Friday, March 25, 2016

The Mitten

One of my absolute favorite lessons each year goes along with the children's book, The Mitten, by Jan Brett.

I got this idea from my mentor teacher years ago and have adapted it and tweaked it over the years. I use it as a way to culminate the major units that my first graders have been studying throughout the year - rhythm patterns and basic mallet skills. It is also a great way to ease them into preparing for their Spring Musical.

First, I read the story to the students and we discuss the various characters in the book. For each character, we learn a rhythm pattern and I have the students practice playing the rhythms on various percussion instruments.

Then, I teach the students a song that goes with the book. We add a simple bordun and an octave glockenspiel part at the end of each phrase.

Finally, we add some actors! I choose students to represent each character and they follow the narration of the book. I created some masks that I printed from Jan Brett's website, laminated them, and added some elastic bands.

I used a cheap white sheet and cut it into the shape of a mitten for the actors to sit on top of during their performance.

After the students have practiced all of the parts, we put together a performance that we show to their classroom teacher. As the story is read, one student plays the rhythm pattern on the percussion instrument while that character "gets into" the mitten. When the bear sneezes in the story, the actors toss the mitten up into the air and pretend to fall into the snow while the percussionists play all together. We begin and end the performance with our mitten song accompanied by the mallet instruments.


If you have larger classes, you can add actors for Nicki and his grandmother, Baba. You can also double instrument parts and even add sound effects on the sneeze part (think: crank, vibraslap, slapstick, etc.) This activity makes a great "informance" piece at PTO meetings or other school events.

The students LOVE it and it is definitely a crowd-pleaser for teachers, too. Fun and learning - that's how we roll at HSES! :)


  1. I love this and can't wait to try it with my 2nd graders after the New Year. Do you have the melody you use for the mitten song you wrote? tThanks!

    1. Mitten, Mitten keep me warm - sol, mi, sol, mi, sol, sol, mi
      Mitten, Mitten from the storm - sol, mi, sol, mi, sol, mi, do
      Mitten, Mitten squeeze in tight - sol, mi, sol, mi, sol, sol, mi
      Mitten, Mitten what a sight - sol, mi, sol, mi, sol, mi, do

    2. I tried "la" with my 2nd grade and they did well. sol sol la la sol sol mi (1st 3 lines) then last line is sol sol la la mi re do

      With 1st and K I
      only used the sol, sol, mi, mi, sol, sol mi (3 times)
      last line sol, sol, mi, mi, mi, re do (or sol, mi, do)

    3. Awesome, Mrs. B! Great ideas. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. When do you play the ostinato for each character?

    Also, is the bordun played throughout. Or is bordun with glocks played only at the end of each phrase.

    Can you share the notes you play? Thank you

    1. Hi Gloria!
      The rhythm for each character is played as soon as that character enters the story. I will usually read the first sentence introducing the animal, then pause and let the instrument play while the student actor will move toward the mitten. The bordun is only played during the song. I think I usually have the students play D and A. :)

  3. I want to know another thing. On the page that has all of the animals together, the hedgehog is written ti ti rest ta rest. On your little handouts you have
    ta rest ti ti rest. Which do you usually use? I want to do this lesson (I really love it - but I want to set it up right. Thank you!

    1. I normally just use what is written on the cards (forgot to edit the smartboard file slide) but it really doesn't matter - you can substitute any rhythm. :)

  4. May I have permission to use this lesson?