Sign up for our mailing list!

Subscribe for email updates, highlights from our partner schools, and exciting news from the field of music education.

Books in the Music Room

Highlighting Music Benchmarks, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and Social Justice (SJ) through Diversified Children’s Literature

By Naomi Fernandez, Education Through Music Programs Liaison Supervisor

The Electric Slide & Kai by Kelly J. Baptist Graduating from lesson planning to unit planning can be a daunting task for many new teachers. However, research has established the best practice of long-term planning, thematic teaching, and sequentially-scaffolded music education. That is why ETM is using stories to help our teachers write thematic units!

The stories, which have been carefully curated and vetted to reflect a diversity of authors and narratives, serve as “kick-offs”, themes, and/or project inspirations for our students. Each unit is presented in a unit grid form for a “short-hand” view of the entire unit. This approach is less intimidating for our teachers to implement and write. In addition, it provides a snapshot view that clearly delineates the progression of the benchmarks throughout each lesson and across the unit. The hope is that the teacher personalizes the unit so that it is authentic to their teaching style and responsive to their classroom and students, both cognitively and emotionally.

For example, I used the book, The Electric Slide and Kai by Kelly J. Baptist to write a unit for our teachers that explores line dancing in various genres of music. In this unit, the students will read the book; talk about identity in terms of music, culture, and dance; learn and compare/contrast line dancing from four different genres of music; talk about structure and form; and create their own line dance. The Electric Slide and Kai helped me provide a theme and context that encompasses a holistic planning perspective.

Unit Grid Image 1
Click for a Unit Grid Example

By sharing one thematic children’s book unit for each grade-band (K-2, 3-4, and 5-6) each month with our music teachers and partnering principals, ETM hopes to inspire our teachers to not only responsively personalize the units and activities, but to write their own.

Through this children’s literature-themed initiative, we are simultaneously accomplishing several goals: 1) Diversifying our teacher’s children’s literature library, 2) creating thematic unit plans and planning tools, and 3) highlighting SEL and SJ through narrative and activity.

There are so many great music-specific books out there, and at ETM we believe that through creativity and ingenuity, any quality children’s book can be used as a vehicle for music education. So we hope you get out there, read, make music, and get creative!


Reprinted with permission from NAfME