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Song and Dance Man Author

Song and Dance Man

Author: Karen Ackerman
Illustrator: Stephen Gammell
ISBN: 0394893301
Summary: When the grandkids come to visit, Grandpa takes them to the attic, opens his trunk and performs his song and dance from  “the good old days”.

Unit Prepared by Denise Gregson


God gave us many senses so that we could enjoy the world we live in as well as use our minds and talents in creative pursuits. He also gave us other people to interact with and to enjoy relationship together. “In the Beginning God created…..” (Gen. 1:1)  God is a creative God and is pleased when we enjoy all that He has created. When we appreciate all He has created we will experience joy.  The Bible says a “joyful heart is good medicine”(Proverbs 17:22) and lists joy as a Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

The Bible commands to” love one another deeply from the heart”.  How can we demonstrate love to one another?  (1 Peter 1:22)
(see the Social Studies section for more on this topic)


History of Entertainment
Tap dancing was popular as far back as the 1800’s.  Some danced vigorously in shoes with wooden soles.  Others danced  the "soft-shoe" which was danced more smoothly in shoes of soft soles. By 1925 metal taps were attached to shoe heels and toes. Tap dance was popular in variety shows and early musicals.

Vaudeville was a variety of entertainment performances in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s.

Types of acts included musicians, dancers, comedians,  magicians,  acrobats, plays and short films.  Grandpa included a combination of music, dance, and comedy  in his act. Notice the top framed photograph  on the wall in the opening illustration – Does your child think it may be a picture of Grandpa himself in his earlier years?  Take another look at the posters in the attic advertising some of Grandpa’s shows.

The Broadway Theater is probably America’s best known.  The shows on Broadway are usually plays or musicals with a large audience and take place in theaters located in Manhattan in New York City.

Find a good musical to watch together as a family.

It may be hard for our kids to imagine how to entertain themselves without the aid of the many electronic devices we have today.  Ask your child, What do you suppose people did for entertainment before television and computers?  Suggestion:   How about declaring a NO electronics devices day!?

Radio was a very popular means of entertainment in the “good old days,” especially radio drama.  Try to find a station that airs a radio drama such as Unshackled by Pacific Garden Mission (for example) and listen.

Pictures of old radios from the 1920’s and 1930’s

Does your child know what a record and a record/phonograph player looks like?  If you don’t have any to show them, you could show some pictures on the internet or go to an antique shop and look. 
Record Player

If you keep a timeline, add the dates of some inventions important to communication and entertainment.  Some suggested times to add to your timeline include:
1447 – first printing press (Johannes Gutenberg)
1877 – first phonograph (Thomas Edison)
1888 – first camera
1906 – first (voice) radio broadcast  (from Massachusetts)
1931 – first electronic television
1981 – first cd (compact disc)
1981 – first hand held video camera

Some fashions come and go; other fashions are “in” for a while never to return. Find some old family pictures and review the different styles over the decades if possible.  By studying fashion, your child will begin to recognize how old a photograph might be - which is a useful body of knowledge.

Top Hats/Bowler HatsA top hat is a kind of tall, broad-brimmed hat worn by men throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The first top hats were made with felt and later ones of silk. The stovepipe hat was made popular by Abraham Lincoln during his presidency.  The stovepipe hat was normally taller than the  top-hat and straight.  

The bowler hat was a hard felt hat with a rounded crown.

Refer to the book for examples.

When hats were popular people needed hatboxes to store them in.  Notice the hat boxes in the attic.  Nowadays, decorative hatboxes are used for all sorts of storage.

Patterns:  Stripes and polka dots, bow ties, suspenders are all styles that give a playful feel. That is why clowns often wear them.  Suspenders help against the effects of gravity! Older people might use suspenders to keep their pants up as they lose weight and change shape due to aging.

Loving Relationships
Discuss what makes a loving relationship. Make a list of the ingredients in a loving relationship. Your list may include:

Taking an interest in what the other person has an interest in
Spending time together 
Making memories together to share 
The love between the Grandpa and his grandkids is evident.  Grandpa says he “wouldn’t trade a milLion good old days” for the days he spends with them.


Review similes (a comparison using “like” or “as”) using the examples in the story:
“his tap shoes make soft, slippery sounds like rain on a tin roof”
“a new step that sounds like a woodpecker tapping on a tree”
“His voice is as round and strong as a canyon echo”

(words and phrases related to performing arts)
Make sure your child is familiar with the following words or phrases and then have them complete the
On Stage! Puzzle as a review at a later time (see answers below).


Grand finale 

Show time

Powder on floor

Old soft shoe

“Good old days”

Nostalgia (longing for the past)



On Stage Puzzle Answers
3. the show happens here  (stage)
4. time to begin!  (show time)
6. Grandpa loves to talk about things back in the  “______  ___   _____” (good old days)
7. an exciting ending to a show  (grand finale)
8. used to make something shine  (shammy)

1. longing for the past  (nostalgia)
2. tap dancing  (soft shoe)
3. shines on the star of the show  (spotlight)
5. this spread on the floor helps avoid slipping  (powder)

Choose one or more of the following writing assignments for your child to complete:
Have your child interview a grandparent or an elderly person about “What was life like in the ‘Good Old Days’?” and write a summary.
2)  Ask your child, “Which activities or memories that our family is experiencing now do you think you might describe to your children some day as part of ‘the good old days’ “? Write about them.
3)  If you were to perform on the Vaudeville Stage what kind of show would you like to put on and why?


Telling Time/Roman Numerals
What time is it when the children arrive at their grandparents’ house? Since Grandma says dinner will be in one hour, what time was dinner?  The numbers on the clock are in Roman Numerals.  You may want to introduce or review some of the Roman Numerals with your child.  Print out the
Roman Numerals Worksheet onto cardstock and cut them out to use as flashcards. 

clock template with Roman Numerals

Once your child is familiar with his Roman Numerals you can have him fill in the correct Roman Numerals onto a clock template


Notice the silhouette on the title and back pages and halfway through the book when Grandpa is performing his act for the grandkids.  You can make your child’s silhouette by casting a shadow onto a white piece of butcher paper that is attached to the wall.  Have your child stand close to the wall and use a bright light source behind your child to create a shadow onto the paper. Trace the outline onto the paper.  You can then shade in or paint the outline.  You could use just a side profile or an entire body silhouette. Alternatively, you can take a picture of your child’s profile with a plain background, having them stand close to the camera.  Enlarge the picture and print it out.  Cut out the profile and use it as your template to trace and cut out his silhouette using black paper.

Cross Hatching
Notice the hatching and cross hatching technique used in the illustrations. Have your child try out this technique. Have him draw a figure and use crosshatching to create a shadow.  Be sure to have them add a light source on the opposite side of the figure.

Performing Arts     
A percussion instrument is an instrument/object that creates sound by being hit, shaken, scraped or some other action that causes vibration.  Some commonly identified percussion instruments include the drum, tambourine, cymbals, triangle and piano.

In tap dancing the performer is not just a dancer, but actually becomes a percussive “instrument”. Make a list of ways the body can be used as a percussion instrument (clap hands, snap fingers, stomp feet, tap dance, whistling etc).  Use some of these actions set to a rhythm and have your child echo the pattern.

Ty’s One Man Band by Walter is a cute story you may want to find at the library.  The character in the story uses combs and other instruments to become a captivating one man band.

For fun: Free instructions for how to play the spoons

Challenge your children to put on any type of  performance for you and your family at the end of the week.  They could make a colorful poster to “advertise” the show! Perhaps you would like to go to the library and find a book with simple jokes or magic tricks.  Give them some costumes and simple props to choose from.  You could use a flashlight to cast a spotlight on the performer(s) or point a lamp onto them just like Grandpa did.


In the History of Entertainment section we noted that before they were metal, tap shoes had either soft soles or wooden soles.  All three of these types would make significantly different sounds.  If possible try to duplicate the different sounds on the floor using something wooden, metal and a shoe with a soft sole. Notice that the more dense the solid, the louder the sound.

Sound is caused by vibrations which travel by waves through the air, through a solid or through a liquid. 
There are several ways you can demonstrate that sound is caused by vibration and how it travels. Try several:
*Put a plastic ruler on the edge of a table with part of it sticking out over the edge. Strike the ruler and watch and listen to the vibrations. 

*Make your own “telephone.”  Punch a small hole on the bottom center of two paper or plastic cups.  With cups facing outwards, pull a very long piece of string (at least 6 feet long preferably more) through the holes in each of the cups and tie a knot inside the cups big enough to stop the string  from passing through the cup.  Have two people each take a cup and pull the string taut. Your telephone is done.  Have one person whisper into the cup and the other person should be able to hear what was said.  If the string is not held tightly, then the sound wave will not follow the line of the string to the other end.

*Make a kazoo:  Take a plastic straw and flatten one end, then cut that end to a point.  Put the flat side into your mouth and blow.  Feel the vibration! Hear the vibration!

*Blow up a balloon and hold it in front of a speaker that is turned up load.  Feel the vibration.  
*Put your hear on a desk (or table) and then hit the desk
*Turn your speaker facing upwards and place a stack of papers on top. Turn up the speakers and notice the effect on the papers.
*Try stopping the vibrations of a percussion instrument and see what effect it has on the sound
In order to hear a sound vibrations pass through the air, through the solids bones of your middle ear, and finally through the liquid in your inner ear. 
Your outer ear is shaped in a way that it can collect these vibrations and send them inside your ear.  They then hit your eardrum (a thin membrane) and 
make it vibrate. The eardrum passes on the vibrations to the small bones in your middle ear.  The vibrations continue on to your inner ear which is filled with liquid. 
Your nerve cells feel the ripples and send a message to your brain.

worksheet on ear anatomy

When the chest in the attic is opened by Grandpa, there is a smell of cedar.  The wood of the cedar tree is a natural insecticide that keeps moths and other insects away.  The larvae of several types of moths eat natural fabric such as wool or silk.  For this reason, storage chests are sometimes made of cedar or cedar chips are put inside.

Moth caterpillars are a major agricultural pest in many parts of the world.

Enchanted Learning Life Cycle of a Moth

A moth is an insect closely related to the butterfly.  However there are several differences:

Moths tend to have stout, furry-looking bodies, while butterflies have more slender hairless bodies. Moths generally have larger scales than butterflies as well. Most butterflies have thin slender antennae which are knobbed at the end; those of the moth are usually not knobbed at the end

Most butterflies have brightly colored wings. Moths on the other hand are usually plain brown, grey, white or black and often with patterns of zigzags or swirls which help camouflage them as they rest during the day. Moths that are active during the day sometimes have more brilliant colors.

Moths usually rest with their wings spread out to their sides. Butterflies frequently fold their wings upright instead.

Most (but not all) species of moths are nocturnal (which means they are active at night).  Therefore, night-blooming flowers usually depend on moths (or bats) for pollination.  Butterflies are more active during the day.

Moths will circle bright objects, and thus appear to be attracted to light.  Moths are active in the late spring and summer months. If you are doing this lesson at that time of year it would be good to turn on some lights outside one evening and observe what types of moths the lights attract. Notice the characteristics of moths that you have already covered and observe the patterns on the wings.

You could also  “paint” some sugar water onto a tree or old stump in the late afternoon to attract certain species of moths.  Go out after dark when the moths are out to see them.  Some species of moths do not eat, however, and just live off the energy they stored when they were caterpillars.

Butterfly vs. Moth Venn Diagram

In the story the chests were trimmed with leather.  What is leather?  Leather is a material created through the tanning of hides and skins of animal. The tanning process preserves the skin and makes into a material that is useful for a number of different things.  Go around your house, inside and out and look at some of the things that are made of leather and brainstorm others:  shoes, belts, furniture, knife sheaths, car interior, saddles, clothing, purses, wallets, straps. Have your child smell the smell of leather and feel the feel of it. You may want contrast some synthetic products with leather ones.

Hiccups happen by reflex. A reflex is something that you don’t have to think about making happen -- it happens automatically. Reflexes happen quickly and are difficult or impossible to stop. Other reflexes include yawns, shivers and sneezes.   Reflexes are the reaction your nervous system produces in response to conditions your body finds itself in.  Your nervous system is made up of your spinal cord (a large bundle of nerves which your backbone protects), all the other nerves that reach to every part of your body, and your brain.  The nerves are like telephone wires in that they carry messages back and forth from the different parts of your body to your brain.  The brain is like the central office in that it gives instructions to the rest of your body about how to react (usually to protect itself). This all happens so fast we sometimes don’t even realize it has happened.

No one really knows why a hiccup happens.  We only know it is a reflex whereby a nerve sends a signal that tells your brain to take a gulp of air.  But, strangely, at the same time your throat quickly closes and the air can’t pass like it should.  As a result, the hiccup sound is made.

What “cures” have you tried or heard of for ending a bout with hiccups?   Which solution did Grandpa suggest and what was the second cure that he teasingly “threatened” the kids with?

Many hiccup cures are considered by a lot of people to be “old wives’ tales.”  An old wives’ tale is a piece of wisdom passed down from generation to generation which is not necessarily accurate.

Foot Health
Grandpa had corns on his feet.   A corn is like a callous – a thickening on a portion of the skin due to pressure. Corns can occur on the top of the toes where there is pressure from the shoes, at the sole of the foot or in between toes. Corns can be very painful, especially if there is swelling involved.

Although there are other causes, most corns come from poorly fitting shoes so it is important to be sure our shoes fit properly and to take good care of our feet.