For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Diane. I just started on social media for #musictherapy stuff as @MsDMusicTherapy on Twitter & Insta, and I’d love to connect with you!
I am in my 12th year working full-time as a music therapist for a public school district close to Ft. Worth, Texas, and it’s pretty much been my dream job since I was in high school. You see, I learned about the profession of music therapy when I was 13 years old, and even then my parents had a Sunday school friend who was doing exactly that. (Shout out Barbara!) The first thing my Mom asked Barbara was if I would be able to find a job (#truestory), but as their conversations continued, Mom learned that there were many singable books that I could utilize in my work as a music therapist. From that point on it was one of her favorite things to look for and buy for me. My Mom was a big lover of books, a trait she passed on to both me and my brother. Unfortunately I also inherited my Mom’s…long winded-ness… so I will do my best not to turn this into an essay. To help keep things more concise, I have not written out every single way I use a book but rather tried to focus on the main ones. I am a huge believer in adapting interventions for multiple goals, and books are no exception. I encourage you to think about your own ways to adapt these books, or if you’d like to hear more about what I do, I would love for you to just hit me up on social media!
When Patina asked me to come up with my top 5 Favorite Fall Books, I was so pumped! This is something I have presented on more than once, but I knew it would take some restraint to (a) not turn this into a novel (ha!) but also (b) keep my list to 5. I tried to pick a variety of books for different goals and age appropriate-ness, but also (hopefully!) books you might not already have! I try to avoid piggy-backing, so when looking for books, I search out those with rhyming words & patterns that are easy to make up melodies for (to see the melodies for these songs, click here)!
So here we go!
1. My Happy Pumpkin, by Crystal Bowman:
Age: Pre-School, Elementary
Adaptations: Visual cards for sequencing & wh- comprehension questions; tactile items
Potential Goals: Sequencing; answering wh- questions; participate in a sensory activity This first one is actually a religious book (If you see the original cover it says “God’s Light Shining Through Me). HOWEVER, I simply used white sticky labels on the front cover & second-to-last page to cover the words that are not appropriate for me to use as a public school district employee. Additionally, I don’t use the very last page at all, and then the book works just fine! My students honestly don’t even notice. The reason I like this book is that it goes through the sequence of carving a Jack-O-Lantern! I have made visual cards to represent each of these steps and I utilize those to address sequencing skills and wh- comprehension questions. This one is also great for incorporating some tactile sensory items! Bring in some pumpkin seeds, a real pumpkin and some orange slime to represent the pulp! To see the melody I wrote for this song, click here!
2. Shake Dem Halloween Bones, by W. Nikola-Lisa:
Age: Elementary, Middle
Adaptations: Recorded repeated phrase, instruments for shaking, motor skills (shaking body parts)
Potential Goals: Utilizing 3+ word phrase; activating AAC device; turn taking; imitating motor skills; wh- comprehension questions My schools are all okay with the topic of Halloween, but I definitely stay away from the creepy/scary stuff and focus more on real vs. pretend. That’s one of the reasons why I love this book! The book takes us through a Halloween “ball” featuring modern takes on familiar fairy tale characters. The illustrations are not too “cartoony” so there are even some middle school groups that I feel okay using this one with. This is another book that I have made up my own melody for the repeated “Shake, shake, shake dem bones now…” chorus, but I actually “rap” the verses. (My kids love it when I rap. My teachers too. I get in to it.) Any time you have a book with a repeated phrase, it’s the perfect opportunity to address communication goals! With this book if I had a student working on speaking in 3+ word phrases then I would focus on singing the repeated phrase “at the hip-hop Halloween Ball.” If a student is using an AAC (augmentative alternative communication) device, then I record/make a button for “Halloween Ball.” (This also allows them to answer the wh- comprehension question of “where did this story take place?”). I would want to tell you how you could also incorporated a maraca or a Shekere or a Togo Seed Rattle for turn taking or have the students shake their own “bones” but I’M TRYING TO KEEP THIS SHORT.
3. The Turkey Ball, by David Steinberg:
Age: Pre-School, Elementary
Adaptations: Quack stick; Recorded repeated word (gobble)
Potential Goals: turn taking, self control, peer interaction Here is my chance to talk about instruments and turn taking! This is a shorter book (similar to “My Happy Pumpkin” with simply rhythm and rhymes) but it is perfect for November! All about turkeys going to (another) ball, this one has variations of the word “gobble” throughout the text. Quite conveniently West Music has a “quack stick” that my students LOVE to shake! (There use to be a green gobble stick, don’t get me started on that…) Using one quack stick, the students take their turn shaking it when they hear the word “gobble” (or some variation of that word) and then pass it to the peer sitting next to them. I usually repeated the last line enough times so that everyone gets a turn to shake it one more time.
4. Over the River and Through the Woods, by Lydia Maria Child, illustrated by Christopher Manson:
Age: Elementary, Middle School, High School
Adaptations: Recorded repeated phrase; visuals for wh- comprehension questions; sensory items
Potential Goals: Utilizing 3+ word phrase; activating AAC device; participate in a sensory activity You guys. YOU GUYS. I literally own 5 different versions of this singable book and I still don’t have every version available. I chose to talk about this version however because of the illustrations. This is another one with great pictures that makes it appropriate for all ages-even older students! But also-yay! Finally a book that has a set melody! Many people associate this song with Christmas but #funfact- it’s actually about Thanksgiving. This is another one that has lots of options…visual cards for wh- comprehension questions, a repeated phrase for communication goals, or bring in some items (water=river/small twigs=woods/bells/pumpkin pie candle!) for a sensory experience! And since this is a familiar song, you could also use it as a lead in for a discussion about holiday traditions!
5. Off to Plymouth Rock, by Dandi Daley Mackall:
Age: Middle, High School
Adaptations: Recorded repeated phrase, visuals for wh- comprehensions questions
Potential Goals: wh- comprehension questions; activating AAC device This was one of those completely random finds that I was SO EXCITED about. I know people have their own opinions about “age-appropriateness”, but it is something I try to be mindful of with my students. Because of this I get overly excited when I find a book that I feel like is simple enough for me to adapt, but has material that is appropriate for high-schoolers. As you might have guessed this book is all about the first Thanksgiving with the repeated phrase “Plymouth Rock.”
There is so much more I could say, but I’m going to practice some self-control and stop there! There is a lot of research supporting the importance of reading with kids, but no matter what goals your students/clients might be working on, there are multiple ways to incorporate using singable books in to your music therapy sessions. I hope this post encourages you to check out your local library or Half Price Books to see what treasures you can find! Don't miss all of the written melodies HERE!
Please connect with me on social media-or look for me at the upcoming AMTA National Conference in Minneapolis! I’d love for you to say “Hi!”
*Bonus Book! Five Little Pumpkins Are Growing In A Patch by Make Believe Ideas is a board book with tactile pumpkins to be touched that could be used with PreSchool kiddos to address numbers!