A couple of years ago, we had the opportunity to use a music appreciation program from Zeezok Publishing. This year, we got to review the next level of the program – Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades.
We received a lovely package of materials that included
- One student book and the following books
- Frederic Chopin, Early Years
- Frederic Chopin, Later Years
- Robert Schumann and Mascot Ziff
- Adventures of Richard Wagner
- Stephen Foster and His Little Dog Tray
- The Young Brahms
- The Story of Peter Tchaikovsky
- Peter Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker Ballet
- Edward MacDowell and His Cabin in the Pines
The student book is a softback, perforated book of more than 300 pages. The reading books are all different lengths. Most are softback but a couple are hardback and one was sent to us as an ebook. (It would come as a physical reader if you purchase the package.) These readers are definitely written at a challenging level for upper elementary, as the vocabulary is advanced. It is great and does a wonderful job of stretching language. The chapters are fairly long so they took more than one sitting each to read.
The student book includes so much information! Miss E has worked on the questions about Chopin and his life. There are music education parts where she had to do things such as write in the beats of the music and work on the website to learn more about the grand staff and key signatures. Much of the written work in the student book includes comprehension questions over the reader. The biggest benefit of the student book, though, is the emphasis it puts on where the music comes from, the heritage of the composer, and the land in which he lived and how it influenced his writing. This and the musical education on reading and writing music is fabulous.
There is also a lapbook to go along with this that can be purchased separately and we have not seen or used it this time around. It is designed for more hands-on learners and there are designated assignments in the student book to let you know when to do each part of the lapbook.
One other aspect is the website, app, and QR codes to supplement the program. We did not use the app or QR codes. The website has been wonderful. There are not only links to the music of the composer to go along with the reader and story but it contains videos that teach more about the composer, his country, and his music. We have really enjoyed watching some of the videos on Chopin. There are additional lessons to complement the student book, such as key signatures or the grand staff. There is also an online quiz that can be taken at the end of the composer study for each composer. Other activities include comparing different types of music with McDowell, viewing Cossack dancing for Wagner, and seeing the New England primer book and hearing a master storyteller for Foster. What amazing transferring of knowledge is being encouraged and taught!
It is suggested that the student keep a journal for specific assignments. One example of an assignment for the journal is when talking about how Chopin really used the music of the people, the student is asked to choose a patriotic song from their country and write an entry about the emotions and sentiments in the music. Another example, when studying Brahms, the student is encouraged to study a picture and quote, then write about what it is conveying and answer a couple of questions about it. Again, this is just asking the student to stretch their knowledge and make additional connections. This is where learning blossoms!
The program is designed to study the seven composers over the course of a year. There are 29 weeks worth of study and each week is delineated at the start of the student book as to the reading and student book activities to complete. There is a scope and sequence in the book, as well as all of the QR codes listed in the front of the book for quick access. This study will cover all of the national music standards for 5th – 8th grades. Paired with vocal lessons and practice, this is going to be counting towards a high school credit for Miss E. It is so thorough and intense that I think it hits everything she needs it to.
Music appreciation is about more than just listening to a piece of music and knowing who the composer is. It is about understanding where the music came from and the influences of the land the composer comes from and life the composer lived. Music appreciation is hearing the music and connecting it to something else. Zeezok Publishing does a great job of this for the middle grades (and on into high school) with Music Appreciation Book 2: for the Middle Grades. You can read our previous review of Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades, also.
Lori, At Home.
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