Fun with Composers by Deborah Ziolkoski. The series teaches classical music through stories, songs and instruments. It comes with a Teacher's Guide, a DVD that shows you how to implement the lessons and a CD of the recordings.
I have enjoyed learning the story and dances that go with the music. I think this will be a fun way to interact with a piece of music that the children are not familiar with. I am using the Persian March by Johann Strauss. In the book it has been turned into a fun pirate story. A music map outlines the form of the piece and reminds the students of some movements. Instruments are added last to compliment some of the story line.
I think the series could deal more with the musical aspects of the piece. It does include some music notation of the piece, but no real analysis of pitch or rhythm. You could use this book if you had no music knowledge, which I guess could be a positive. However, I like to talk about the music and how it was put together, analyzing pitch, rhythm, instruments, articulation, dynamics, etc. .
This series is geared toward 3rd-7th grade, mainly because of the dancing. I think it could be adapted for a younger audience.
One obvious problem is the association of words and story to a piece of music. The student might come to believe that the composer intended Persian March to be a pirate story. Throughout our culture classical music has been used in various media to portray many things. It is one of purest forms of music which lends itself to different interpretations. ART! So we need to be careful when assigning themes and ideas to music.
I am going to try and address this by playing the music first and getting ideas of what the students are thinking about when they hear the music.
I ultimately think the benefits of learning a piece in such a creative way outweighs the limitations it may create in the listening process. As I go through this week I will update you on our progress and mention a few other things I have the children working on. See more my review in the Music Camp posts