Mortimer………..BE QUIET! Fun


Kindergarten Literacy Common Cores:

1. Without prompting, ask and answer key details in a text.

2. With prompting and support, retell familiar stories.

3. Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Music Objectives

1. Identify whisper, speaking, singing, and calling voices

2. Distinguish between loud and soft

3. Use instruments to enhance a story

4. Understanding the musical directions of “up” and “down”.

5. Following musical cues and story cues for playing

Robert Munsch has to be one of my all-time favorite children’s authors. The fun we have with his books (and his understanding of the human heart) has been pretty expansive in my career. So here is ornery little Mortimer, who is just dying for attention the wrong way. So much fun for kindergartners and older kids! Here is a lesson unit utilizing Mortimer to help demonstrate and assess the various voices and loud and soft.

I had previously introduced the four voices intertwined with a nursery rhyme unit, so we reviewed the various voices. I then read Mortimer to the students and asked them to identify where the voices could be found in the story. For Mortimer’s famous “clang clang” song, I used the tune of the Mortimer lesson from Artie Almeida’s Mallet Madness. Since the story does not have any “whisper” voice, I added Mortimer saying “Yes, sir”, or “Yes, m’am” after every “MORTIMER, BE QUIET”. Finally, the students and I would use sing-song voices for the “thump thump thump” of the stairs, ascending to higher pitches when someone was going “up” the stairs, and descending to lower when going down. Second reading, the students joined me. This was the first 15 minute lesson.

One Day Two, we reviewed where the voices were in the story. I then asked them, “Is ‘MORTIMER, BE QUIET’ loud or soft?” When I received my answer, I said told the kids we weren’t going to say that anymore. (Sounds of moans). I told them I thought we could use……..INSTRUMENTS! (Excitement!). I went over to the sand blocks and rubbed them and said, “This is loud enough, isn’t it?” Of course, they said no. (There is a reason I demonstrated incorrectly with sand blocks first.) I demonstrated with a hand drum, using a mallet, and the students agreed that it was pretty loud and awesome. I told them, though, that I really wished we could use the sandblocks somewhere (opening the door to some higher level thinking). In every class, at least two students said, “WHISPER!”. BINGO! We had our instrumentation. After instrument distribution and instrument rule review, I told them there was one more thing. I brought out my Peripole bass metallophone, damper off, and told them we needed stairsteps. I demonstrated the up and down on the bass for the stairsteps. (At the stage of the kindergarten life, we are still learning how to not play a drum by hitting it on our heads, so we are not quite ready for barred instruments.)

In our third telling of the story, the students either played the drum rhythm (or approximation of) for “Mortimer, be quiet!” or the sandblocks for the whisper “yes sir, yes, m’am.”.  When we got to the point where everyone was arguing, I surprised them by bringing out two people clackers. (These used to be available at West Music, but I have heard they are difficult to get now. I imagined possibilities of using yellow plastic castanets or the red ones and converting them to people. I’m sure there is a way). I used the clackers myself to keep peace in the family. This lesson turned out terrific! At the end, since Mortimer falls asleep, the drum students deciphered that scratching the drum head could be snoring. 🙂

I have also been getting into the habit of teaching my kindergartners the art of self-assessment. I have two faces for each student that I pass out: a green smiley and a yellow “straight face”. The students will hold up the appropriate one based on their feelings about how they did. Yes, many kindergartners will hold up green when they really don’t understand because they think they were awesome and the activity was awesome, but there are some who will hold up yellow. It’s pretty easy to guess why certain students do that, so we hold little talks about what we can do to make us feel better about how we did. The kids love the faces. It’s an easy way to check how a student truly comprehends what he or she is doing and if he is cognizant of what is taking place.

The Mortimer story is a nice “voices” lesson that can easily segue into the loud/soft lessons and unit. If you get the Mallet Madness book, there is a lesson that is perfect for the Orff approach of “filing it away and bringing it back later”. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m pretty sure there are some pretty cool sixth grade possibilities for this book! (Filing the idea away for later….)

I did record my class sessions with this activity and hope to be able to post at least one clip, but since it’s past midterms and all the technology permissions are still not in, it might have to wait! As soon as I can, I hope to share what my kids did.

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Hi there!

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.


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