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Sing to the Stars

Author:  Mary Brigid Barrett
Illustrator: Sandra Speid
ISBN: 0316082244

Summary: A boy and his friend Mr. Washington share a love for music but don’t know it until making the decision whether or not to perform at a benefit concert.

Unit Study Prepared by Michelle Armstrong, Celia Hartmann, and Ami Brainerd

Geography: Cleveland, Ohio
The author, Mary Bridig Barrett claims that Sing to the Stars was partly inspired by her childhood years spent in Cleveland.
Locate Ohio on a U.S. map.  Can your student find Cleveland?  Place a storydisk on Cleveland. 

Ohio Facts
Ohio Flag
Ohio Outline Map
Ohio state bird/flower coloring page
Where is Ohio?

Human Relationships:  Talents
God has gifted each of us different talents.  A talent is a natural ability that one possesses.  Can you help your student determine what his talent(s) may be (a certain subject in school, musical ability, sports ability, giftedness with small children, ability to be a great helper/servant, etc.)?  Discuss different talents.  What was Mr. Washington's talent?  What was Ephram's?

Musicians in History: Louis Armstrong and Johann Sebastian Bach
See Art/Music Section

Occupations:  Jobs for Dogs
This lesson was originally written for another HSS Unit-- The Cats in Krasinkski Square

Dogs have different occupations just like humans!  Here are some of the different jobs dogs can have:
Hearing dogs for the deaf; they are trained to alert people to a ringing telephone, fire alarm, and other household sounds Service dogs for the disabled; they can help their partners with many everyday tasks, such as opening doors and turning on lights.
Police dogs that help detect bombs
Seeing-eye dogs that help the blind walk safely avoiding obstacles and oncoming traffic.
Army Scout dogs that warn of danger
Sled dogs in artic regions 
Dogs that herd sheep and cattle
Guard dogs for homes and businesses
Dogs that detect fire accelerants

Find extraordinary dog stories here 
*this even has movie clips to watch!

History:  Inventor Louis Braille
In the story, Mr. Washington is blind.  How is a blind person able to read?
Braille is a system of raised dots that is read with the fingers.  If your student has ever been in an elevator, then he has probably seen Braille numbers next to the traditional numbers on the floor levels (be sure and point this out next time you are in an elevator if your student doesn't remember it.)

The Braille system was invented by Louis Braille of France in the early 1800s.
Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809, near Paris. At three years of age an accident deprived him of his sight, and in 1819 he was sent to the Paris Blind School. Young Louis Braille desperately wanted to read. He realized the vast world of thought and ideas that was locked out to him because of his disability. And he was determined to find the key to this door for himself, and for all other blind persons.  When he invented Braille, he gave blind people the opportunity he was seeking-- the ability to read. 

Using the link below, view the Braille Alphabet and have your student write out her name (or even a secret message to you or a friend!).  You may also want to check out some books in Braille from your local library.

View Braille Alphabet
Sign-up for a Free Braille Bug Card! (allow 2-3 weeks delivery)

Compound Words (Go Fish! Game)
Look for compound words throughout the story (sidewalk, afternoon, toolbox, nobody, neighborhood, playground, anyone, hallways, grandfather, upstairs, streetlight, onstage).

If you'd like, play this prepared game with your student-- Compound Word Go Fish; you will need Adobe Acrobat to open this file.

This is a two player game.
Print one copy of the cards (preferably on cardstock). 
Shuffle the cards and deal each player six cards.  Put the rest (face down) in the center of the two players on the floor (or table).  This is the "fish pond!" If a player has any matches in his hand, he may immediately place them down face up. 
The first player then takes a turn.  He chooses a card that would complete a match he has in his hand.  "Do you have neighbor to complete neighbor hood?"  Then, the second player either says, "yes" and gives him the card (she must hand it over if she has it!)  or, if she does not have the card she says, "Go Fish!"  If a player gets to "Go Fish!" he chooses any card from the fish pond in hopes of matching something he already has in his hand.  Once all the matches have been made, the game is over. The object of the game is to get compound word matches; the player with the most matches wins.

List Making
List the different types of music and instruments found throughout this story.

This book includes many examples of repetition.   Why does your student think the author included these repetitive phrases?  Discuss how they add to the musical quality of the book.
"plat, plat, plat"
"pat, pat, pats"
"light step, brush, light step, brush"
"on-off, on-off"
What sounds around your house (or in your lives) have musical quality?  The swish, swish, swish of the broom sweeping the kitchen floor?  The hum, hum, hum of the refrigerator?  Spend some time listening to the music in the world around you and record the sounds in a notebook.  Maybe your student can use some of these sounds in one of his future stories.

Verb Tense: Present Tense (also Copywork)
The verbs in this story are written in the present tense.   Choose a passage for your student.  Have him copy the passage changing the verbs to the past tense.  What is the difference?  What different feeling do the present tense verbs create versus the past tense verbs?  Why does your student think the author chose the present tense?

Story as written (present)
"Ephram walks sprightly down the street.  Head high, he wings his black case back and forth, to and fro."

Story changed (past)
"Ephram [walked] sprightly down the street.  Head high, he [swung] his black case back and forth, to and fro."

Note: You will want your student to choose a longer passage to re-copy; this is just for illustration of what is meant by the lesson.  You may also want to mention that whenever you are quoting and decide to change a word, you should use brackets [ ] to indicate what you have done.

Have student use a dictionary to locate these words:

open mike


If making a lapbook you can use these words (or any other your child is not familiar with) one or all of these ways:   


single fold flaps with word on outside and definition inside; or paper folded length-wise and flaps cut;

Reading - put each word on an index card; alphabetize as well as use for reading flashcards. Make a pocket to place in lapbook.

Drama Ideas
Choose one of the dialogues to act out with your student.  Practice the scene in different styles (using different voices, emphasizing different words, etc.)

Try walking like Ephram walks (as described by Mr. Washington).  Try walking in various different ways as well.

Exercise!  Write the following words from the story on index cards and let your student pick one (unknowingly).  Do the action for 10-30 seconds then choose another card. 









·   Copy any of the phrases that stand out to your student(s). These are suggestions:

o       “Music speaks best when someone listens.”

o       “…you play to take my breath away.”

o       “Most times you walk with the song of life in your step.”

o       “But I do like to play this violin.  It speaks when I haven’t got any words.”

o       “This morning it sounds like you are as bold as Mr. Louis Armstrong’s horn laying down the ‘Tiger Rag’.”

Bible Study:  Word Study
Do a word search for SHILOH, the name of Mr. Washington's dog.  What does the word mean?  Where in the Bible is it found? may be used if you do not have this type of program on your computer (or a concordance in your library)
This would be a great opportunity to introduce your student to how a concordance works.  You could even show your older student how to find the meaning of the words (Greek/Hebrew meanings) through using the concordance.

Memory Verse:  Ecclesiastes 4:12
If you look at the author's dedication, you will see that she uses a scripture reference.  Why would she choose this verse?  Discuss with your student. 

Bible Study:  Talents and Gifts
Acts 2:37-39; Ephesians 4:11-13
These passages mention the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  You may want to introduce your student to these gifts.  Once we receive God's gift of salvation, we are each given gifts by the Holy Spirit to be used to serve God.  Do you know what your spiritual gift(s) is?  Share with your student how you are able to use your gift for the glory of God.

Science:  The Five Senses

Since Mr. Washington didn’t have his sight, how did know what was going on around him?  He depended on his other four senses. Study the five senses with your student.

Review the five senses (hearing, smell, taste, touch, and seeing) This is a fun labeling sheet   
Simple Book about the five senses

Make a small chart (with five columns--one for each sense).  Make a tally mark in the appropriate column each time a student uses one of his senses.  Chart this for 20 minutes or so.  Which sense did he use the most?  You may want to make a graph to display the results.

Taste:  set out one food for each of our tasting senses (bitter, sour, salty and sweet). Have the student eat one and see if they can tell where on their tongue they tasted. (salty or sweet should be on tip or front of tongue while bitter should be on the sides and sour in the back)

Hearing: have your student close her eyes and listen to someone walking.  What can she determine by listening?  If you are the one walking, walk in various ways (slow, hurried, etc.).  Can your student hear what she would normally "see" (depend on her eyes to tell her)?

Touch: place different textured and shaped items in a paper sack and without looking, let them put their hands in the sack feel the item and guess what it is.

Smell:  blindfold your student before a meal...set her plate in front of her.  Can she guess what's for dinner by relying on her sense of smell?

Lesson Plan on Blindness

Applied Math:  Telling Time
Ephram is nervous that Mr. Washington isn't going to show up because he was late.  (He was suppose to be there at 8:00.)  Introduce or review time on a clock -- especially the hour and half hour.  For a lapbook you could make a layered book to study the different time increments. On the shortest flap, place a clock and have student write 1 hour = 60 minutes. Then on next place a clock, color half the clock and have the student write ½ hour = 30 minutes and continue until you have 5 minute increments (then just write 5 minutes).

Clock Books from Enchanted Learning

Clock Puzzles from bry-back manor

Clock Worksheet from bry-back manor

Applied Math:  Sequencing
This story takes place over a couple of days.  Help your student articulate the events in the story then make a time line that includes the order of events (first, next, last, etc.). 

Fractions:  Length of Musical Notes (Music Theory)
You may wish to introduce your child to some basic music theory.  Show him a piece of staff paper.  (See links below.) Tell him that the set of 5 lines going across the page is called a staff and that two lines of staff together is called the Grand Staff.  Composers write music notes on the lines to make songs.  The notes tell a musician how to play the music.  There are different kinds of notes.   Using the this chart (  ), go over whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes.    Show him what they look like (a whole note is a circle called a notehead, a half note is a notehead with a line called a stem attached, and a quarter note is half note with the notehead colored in).  Then discuss the "value" of each note.  Every time a musician see a whole note he counts 1 - 2 - 3 - 4.  The half note, 1 -  2.   The quarter note, 1.

Now draw a whole note on your staff paper, then draw a vertical line from the top line of the staff to the bottom line of the staff.  Beside that draw two half notes and draw another vertical line.  Then draw four quarter notes, and another vertical line.  Then draw one half note and two quarter notes.   [Ugh, anyway, we can make a worksheet?  I've got staff paper, I suppose I could draw an example and scan it in??? What do you think?]

Now point to your whole note and ask your student the value of a whole note.  When he answers four, write 4 underneath the note.  Point out that the vertical line is called a bar line and it separates measures of music.   Now point to your two half notes and ask the value of a half note.  When he answers two, explain that since we have two half notes, I'm going to write 2 under each one.  How much is 2 plus  2.  Right, 4...the same as our whole note!   Again point out the bar line between the measures.   Point to the four quarter notes.  How much is quarter note worth?  Right, 1.  I'm going to write 1 under each quarter note.  How much is 1 + 1 + 1 + 1. Yes, 4 just like our whole note!   Just like our coin the quarter, it takes four quarters to make one whole dollar....four quarter notes in music make one whole note.  Now our next measure, has a half note and two quarter notes.  How much are they worth?  Right the half note is worth two, so I'm going to write  2 under it.  Each quarter note is worth one, so I'm going to write 1 below each of them.  How much is 2 + 1 + 1.  Again, 4!  Each measure adds up to 4! 
In some songs, you will find that all the notes in a measure add up to 2 or 3 or 6, etc.  If your student is older, you can introduce dotted half notes (3 count), eighth notes (half a count), etc. and teach him their values and how to add them as well.

Practice making more note patterns for your child to add up.  Be sure all your measures (the notes in between in bar lines) adds up to the same number.  If you have ShockWave6, you can use this site to count notes:  Click on the different notes below the line that looks like a ruler and it will put the notes on the staff, automatically forwarding you to the next measure when you get the correct number.  Click on the time signature on the left to change the number of counts in each measure.  (Unfortunately, the only do 2, 3, and 4.....if you do 2 and 3, you will have to first introduce your student to eighth notes and dotted halves.)

For more information on how to count notes (note duration), try:

If your student wishes to learn more about basic music theory, you might also explore:  treble clef, base clef, time signature, note names (A, B, C, D, E, F, G).

More music theory information or use Usborne's Internet-linked book, Music Theory for Beginners.

Staff paper  
More Staff paper 
Note chart


Art:  Music- Composer (Bach)
Who is this Mr. Bach referred to in the story? It is the famous composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.  A composer is a person who creates a musical work, usually a piece of music in printed form. 

Bach was born in 1685 in Germany to Johann Ambrosius Bach who was a town musician and probably gave Bach his first music lessons; Bach was the youngest of eight children.  Both of his parents died when he was young and he was sent to an orphanage.   He played organ and violin (just like Ephram in the story!).  Later in his life (after two marriages and 20 children!), he had problems with his vision.  Two eye surgeries left him blind (just like Mr. Washington in the story) and he died ten years later.

Today, Bach is known as one of the greatest composers of his time, but his works were not well known until almost 100 years after he died!

Your older student can read more information about Bach at Enchanted Learning.  Then, she can take this quiz!  

Spend some time this week listening to Bach's music.
 “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” was mentioned in the story (click the link to listen to this selection).
Website with tons of Bach music to listen to

Your library may have this CD-- Mr. Bach Comes to Call-- This is very fun-- a fictitious story intertwining true happenings of the composer’s life with what life was like when the composer lived and where he lived. The background music used is only that specific composer’s works. This is one of a series worth having on your shelf.

Art:  Music- Musician (Louis Daniel Armstrong)
Louis Armstrong was an American jazz musician.  "Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose musical skills and bright personality transformed jazz from a rough regional dance music into a popular art form. Probably the most famous jazz musician of the 20th century, he first achieved fame as a trumpeter, but toward the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and was one of the most influential jazz singers. 
(Source: Wikipedia)

Brief Biography Here

PBS Kids Jazz

Listen to Samples of Louis Armstrong (scroll down to bottom of page)

Art:  Music- Stringed Instruments
There are different families of instruments (keyboard, brass, woodwind, percussion, etc.).  One family is known as the string family.
Instruments in the string family have string stretched over them and make sounds when the player plays the strings in different ways. Depending on the instrument, the player may draw a bow across the strings or pluck or strum the strings with his or her fingers.  Can your student think of any instruments that fall into this category?  Ephram's does!  The violin is a string instrument.  Other members of this family include (but are not limited to) guitar, violin, viola, cello, fiddle, banjo, and harp.

Listen to Stringed Instruments! (don't miss this!)   
Double Bass

Label Stringed Instruments     Answers
Label the Violin                     Answers
Make a Box Guitar!

Art: Misc. Music Ideas to Jazz up Your Week!
Listen to jazz or any or all the other musical styles mentioned (classical, jazz, old spirituals, rap) Share with your kids what music you like the best.

Discuss the lyrics of the song Amazing Grace and sing it together all week.

Practice a song daily all week (maybe Amazing Grace on whatever instrument available: voice, piano, lapharp, etc.) and then give a “concert” at the end of the week.

Learn about different musical instruments

Just For Fun

Jump Rope!  Learn some jump rope chants.

Go to a Laundromat. Try cleaning a load of laundry with your eyes closed as if you were blind.

Go to a Musical Concert or Musical Production.

Visit a dog training class.


Library List

Manuelo the Playing Mantis

Any of the “Classical Kids” series

Nicola Moon's Lucy's Picture (Dial, 1995; o.p.), the story of a little girl making a collage picture for her blind grandfather

Looking out for Sarah , Lang, Glenna. (have not previewed)

A Day in the Life of a Seeing Eye Dog Trainer Osborn, Kevin

Connie’s New Eyes ,Wolf, Bernard

Bunny Trails for Older Students
Science:  Power Outage
What causes a power outage?  Your student may be interested in researching the ins and outs-- the hows and whys of electricity!

Science:  Blindness
Learn more about the different degrees of blindness such as "legally blind"

Science:  Stars
Your student may be fascinated with our solar system and wanting to learn more about stars.  Here are some Enchanted Learning Links to get your student started!
Star Information
Major Stars and Star Systems

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