May 9, 2016

A Music Appreciation Curriculum for Multi-Grade Levels from Zeezok Publishing {Curriculum Review}

I adore music. I adore GOOD music. I am a pianist who loves good classical music. I was trained by learning how to play the greats--Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Handel...all those familiar names. I really want my boys to learn about the great composers who paved the way for our modern music, but even as a piano teacher, I still wished for a program that I could guide them on. Something that included not just information about the composers, but showcased the beautiful music they wrote as well. Needless to say, the minute I heard we had a chance to review Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC, I was thrilled and hoped that it would be the kind of program I was looking for.
Music Appreciation Book 1 from Zeezok Publishing~ Curriculum Review

Product Information

Zeezok Publishing LLC is committed to providing materials that are unique for families to use in the education of their children. Offering curriculum from their Great Musician Series to their Presidential Penmanship to their zGuide to the Movies, the quality and presentation style of the products cannot be beat.
Their newest product is the Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades which goes with their Great Musician series. Covering the lives of seven different composers--Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert--the program introduces classical music to your children
while also introducing them to music theory. 

This is a two-year curriculum (meeting national academic requirements) designed for kindergarten through 6th grade. It's a flexible and easy to teach program that will not only teach you about each composer, but expose your child to multiple songs by each composer! The curriculum includes over 2 1/2 hrs of professionally recorded music.

The Music Appreciation Book 1 Collection ($169.99) includes the following:
* Student Activity Book
* Music Discs
* Lapbook
* All seven composer biographies

You can see a sample of the student activity book and a 
sample of the lapbook for more information.

We received the Music Appreciation Book 1 Collection to be used with the boys ages 5 and 10.

How Did We Use It?

I was so excited to get this package and when the box arrived on a weekend, I tore into it! I was immediately in love with the high quality of the biographies, and knew we had to get started the following Monday. We were asked to start with Mozart, so I flipped to the Mozart's section in the activity book to look it over. I love that each composer has a different colored section making it much easier to find. 

While I was flipping through the activity book (it's three hold punched which is a nice benefit!), I went ahead and popped in the lapbook CD. I am very familiar with lapbooks, as they are some of our most favorite things to make. The CD immediately pulled up a menu--the top option was View Music Appreciation Lapbook. I love it when it's clearly laid out like that! So I clicked it and discovered that every composer was going to have their own lapbook--so this was a very large file as each lapbook has about 16 different pieces and requires two file folders to make. I found the Mozart section (About 70 pages in) and printed off the first two lapbook components. I love that I can print off duplicates since I am doing this with both boys. Instructions for putting the lapbook together is found on the first couple pages of the file, INCLUDING what each composers lapbook will look like when finished. This is a fabulous extra.

Going back to the Student Activity Book--on the first page of each composer is a weekly lesson outline. This provides you EVERYTHING you need to know about how to section out all the activities for each week. The icons show you what things are to be read, what are hands on, what are character traits, what is geography, etc. I also appreciated the note of the asterix (*). This identified what things must be done in order to meet national academic standards. I liked to think of these as the "at the very least, get these done" items. Once I looked at this, I analyzed all the activities within a week's assignments and QUICKLY discovered how meaty each lesson was. I knew right away that there was no way we'd get all of that done in one week. But, the great thing, is that this program doesn't have a set schedule--you can adjust it to fit. On the website, it states that each day's work is at least an hour depending on how much is done. That's a LOT! 

In my planner, I just noted what activities I was going to do each day and discovered spreading it out over about 7 days (1 1/2 weeks) would probably be the best for us. 
I went ahead and put together the boys lapbooks (green for Little Britches, blue for Baby Britches) because I always keep file folders handy just for this kind of thing. And on Monday we began.

The boys weren't jumping up and down about it, but they both love music and love me reading, so they were willing to give it a try. We quickly discovered the books were written in a very read aloud friendly way and the boys liked the pen and ink illustrations. We chose to read it aloud, but it is written where my oldest could easily read it himself--grade 3-4 level for the biographies. The boys were captivated right away with the story of Mozart and were in awe of his musical genius. 

In the middle of our first chapter, we found a piece of sheet music--the first song that Mozart ever had written down and he was only five when he wrote it! Considering Baby Britches is five, this resonated big time with both boys. They immediately wanted to listen to the song-so we found the coordinating music CD (included in the package and clearly marked) and enjoyed the simple (or not!) melody. Being that I am a pianist and the boys are convinced I can play ANYTHING, they had me stop and go to the piano to hear me play it. 
The sheet music was complete, and I was able to take it right to the piano and give it a go. I can sight read very very well, but let me tell you--I was not perfect and had to think about some of the sequences before playing them. I was able to affirm that without a doubt, Mozart was a certifiable genius. LOL. The boys LOVED me playing the song and had me do it over and over again.

As we finished up the chapter, we discovered ANOTHER song, and headed back to the piano once again. At this point, the boys clearly were very very interested in the life of Mozart and demanded we read more--but I told them we were done with just this chapter.

The next step I did the first day was to go over the comprehension questions. I decided that although they were able to be written down, I wanted to do them orally so that both boys had opportunity to answer the questions. Ideally, you would want to purchase TWO student activity books, but I knew that Little Britches would be doing the bulk of the writing, so I just used the one included in my review. The questions were designed to check comprehension from the reading and all the questions could be answered based on that. 
The second day, we listened again to the songs from the first chapter and then did some of the student activity book readings on character traits and tidbits of interest. We finished the day's work by doing our first lapbook piece which included attaching Mozart's face, and completing a map activity for the lapbook. 

Day three found us listening again--and by now humming along--with the two Mozart songs and completing some reading/questions from the student activity book. This time, Little Britches did record his answers in the book.

Day four had us back at the piano to play the two songs--and by this time, they could tell me when I made mistakes. LOL. We completed the next hands-on activity and writing exercise.

On Friday of the first week, we listened to the songs and danced to them, and then did the last student workbook activity for the week--a review of some German words and terms and matching. 
Surprisingly, I was able to get all of the weeks' assignments done in one week, but this was the only week this happened. Throughout the rest of the review period I followed a similar routine--although the lapbook pieces increased and we had to start spreading them out over a couple days. We averaged 7 days for each lesson. We didn't always do every activity during the week, but we did 90% of the ones that were included. 

On our final day with the final lapbook pieces, we focused on the operas that Mozart was famous for. I searched out Youtube videos of the LIVE performances and even found a condensed animated version of The Magic Flute for the boys to watch--even sung in English. When I played the famous The Marriage of Figaro solo (you know, the one that goes "Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!), the boys cheered because they recognized it from Tom & Jerry cartoons. LOL. They also LOVED the Marriage of Figaro overture, especially when I told them that I played it in high school on my flute. It was so much fun sharing some of my most favorite operas and opera songs with them--especially because they enjoyed them!

By the end of our review period, we completed our Mozart lapbook and will be starting a new composer next week.

What Are Our Thoughts?

I think that overall everyone really enjoyed this program. The boys ALWAYS love lapbooks and they liked being able to work on them together--yet doing separate work. I think the aspect the boys enjoyed the most was listening to the story and hearing the music. They are very musically oriented, so I am not surprised by this at all. After the first day, they came running when it was time to do our music lessons for the day. It is definitely possible to do multiple grade levels at one time. I just incorporated my 5 year old when I could in our discussions.

I absolutely loved how complete this program was. Not only were they getting biographical information about each composer, but through this, they learned some history about the time era. They learned about the culture of the regions the composers visited. I loved the addition of the character traits that were pointed out from the life of Mozart. These were great talking points for us and I worked to incorporate their validity in regards to our own lives. 
Some map work

Writing down favorite Mozart songs
We are a lapbook loving family, so we definitely appreciated the aspect of the lapbook. The activities were very well done and detailed, but I appreciated most that there was minimal writing activities. This really makes it more multi-grade friendly as writing is a skill that a lot of children aren't strong in. The cutting lines were pretty basic, so my 5 year old was able to really help with the cutting in this lapbook. I also am happy that the program included a visual of what the lapbook for Mozart would look like when completed. That helped us match up our pieces--they are numbered, but still. I will add a photo of it when I get one of it all completed as we have a couple pieces that just need attached.

Is there anything I don't like? Well, I think it would be nice if there was a guide that told me what page each composer's lapbook started on as part of the student workbook. I found the numbers on the lapbook pdf, but it would be handy if it said on the book like "found on page 82 of lapbook" so I could just type that number in and go right to the lapbook piece I needed.

Other than that, I really don't have anything to add because it was so well done and just what I was hoping for!


Will we continue to use this product?
Absolutely! We can probably finish one more composer before we finish school for 2015-2016, which means I will have five more to do next year! And if you didn't already catch it, you do not have to do the composers in order--each is a separate unit, so you can go in whatever order you prefer!

Would I Recommend This Program?

Yes yes yes! This is a simply marvelous program that is well rounded in what it teaches. Not only are you getting a fabulous history lesson with every composer, but you are putting together lapbooks which can be referenced for years to come that are full not just of biographical information, but aspects of music theory too! With this one curriculum, you have everything you need to teach a comprehensive music appreciation course to your family.
If you DON'T like lapbooks, I honestly think you could still use all the information included--just don't put the lapbooks together. You could go with a notebooking style and store it all in a binder. I definitely think it's a great program for teaching multi-grades--something that can be difficult to find.

Want to Know More?

We reviewed the Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC with a focus on the Mozart unit study. I hope that you will check out the rest of the reviews from my fellow crew members and see the composers that they explored!
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
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As you can see, this program from Zeezok was exactly what I was looking for and I am happy that I have been able to begin my introduction of the classical composers to my boys. I am definitely going to be watching for when book 2 comes out because this is a great program and I want them all!

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