for September 2012
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Bling Blang by Woody Guthrie, Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky
This book has so much to offer a music teacher in search of a book that will exemplify great literature and great music for kinder and first grade.
First – The lyrics are very poetic and picturesque and when this book is studied in conjunction with Howdi Do and My Dolly you’ve got a really solid composer/author study.


If you are lucky enough to find a copy of Howdi Do WITH a CD, you’ll get a recording of all 3 books.  Now – each recording is very different and not all of the recordings are created equal, but Bling Blang is awesome!

In the recording of Bling Blang the violin creates a very convincing hammer and saw sound while the really nicely played tuba carries the melody.  There is an very proper and operatic baritone solo for all of the verses which serves as a great example of male singing.  The children who are singing in the recording are NOT the best example of children singing, but I rarely find recordings in which I like everything…. so I’ll take what good stuff I can find.  overall Bling Blang is nicely done.   The recording also offers nice instrumental interludes that can serve as great preparation for playing rhythmic patterns.

Rhythm patterns:
Here are the ostinati that I use with this song.

First we “play” these rhythms with our hands and mouth sounds.  I don’t know how to type the sound that kids make when they click their tongues, but all of my students LOVE doing it, so we use it as part of our pattern when we are using our hammers.  Then when we are using our saws, we switch sounds and rhythmic patterns.

Part work
I like to split the class into two groups with one group being hammers and the other being saws.  Then we pass the pattern back and forth, and work toward independence so that they can do the two patterns simultaneously (in harmony)  some classes can, some can’t…..yet…..

Then we add instruments.  Woodblocks and tone blocks become hammers while guiros, cabasas, and sand blocks become saws.

Good Singing
We are working toward being able to accompany our singing with a different rhythmic pattern.  The book provides an awesome structure for the practice because just about the time that things start getting shaky or start to fall apart, it’s time to regroup while we listen to the CD or the teacher sing another verse.

Early Writing
If your school, like mine, is working every minute to close that old achievement gap, this book is also a GREAT prompt for writing!  The last two pages of the book contain illustrations of houses created by children. We all know that the beginnings of writing are imitation, so I have my kindergarten students write the chorus and illustrate their writing with their own houses.  Then we put the book together and read it.  They LOVE reading their own music book and they practice their rhythms and singing the simple melody the whole time.