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A Fun Book-Based Halloween Music Lesson for Kindergarten

Updated: Mar 24

One page into Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima and I knew I had to have it for my music classroom. Now, two years later, it's become an October favorite in kindergarten music. In this post, I'll share how to use this adorable picture book at Halloween with your lower elementary students. It's such a musical story, but it also helps you teach some key skills to your littles.


And once you're done learning about this book, head over to my other Halloween post about the best activities for elementary music!


Here we go!



First... how do you get this book?


I happened to come across it in a bookstore, so I bought it. But I know that's not how everyone acquires books for their classrooms.


Next best option? Your local library! I have found so many gems at my libraries, and I've purchased some with my budget money if I thought they were going to become part of my curriculum.



Second, what's this book about?


This book is about a lonely house with no occupants... possibly because she's a little spooky. She tries to look past her creaks and squeaks, but they're just a part of who she is. And maybe that's not a bad thing at all! The perfect family moves in at the end of the book, and the house becomes a home.


Something extra special about this book is the detailed illustrations of the house's facade. There's plenty of room for exploration of feelings and facial expressions in this story.



Where's the musical connection?


There are so many sound effects in this story! Squeaks, creaks, groans, rustles... and it's all very age appropriate. Adorably spooky, not at all scary.


And while you can certainly read the story dramatically, it's what you can do with it in your music classroom that will really bring it to life.


(Psst- Is this resonating with you so far? If so, I know you’d get a lot out of joining the ADM community. In my email newsletters, I help educators like you apply specific music teacher toolbox strategies and teach you how to use new and interesting resources in your music classroom.)


The lesson


I use this book as part of my Halloween classes in lower elementary school, particularly in kindergarten.


Using Hardly Haunted, we practice and learn about

  • new instruments

  • loud and soft

  • how sound starts and stops

  • patience

  • turn-taking

  • teamwork

  • listening


(Now that I think of it, this would be a great lesson for an observation!)


In this lesson, students will be playing instruments every time there is a sound effect! And when the word 'haunted' is mentioned, everyone will play together.



Physical prep


You will need to set up instruments for students to play either one by one or as small groups.


Here's how I did it in my room:



I share a room with the art teacher, but we are in the building on separate days, so when I'm there I push the tables back for more space.


First, I set up 8 chairs, one for each sound effect, in a curved row.


Then I assign each chair an instrument. They can match the sound from the book or not, but I chose to try and match. The instruments I used this year were:

  • table chimes

  • jingle bells

  • vibraslap

  • tambourine

  • 2 egg shakers

  • guiro

  • tubano drum

  • glockenspiel



Starting the lesson


First, I read the story to my students. We look at the cover together and they say what they notice or predict will happen. And then I just read it to them, making all the sound effects with my voice.


After reading it, the kids guess that they're going to use instruments as we read it again.


This is where you get to introduce them to these new sounds!


Besides the egg shakers, glockenspiel, and tambourine, these are pretty new to my students. So I go around and demonstrate each one.


If you have time, ask for student models. This is an especially good idea if...

  • you don't think you'll have time for every student to have a turn playing during your second reading

  • you want to make sure students understand your expectations around caring for the instruments

  • you want to give students opportunities to show you they can meet expectations (i.e. they haven't had a lot of wins lately, and this is a chance to get some)


Incorporating instruments


To do your second reading, you need to choose students for each instrument. Track who gets a turn if you plan to do this again. It's fair to give everyone a turn, and it's easy to forget who has had one and who hasn't.


Note: I know tracking turns might seem tedious. That's why I make a separate roster just for turns. Plus remember, these turns are not privileges. They are learning opportunities. Every kid deserves a chance as long as you can trust them, and I trust students until they shown me I can't. Each new class is a blank slate.


As you read the story for the second time, point to each student when it's their turn. You're going to go right down the line. Practice what a point looks like for one person and for the whole group. You can even do a dramatic cut-off to practice following stop signals.


This is a great opportunity for exploration. I was surprised when some students were very timid with their instruments. Others went wild because we've used them before and they knew what kinds of sounds they could make.





What else are students practicing?


While you're reading, your students will probably be engaged in the story. But the instrumentalists are also practicing patience and turn-taking. Your glockenspiel player is waiting until the book is almost over. And your chimes player takes a turn, then waits a while until everyone plays again.


Take time to point out what you notice as you point and signal to stop. This could sound like, "I notice that our musicians are waiting patiently for their turn. That's helpful because then we can really hear what each instrument sounds like. Thank you."


Students are also practicing tactile interaction. What can instruments do? Do I hit or scape or shake? How can I make the sounds I want by changing my motion?


Don't forget another aspect of this activity: teamwork! Your students are working together to embellish a story. It wouldn't work with just one kid, or even two. A whole group makes the story really come to life! Ask your students afterwards, "What if we only used shakers with the book? What if we only used drums? How would that be different?"


And what is music class without practicing listening skills? Every sound needs to be heard in order for it to have that special effect. And each student needs to wait for their cue (aural and visual) to play their instrument.


 

Need more Halloween or October ideas for elementary music?


If you love activities like this with exploration combined with music, you'll love this pumpkin patch game. It's got a bit more prep work, but it's worth it. Fill eggs with different materials, they play a game as students either search for a certain egg or guess what's in the one they pick up.



Quarters, eighths, and sixteenths




Compose rhythms in different meters using pumpkin cookie cutouts!




Sort Halloween words (pictures included) into their rhythm based on their syllables



 

Thanks for coming to the blog!


I’m all about helping music teachers enrich their lessons with activities that meet students where they are.


Here’s where you can find me…


Happy music-making!

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