive for the children – a record player and record albums.


Children were spellbound as I lifted the lid.  I slowly touched and played with the turntable and the arm.  Then I pulled out a record album and put it on the player.  Children thought it was a giant CD.  I turned it on, explained how the needle works, and rubbed my finger across the needle – what a surprising sound.  When the moment came to play the record, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Italian, of course), the music was a giant wave of wonder.  The sounds poured out and filled the classroom.  Kandinsky must have felt the same way when he went to the opera.

“Do you hear that beautiful music?  Here is what happens when you hear music, just like the symphony and opera we listened to: the music goes into your ears, then it goes into your heart. When your heart is full, it goes out your fingertips, like shooting stars, and you can paint a masterpiece.”

Can you see me putting my hands over my heart and then shooting my arms and fingers out?

And so, we were ready to paint, using real artist paints in tubes.  We spent much of the week painting, often working on a piece over and over again.  We painted like Kandinsky.  Mia was moved by Monet’s Haystacks, and worked tirelessly on her own sunset and sky.

We painted representational art (daffodils) and also Early Renaissance art.

All the while, children listened to Vivaldi and to Beethoven as they painted. They felt the music and they created art that is worthy to be in an Art Show.

I read a fabulous new book to the children, Because, by Mo Willems.

As I opened the book, I saw that the end papers were the score to a Franz Schubert symphony.  Wow!  “What is that?”, asked the children.  Of course they had no idea that this was reading music (invented in Italy) and each black dot represented a note, a specific sound.  We talked about how the black dots are like letters that make words.

The story begins with, “Because a man named Ludwig wrote beautiful music, a man named Franz was inspired to create his own.”

Each page is what happens next, from people working to play an instrument, to forming an orchestra to play Schubert, to a little girl going to the concert, and much more.  This is a wonderful book.

We studied the Mona Lisa and wrote a story about her.  It helped children to really look at art, beyond form and color.  Art can have feelings, too.


Did you know there is a curved road in the background that looks like a yellow S?  I did not, but he children did.  I’m so glad they equate happy eyes and mouth to a dog.  Warms my heart.

The most fun was learning to sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” – in Italian. The E-I-E-I-O is exactly the same, helping to make the song flow for children. We used Beanie Babies for the farm animals; a dog (cane), cat (gatto), cow (mucca), sheep (pecora), and a pig (maiale).  Eddie said, “Jennie, we need a chicken.”  He was right.  Thank goodness I had a chicken (polo) Beanie Baby at home.

Tomorrow we introduce Cubism and create art with shapes.  We’ll explore The Three Musicians by Picasso, and find all the shapes.  The first I Spy.  We will also study The Snail, by Matisse.  His grandson lives in my town.  I taught his children many years ago.

I mount and frame each child’s masterpiece, and then the big moment comes when each child gives their masterpiece a title.  This will be as important as naming a new baby when s/he is born.  Stay tuned for Part 4.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty 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 am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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71 Responses to Art and Music and Italy – Part 3

  1. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, this is fantastic and lovely!

  2. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is the next part in Jennie’s excellent series!

  3. You’re doing a great job, Jennie.

  4. A. Nonymous says:

    Fun! Glad you had the wisdom and insight to introduce your young students to music on vinyl.

    You may have launched a budding STEM career!

    • Jennie says:

      I think you may be right! The second day, there was no power coming into the player, and I discovered the wire was beginning to fray. I showed the children the tiny pieces of copper, and we talked about electricity. More STEM. Fortunately I was able to get a new plug later that day, so all was not lost.

  5. I’m going to become a child once again so I can come and enjoy your class too! It sounds wonderful beyond belief. I wouldn’t be surprised at anything these children accomplish as adults because they have had such a fantastic and thoughtful teaching from you. Wow, great job and keep it up!!! This world needs more of you. Can you clone yourself?

  6. It is lovely to make artworks to exquisite music, Jennie. Brilliant idea and I am sure the children did love it and will remember it.

  7. Ritu says:

    Absolutely marvellous Jennie!

  8. beetleypete says:

    It just keeps getting better! But then I always knew it would. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Annika Perry says:

    Yeah! 😀 A masterclass of art for your students & blogger friends! This is so inspiring and I imagine they feel as if they been to Italy! The children have lovely insight into their work and descriptions – I wonder where that yellow road leads! Finally, wow, you taught The grandson of Matisse!! That is amazing!

    • Jennie says:

      I was stunned that they saw the yellow road! Children are a marvel. I taught the children of Matisse’s grandson, not the grandson. He is an artist, and his father (Matisse’s son) was an art dealer in New York. I sometimes wonder if those children I taught became artists. Thank you, Annika!

  10. TanGental says:

    Such a warming read Jennie and the little lady at work at her sunset.. priceless

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Geoff. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I will try to get a good close up of Mia’s sunset. My photo doesn’t do it justice. Stay tuned for more!

  11. I’d like to join your class, please!

  12. Now you should really freak them out and “play” the LP with your fingernail!

  13. Norah says:

    You make the world sing for these children, Jennie, and keep the magic alive. I love it!

  14. Léa says:

    Jennie, you are an amazing teacher and enrich every student who has the precious opportunity to be in your class. I love Van Gogh and Starry Night, one of my favorites. However, it was painted in Provence while he was hospitalized there. It was my great fortune to visit in October 2017. Here is some temptation for you with a link to Carrieres des Lumiieres in Provence. I have attended one of their exhibits but the current one has me hoping to return.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Lea! I remember your wonderful blog post about your visit there. And thank you for the link to the site. Wow!

      • Léa says:

        As soon as I saw that link, I thought of you guiding those children through its wonders. Having been there in 2017, I can tell you that the link does not do it justice. If my friend comes in May or June, we hope to see the Van Gogh exhibit. I would also like to pick up the DVD of the exhibit they sell. Rita bought one last time but not sure she was able to play it as it is region 2 only. If we get there, you will be along side in spirit. 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        Thank you so much, Lea! 🙂

  15. Dan Antion says:

    It’s so much fun reading this series, Jennie. I’m smiling as I try to imagine learning “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” in Italian.

  16. Just had an interesting referral to a You Tube Native American storyteller…. check it out….

  17. dgkaye says:

    Amazing how interested these young ones are in the arts and music. All because of you Jennie! ❤

  18. abbiosbiston says:

    My little boy loves our record player. His dad collects vinyl albums and Little O loves to pick one out to listen to. It is mostly punk though rather than opera.

  19. Opher says:

    I love your approach!!

  20. srbottch says:

    Jennie, you’re amazing. These kids are much more sophisticated at the art world then I’ll ever be. What a wonderful lesson in art and Life. They will be talking about you years from now and telling others how they learned to appreciate art, music and language. Nice job!

      • srbottch says:

        PS. On this day in 1860, the Pony Express began and lasted for 18 months, replaced by the Trans Cont RR 🙀😉

      • Jennie says:

        Wow! Did you tell the kids?

      • srbottch says:

        Now, Jennie, what do you think?😂 As Curly would say, ‘Soit-ainly’! But I was a bit surprised that most of the kids were clueless about it. A few said, ‘oh, yeah’, one highschooler have a great answer, as did a 7th grader. I might pick up on in another lesson on the railroad. I could have used an hour instead of a couple of minutes. Still, it was fun, and one other high schooler did tell me in the afternoon session that it took the rider(s) 12 days to complete the trek from St. Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA. (Am I boring you, yet?)👍🏇

      • Jennie says:

        Boring me? No! Never! Ever! 😀 I wouldn’t be able to let it go… I’d have to do something the next few days. The railroad is packed with good stuff. How many kids have ever been on a steam engine railroad? Zero. Do you know the story in the early days of the post office railroad, of the father who mailed his child to visit her grandparents? Great story. See, I can go on and on. P.S. Love the Curly reference.

      • srbottch says:

        “Knut-Knut-Knut! Woowoowoowoo”! Can you tell that I loved the Stooges when I was a kid, much to the chagrin of my father😂

      • Jennie says:

        I’m a member of that club! Can you do the classic Stooges hand move, snapping a finger on both hands, first on one and then on the other, and then slapping your hand on your fist? Doing it over and over, at lightning speed is classic Stooges.

      • srbottch says:

        I know just what you mean. I’m trying it but it’s not the same. I’m
        laughing thinking about it. And I’m in bed. How silly is that. It’s always nice to hit the pillow with a smile. 😄. Have a great day, tomorrow. Gnite…💤

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Steve. It’s really the children’s books on art that are readily available. It gives me all the tools I need to teach. This has been such fun! I’ll have a final post that shows the children’s masterpieces.

  21. Sarah says:

    I have a feeling you’re inspiring many of your children to become an artist when they grow up. 😉 The happy moments you create will root deeply in their souls and minds. 😊

    • Jennie says:

      I hope this sticks with them, Sarah. Certainly they are excited and inspired and filled with many happy moments. Future artists would be a wonderful thing. Thank you!

  22. Oh, Jennie! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back here. It’s a long story and I won’t bore you with it but I’m so glad the tab was still open so I could say how happy all you are doing with these tiny people fills my heart. I was just talking to my daughter about it and she agrees with my. You don’t just go the extra mile, you go the extra continent to fire up the imagination of these children. Einstein said imagination was the most vital element in learning and life. These children will have it in spades. I’m with Liz, I’d love to be in your class. 😉

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