Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Music Appreciation from Zeezok Publishing, LLC {TOS Review}

As I'm slowly returning back to my Charlotte Mason roots, I find that one area of inconsistency has been composer studies.  When we had the opportunity to review Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC, I was definitely intrigued and looked forward to trying it out.

Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades
This Music Appreciation course is designed to meet all national standards for music appreciation for K-6th grade, and in fact exceeded those standards at the time of publication.  It teaches the lives and music of seven different composers:
  • Johann Sebastian Bach
  • George Frederic Handel
  • Franz Joseph Hayden
  • Wolfgang A. Mozart
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Nicolo Paganini
  • Franz Schubert 

Included with this curriculum, I received the following:
  • Student Activity Book
  • Music Discs
  • Lapbook (CD)
  • Seven individual composer biographies

Franz Schubert

Although the units are presented in a chronological fashion, they are stand-alone units and can be completed in any order.  We started with Franz Schubert.

The full title of the book we used is Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher.  The biographies are reprinted classics, and I've seen these books come highly recommended for music appreciation, so I was excited to see a course designed around them.  The illustrations by Mary Greenwalt are simple, black and white, and are not on every page, but frequent enough to keep the interest of younger children or visual learners.  Samples of Schubert's music are scattered throughout the book.  The biographies are written in story form and are engaging, true living books.  {You might notice Schubert is the only hardback book, but this is the last book to be updated and reprinted.  The other books are paperback.}

All of the components of this program are designed to work together to get the full benefit of the curriculum.  Each composer has four weeks of instruction, and each week is broken down with a list of activities to complete.  There are a variety of activities that are pretty standard across each composer, like comprehension questions, as well as character qualities and tidbits of interest pulled from the stories.  The other activities, lapbook components and music theory content are more varied for each composer.

Franz Schubert ~ The Lessons

Each composer has a Weekly Lesson Outline, with each week having anywhere from 8-12 activities on average.  Essentially, you read the chapter from the biography, and work through the Activity Book, though you could choose the order of activities within each week.  It also tells you when to complete the corresponding lapbook elements.  For Schubert, there was such a variety of topics covered!  Learning about Austria lets you explore geography.  We learned about an instrument called a hackbrett, which was new to all of us, so that was fun.  It inspired us to look up videos online too.  We learned about First Chair, which allowed me to talk about my "auditions" for chair placement when I played clarinet.  There was so much more!  Our introduction to music theory included learning about things like rhythm, solfege, notes and rests, and again, much more than I could cover in this review . . . and just think--this is just for one composer!  I don't think I can truly tell you how comprehensive this program is.  While the boys didn't particularly care for all the technical terms and definitions, they did enjoy the activities like clapping the rhythm of familiar songs and humming melodies for each other to identify, as well as just listening to the music.

The Activity Book tells you when to complete the corresponding lapbook elements, so there's no guessing when to do what, and nothing gets left out by accident, which I appreciate.

Preparing our Lapbook

We did find that many activities weren't really our style.  Frequently, the lapbook elements were just pasting a summary of the workbook information into a booklet, instead of having the children transferring their knowledge and understanding of the material in their own words.  I'd hoped it would serve as a method of narration, and for future units, I've decided if we continue with the lapbooks, we will leave out some of these pre-written summaries and have the kids summarize on their own.  Some of the activities felt out of place for a music study, in my opinion.  Making patterns with apple pictures or researching an apple type, just because apples were mentioned in the book, is quite a stretch, just to have a "hands-on" activity.  Elliott actually loves word searches, but I don't consider a word search hands-on either.  I know sometimes unit studies are pretty inclusive to cover a variety of subjects, but I think sometimes just including what is a natural fit is more than enough, such as the comparison of poetry and music.  For me, a composer/music study doesn't need everything else, though looking through some of the other units we haven't done yet, they do have some interesting hands-on activities that are more appropriate.

I think the other "issue" I had was that it somehow manages to fit so much information into just four weeks.  That's NOT a bad thing, because it's very thorough and informative, it's just too fast paced for our family.  We like to go slow and really savor what we're learning.  Also, one month is shorter than Charlotte Mason recommended spending on a composer.  CM style would be to study one composer over a whole term, and if I'm being honest with myself, CM's composer studies would not include all the extra stuff that makes this curriculum.  So while it wasn't really as Charlotte Mason in nature as I was hoping, it is actually easy enough to tweak.  It is just more like a two year program for us.

Other Composers
The units for the other composers are laid out in a similar fashion.  Everything is very consistent through the book, so as the parent/teacher, you know what to expect.  I decided we should follow Schubert with a study of George Frederic Handel, because we have a fun CD with his music I wanted to pair with it.  This study uses the biography titled Handel at the Court of Kings.

Again, this is a comprehensive unit.  Of course it has the review and comprehension of the readings and positive character traits demonstrated by Handel, but also information about other musicians born during the same year as Handel, mapping/geography lessons, a writing assignment with adjectives and adverbs,  and a taste of German culture with ideas for a meal.  Now cooking is my idea of hands-on and interactive!  Where in Schubert's study we learned about the theory of music, Handel teaches about the elements of music and contrasting music styles.  This helps keep each unit unique, while still offering a broad overview of music throughout the full course.  I do think the activity on blindness in Week 4 offers a unique look at the challenges that not just composers, but anyone else with impaired vision might face in their daily life.

The seven units combined will cover the various elements of music appreciation and music theory standards.  Not every composer will cover every standard, and some standards may only be addressed by one composer.  However, it looks like by the end of this course, we should have a good foundation in music.  If your state (or cover school) requires music education, this would be an excellent choice.  Our new state does, so I will be adjusting this program to meet our needs and cover our music requirement.

Final Thoughts

I think it just depends on what you're looking for in a music course.  My kids appreciate composer biographies and just listening to music, but this is a thorough Music Appreciation course, not simply a composer studies course, and as such, is heavy on the music theory and vocabulary.  It's great at that, but I guess it isn't the angle we're going for right now.  Many aspects of the program went over well with the boys, but not everything.  I also have to accept that lapbooks really aren't their preferred learning style.  Emory probably would like the coloring book they have, which has pages for each chapter, so that's probably something I should have considered.  The program is recommend for K-6 students, with the understanding that younger students will have more adult involvement.  My boys are 1st and 3rd, and I feel much of it is beyond my 6 year old, and a stretch for my 9 year old as written.  I love the use of living books, and I think these particular book choices are great for all ages, but I think the workload is better for the older end of the recommended grade range, and it's certainly suitable for beyond, particularly for a student with little music exposure.  It's a fabulous program, and it will just take some more tweaking to fit our relaxed Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling.  The good thing is that I believe this program is flexible enough for families of different homeschool styles to make it work for their unique needs.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

More Information

There is also a Book 2 in the works!  It is expected to be released Spring 2017 and will include seven more composers!  They are Chopin, Schumann, Wagner, Foster, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and MacDowell.  Music Appreciation Book 2 will be geared towards 5th-8th graders.

You can find out more about Zeezok Publishing on Facebook or Pinterest, and by reading more crew reviews.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about some of the activities not "fitting"! We are going to read through the biographies and listen to the music, but not do the lapbooks or the activity guide. Lapbooks aren't really my thing, anyway!