Can music help make connections?

I had a teacher ask me to help find some resources for them to use this month while they were exploring the history of Marian Anderson. I wanted to give the students more of an experience with her than just reading a biography, so I started searching.

I was able to find video clips of her Lincoln Memorial performance that I didn’t know existed. This will help to put that into context with the time, the location, and to be able to hear her voice as well as see her face. I think it will help students make a personal connection to this event.

Did you know that over 75,000 people attended this concert and millions listened in on the radio? What an impact this must have made, especially with Eleanor Roosevelt helping set it up after Constitution Hall would not let her perform due to her race. I also came across several song recordings, interview recordings, and photo galleries from various sources that could be used in a larger unit.

A study of Marian Anderson can fit into units on music, opera, NAACP, Eleanor Roosevelt, segregation, and many other topics.

If you were doing one of the units listed above, you might be able to use these books from Big Universe Learning:

February Holidays: Books, Blogs, Links

Punxsy Phil, the weather-savvy woodchuck.

For such a short month, February is living large this year. It kicked off with today’s observation of Freedom Day, which commemorates President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery. A wreath was laid on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to acknowledge this historical American watermark.

A troupe of top-hatted men will congregate tomorrow, Feb. 2nd, in Punxsytawney, Pa., to get the weather prediction from Punxsy Phil, the famous weather-savvy Groundhog Day woodchuck. The burg of Punxsytawney was not far from where I grew up, so my family always paid close attention to whether this chubby little rodent saw his shadow or not.

Then there’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th, Presidents’ Day on the 20th, Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras on Feb. 21st, and John Gandolfi’s Leap Day birthday on the 29th. It’s unlikely that most of you know Mr. Gandolfi . He was the ultra-gregarious kid who sat four seats in front of me in homeroom from seventh grade through twelfth. “…Gandolfi, Gaston, Glasser, Golinsky, Granata….” He was a Leap Year baby, so I think he celebrates his 13th birthday this year.

I see these holidays as gateway ops – perfect avenues to promote literacy and chase away the winter doldrums. I suppose it depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist and whether you’re “a natural” when it comes to integrating seasonal activities into the classroom. Whether you use a Valentine’s Day word search sheet or read a biography about a U.S. president on, you will be adding “snap, crackle and pop” to your classroom and advance the cause of literacy.

Here’s a starter list to get you in the spirit.

Freedom Day

 Groundhog Day

 Valentine’s Day

President’s Day

 Mardi Gras

Leap Day

NOTE: For more general reading, click on “Holidays” – a Teacher Created Materials book at Big Universe Learning. Or, read “An Ode to History and Phillis Wheatley” or “Books Introduce Black History Month Heroes,” blogs that showcase kid-friendly biographies about remarkable Americans.