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How Poetry and Music Go Hand in Hand

To celebrate National poetry month, the music educator in me wanted to share how poetry and music go hand in hand.  I love using poetry to teach music, because there are so many similar characteristics between them.   There is truly nothing I love more than forming connections between music and other subjects.

 

Poetry and music both have…

Rhythms and tempo

When you read a piece of music, there are many notes to be played with several different rhythms.  If these notes are not played using the correct rhythms and with a steady beat, it will sound like a mess.  A perfect example of this is a rap.  The rapper says their rhyme using a steady beat and with repetition. If the rapper doesn’t speak the rap using correct rhythm and tempo, it will not sound put together and will have no fluidity.  If you’ve ever gone to a live poetry reading, can you imagine if the person reading the poem went fast, then slow, then stopped, then restarted, then went fast again?  It would sound kind of awkward and uninteresting.  Great poems, just like great music, should be read using rhythm and the tempo that was chosen should be used throughout with only subtle fluctuations.

Dynamics

Listen to a child who is just learning how to read and they will more than likely be very monotone.  Listen to a child who is in beginning band, and they will probably play at one dynamic level. Once the child gets older and better at their craft, they will start reading and playing music with more heart and expression.  They will begin making their reading and playing come to life by using louds, softs, and silences.  Then, it becomes an emotional experience for the audience who is listening in.

 

 

How to make a poem musical for kids…

 

“Bonefish, Bluebird”

 

Bonefish, bluebird, sheep and flea.

Chickadee, doodlebug, robins in a tree.

Fly in the cream jar, frog in the pool.

Clap for all the children here at school.

 

This is one of my favorite poems to teach to kids.  I like it because it is short enough to memorize, yet there is plenty of music to be made from it.

Here’s how I would teach this poem to make it musical…

  1. Pat the steady beat while reading the poem.
  2.  Clap the rhythm of the words (which basically means to clap each sound.)
  3. Make each line a different dynamics level.  For instance, the first line can be soft (p), second line a little louder  (mp), third line even louder (mf), and the last line loud (f).
  4. Assign a different movement to each line while still saying the dynamics levels that you created.  For the first line, you could squat, then bend at the waist, then stand, then stand on your toes with your arms in the air.
  5. Add rhythm instruments to play the beat and rhythm that you used body percussion to perform at the beginning of the lesson.

 

 

What are you favorite poems and how do you like to make them musical?  How do you celebrate National poetry month?

 

If you are a parent, student, or teacher who wants to learn more about music, connect with other musicians, or wants to post their latest videos of what they’ve been working on, I would love for you to join my Facebook group Music Education Connection. Collaborate, learn from each other, and grow new friendships. This is a place to receive encouragement, positive feedback, and to ask questions.

 

 

 

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Jessica Peresta

I am a wife, mom of 3 boys, pianist, and music educator. Every child should be given an opportunity to learn music through lessons (traditional or online), home music education, and in the schools.

26 thoughts on “How Poetry and Music Go Hand in Hand

  1. I love how you found the similarities in them both. I never thought of it that way. But I love both poetry and music. Poetry books are some of my favorites. <3

  2. This is so true! I remember we did a lesson on reading and music when I was student teaching and the two are tied together in so many ways! Rhythm is so important in reading, which people forget, and music is such a great way to teach it!

  3. This makes sense to me! I never took music lessons but I can see how poetry and music really work together – thanks!

  4. What a wonderful post! I love anything by Robert Frost. His “Stopping by the Wood on a Snowy Winter’s Eve” is now a children’s book with amazing illustrations. I think the key is to make poetry feel accessible to children whether it’s thru poetry or illustrations. -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    On a completely different topic, can you recommend beginner piano music for adults?

    1. I love that poem too! I am in the process of creating an adult piano course that will be ready sometime this year ha! If you’re wanting something before then, YouTube has a bunch of free videos to help you get started.

  5. I remember when my daughter was a child and I would sing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” to her all the time, and I’d clap her hands together to the beat. To this day we still try to find the beat together in all the songs we sing!

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