Using Music to Inspire Writing - a leprechaun chase!

I really have been trying to add more "pizazz" into my lessons lately. I mentioned that in my last Five for Friday post when I shared a quick pic of my Math Missions.  That lesson (and the ones after it) have definitely been more engaging, motivating and just plain fun!  And it has been more fun for me to teach, as well!  I am trying to add a "hook" or something special to at least one of my lessons every day.  And it hasn't always been anything big - a colorful anchor chart, a partner game, a special prop, or music.  Music always gets kids' attention.  I have always been a big fan of playing some classical, light jazz, piano... while we write.  But my favorite writing piece of March uses music to inspire the writing. 

Now of course, what would March be without a little leprechaun fun?  This time around we're writing a narrative piece on catching a leprechaun.  It is so much fun to write about the events of seeing, chasing and catching (maybe!) a leprechaun and my kiddos get so involved in this piece.

We start by reading all sorts of leprechaun books and charting what we know about leprechauns.  You can't catch one if you don't do some research!  These are my two favorite books to start the unit with. (Links to Amazon below each one.)

        Tim O'Toole and The Wee Folk                                      The Luckiest Leprechaun

I also found a pretty good reading of The Luckiest Leprechaun on YouTube.
(Here' the link if doesn't show above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38W1aVFOdQE)

Here's the chart we started this year (before all the delayed openings last week!).  I do charts like this on my Smartboard.  We asked 3 main questions: What do leprechauns look like?  Where can you find a leprechaun?  What do leprechauns do and like?


Now, before we get to the story writing part, I usually add another piece.  We take some time to write about HOW to catch a leprechaun.  My kiddos make their plans, draw their traps and write a "how to" piece so they're ready to go. Here's what it ends up looking like:
The flips and flaps and folds add a little more excitement - and the most important part is the leprechaun finder!

If you're interested in adding the "how to" part to your writing, you can find this HERE.  Some years I've done both parts, others just one - it depends on the time (and how many snow days, delayed openings etc. we've had!)

But now - cue the music!!  I love to add music into what we do, and we get our inspiration for this narrative writing from a piece called, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg. I have an mp3 of it that I play, but this would work just as well.
(and again, here's the direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRpzxKsSEZg)

Here's what we do - I start by turning the lights off and dramatically glancing around the room on m way back to the carpet.  I look under my chair, move a few papers around... you get the idea.  The questions quickly come up: "What are you looking for?"  "Is there something there?"  "What are you doing?"  I explain that we're going to start writing about chasing a leprechaun and I wanted to make sure none were around.  That one line, along with the lights being out (for no real reason other than to ramp up the excitement!) always gets them engaged!

Next, I ask everyone to sit quietly and listen to some music.  I ask them to listen and be ready to tell me what they notice about the music.  Then I play the piece for the first time.  LOTS of engagement here - heads moving, hands orchestrating the music, bouncing and moving - and a huge "Play it again!" at the end.  I do, but first we talk quickly about what we notice.  The main things I want them to hear are the 3 different parts (which is really pretty obvious that no one misses it!).  First the music is quieter, then it gets louder and faster, then it ends with a bang!

Now that everyone gets the structure of the piece, we're ready for a second listening - this time with a different purpose.  Now I ask them to listen and imagine they are trying to catch a leprechaun.  What do they see?  I play the music another time.  As soon as the music ends, my littles are dying to tell me and everyone else what they "saw" when they visualized!  "I caught him!"  "We were running really fast!"  "I was sneaking up on him and then he ran away!"  After a little sharing, we listen one more time just for fun - and to really solidify those ideas in their heads. We talk specifically about what they saw happening in each part - the beginning, where it was slow and quiet and they were creeping up on the leprechaun... the middle, where it got loud and fast and the chase was on!... and the end, where something happened to end the chase - Did you catch the leprechaun?  Did he get away?

After hearing the music a few times, they're ready to "draw what they saw!"  Sometimes I have them draw on a structured sheet with a beginning, middle and end... sometimes we just fold a piece of scrap paper into thirds and start drawing! 

I usually ask them to add some writing - speech bubbles, labels, something to tell more about their picture.  Then we do a partner share and a few with the whole group.  We play the music one more time and we're ready to start writing!

You can do the writing in whatever format works for you.  Now that everyone has an idea of what happens at the beginning, middle and end, adding the details comes more easily!  If you'd like a few sheets to use in your classroom, I whipped up a drawing sheet, writing plan sheet and writing paper you can use.  Just click on the image below to download.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2ize_mAbVGMaDQyUFlfME0wMWM/view?usp=sharing
Using music to inspire writing is just one way to add some "pizazz" into your lessons.  Sometimes the simplest idea can be the best.  Have fun catching a leprechaun!
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