Music and Literacy... Sing and Learn!

Music and Literacy - Sing and Learn

This is part one in a two (maybe more!) part series of blogs AND webinars.
I teach music so that children will learn to be tuneful, beautiful, and artful.  I want children to be confident singers and players, perceptive listeners, and creative movers and music makers.  
So my #1 goal is not to teach literacy.  But there are many studies that show that learning music is strongly linked to improved literacy skills.

Watch the webinar on this topic at Musicplay Workshops:

This poster is available on  in Lesson Planning > Overview > Advocacy posters. What I wanted to discuss in this blog and the Webinar Wednesday on Wed. June 15th is on the last line - songs that teach concepts.

Music is Literacy

How did you learn the alphabet? 

We sing the Alphabet song!  Why do advertisers use jingles?  Because they get stuck in your head - it gives us information to remember within a melodic/rhythmic framework, and it helps us to remember.  My grandkids sing "Sleep Country Canada - why buy a mattress?  Sleep on the floor!"  They've changed it a little, but they have heard that jingle enough that they remember the content.

Musicplay PreK includes most of the Alphabet Action Songs.  I wrote these with my sister, Carmen, to help her kindergarten students learn the letter sounds and letter recognition.  These songs are short and we wrote them with the intent that children could quickly and easily learn them, and they would learn them with movements that would help engagement and retention.  Our criteria were:

  • must be short
  • must be repetitive or have predictable lyrics
  • may utilize echo so children only have to remember a fragment of lyrics/melody
  • must be FUN!

We've added a soft letter g song and we added Umbrella Birds for the teachers/schools who didn't care for Uncle Underwear.  But I think that Carmen, the kindergarten teacher, and Denise, the music teacher, created a set of songs that children love, ask for over and over again, and are helpful in teaching letter sounds and letter recognition.

One literacy consultant that I've worked with said that some children need to hear "Letter a, says a" 1500 times before they have it in their long-term memory.  We read children Alphabet books, sing the ABC song, and we do Alphabet Action songs --- over time, 99.999% of our children learn that Letter a says "a."

We all have our personal favorites from the Alphabet Action Songs, but mine is Alligator Alarm.

Starting with a Story

I like to introduce the song with a story.  This is the Alligator Alarm story.  The intent was to write a story that would engage the children, and would also include many A words:  animals, alligator, Al, ant, alarm, awoke.  You can read it to the children simply to engage and entertain them!  I love to read for enjoyment.   But you can also read, emphasizing the letter A words, and after the story have the children identify all the words that had the beginning sound "A."

Alligator Alarm Story

One of our really gifted Musicplay teachers, Dana Herro,  made us videos showing how she introduces the song.  You can follow Dana's model, show Dana's video, or tell the story in your own way!

Alligator Alarm Story by Dana


Teaching the "Phonics" songs

Each letter has "Phonics" songs.  Vowels have 2 - for the long and the short vowel sound.  The melody of each of these has the same melody.  Short  vowels piggyback on the song "Wheels on the Bus" and long vowels piggyback on the song, "If You're Happy and you know it!"  So the melodies are familiar, but singing the song with motions, adds to the repetitions (some need 1500!) to help all children with letter recognition.
For Letter A song, I use an alligator puppet, and every time we sing the letter sound, I open the Alligator puppet's mouth.  I've got a scary alligator puppet and a not-so-scary one.  I'll choose the puppet based on the class that I'm teaching.

Short Letter ALong Letter A







Using the Action Song

My criteria for songs were:

  • must be short
  • must be repetitive or have predictable lyrics
  • may utilize echo so children only have to remember a fragment of lyrics/melody
  • must be FUN!

Alligator Alarm is FUN!  it has great actions, it has repetitive lyrics and it's short.
EXTENSIONS - Invite the children to tell what part of the body Alligator Al should eat next.
This is a great way to ensure that PreK/K (even Gr. 1-2) children know body parts like wrist, elbow, shoulder, ankle.

Alligator Alarm Lyrics

Printing Practice

For PreK/K/1 classroom teachers, we include printable pages to practice printing the letter.  These aren't really intended for music teacher use, but they would make great sub plans.

Highlight all the letter As. Count how many there are on the page.

Highlight the letter A printable

Practice printing upper and lower case letters.  Draw pictures of 2 things that start with A.

Draw letter As Printable

Send home the story and the songs with students.

Alligator Al Story Printable

Watch the full-length webinar on this subject for free at Musicplay Workshops! Complete the quiz and receive a PD certificate for 1 hour of professional development. 

Watch the Webinar

Looking for More?

The Artie and Denise summer conference 2022 is live in Indianapolis - and a recorded with live Q&A version will be available as well on August 8-10 with conference access available until August 10th, 2023. 2.5 days of inspiration, lesson plans, and sharing with fellow music teachers. You'll have a whole year to view the recorded sessions!

Participation Options:

In-Person + Virtual Access

  • What? 11 fun and engaging sessions (16.5 hours of professional development)
  • Who? Artie Almeida, Denise Gagne, Greg Gilpin
  • Where? The Arabian Room at the Murat Shrine, Indianapolis, IN, USA
  • When? July 19th-21st, 2022 for the in-person session + access to the virtual sessions August 8th-10th, 2022 (recordings available until August 10th, 2023)
  • Cost? $175.00 USD
  • Extras? University credit available for an additional cost

In-Person + Virtual Access ($175.00)

Virtual Only Access

  • What? 11 fun and engaging sessions (16.5 hours of professional development)
  • Who? Artie Almeida, Denise Gagne, Greg Gilpin
  • Where? Zoom
  • When? August 8th-10th, 2022 (recordings available until August 10th, 2023)
  • Cost? $100.00 USD

Virtual Only Access ($100.00)

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