Third Grade Performance {The Gratitude Tree}

Third grade program, based on a book called "The Gratitude Tree." Blog post includes song ideas, dance ideas, and more!
Today, I am writing about a program I created for my third graders, based off the book “The Gratitude Tree” by my friend Stacey Peters (known as Expressive Monkey on TpT.) You can view this book by clicking the image below.

The book is a really cute and inspiring story about a tree who thinks he's ordinary, until he realizes that every time he feels gratitude, his leaves change color! It's a great way to talk about gratitude, kindness, appreciation, etc. with your students. This blog post will include a summary of songs and dances I used for the program, as well as scenery ideas!

I did this program with third grade, but it could easily be adapted for second or fourth. I split the text up between 22 narrators, and I also had one student who was a tree and another who was a bird. (I bought the tree costume and the bird costume on Amazon…if you are crafty, you could make them yourself!) 
For the performance, I had Stacey's book projected onto the screen on our stage, so that parents could see the book as it was being performed. The first three narrators came up, reading the first lines from the book, and the third narrator read, “Sadly, no one paid attention to the ordinary tree.” At this point, students sang “Apple Tree” while one of the classes accompanied on Orff instruments.
Next, another narrator came up and read the line that ends with “built a nest in its branches.” Since that line is about a bird, I had students sing “Kookaburra,” along with this accompaniment track by The Wild Colonial Boys. Students sang the first two verses in unison, the third verse in a 4-part round, and the fourth verse in unison, which fits perfectly with the accompaniment!
After that, a narrator, the bird, and the tree, all come up and read the next part, which ends with “I am very grateful for that.” At this point, the students sang “Hasuka ma yafa,” which is an Israeli song of thanks. You can learn the song with this video:

I used this book, also by Robert Amchin (the teacher in this video), for the Orff accompaniment. Then two narrators and the tree came up, and read until, “I'm a pretty lucky tree to be selected as the home of new baby birds.” At this point, students sang “Here comes a bluebird”; you can find notation and game directions for here. Then I had another class perform the dance for “Bluebird” with recorded music; the dance with directions can be found in this Sanna Longden resource. Then I had another student come up and read the next part until “green lines.” Since that line is about leaves changing colors, I had students sing “Fly, Fly, Fly.” Here is a video of Libana singing the song; you can find the CD here.

Three more narrators came up; after “keeping him company,” a class came up in two circles and sang “Boots of Shining Leather” in a round.

Three more narrators came up. I had all of the students say, “Have you figured it out yet?” at one time. The third narrator ended with, “beautiful colors,” and then the students sang “De Colores.” I used accompaniment from my textbook series, and had them sing in English, then in Spanish, then in English again. I did have cards to help with the lyrics, as especially with the Spanish, it can be tricky! Then I had a group of five narrators come up and read from “The next day” to “This was the secret to happiness!” Then I had one class perform the dance, “Soldier's Joy,” which can be found in this amazing resource (it's a bit pricey, but TOTALLY worth the money! I use mine ALL the time!)

Then I had two last narrators come up with the bird. We ended with “You might change their whole day too!” Then I had students sing the song “Gift in this Present,” by my friend Lessia Bonn at I am Bullyproof Music. The song is about being grateful for friends, and for the present–a message that really resounded with my students! I just collaborated with Lessia to create a set with materials to teach the song; you can view it by clicking below:

As I said in this blog post, in the past, I've shied away from using pop music, partly because I believe folk music is so important to a child's music education, and partly because so many pop songs have inappropriate lyrics, but this song sounds contemporary yet has a touching message. During the musical, each time the story speaks about leaves changing color, I had students put gratitude leaves on trees on the wall, to represent the leaves, and the tree feeling gratitude. Stacey includes several templates of leaves as well as directions for the gratitude leaves in her set. Here is a picture of some of the leaves, which I had students put on trees from Carson Dellosa:

Scenery for an elementary music program, based off the book

And here is a close-up of a couple of the leaves…

Student project/ scenery for an elementary music program, based off the book

I had any students who were interested fill out gratitude leaves before the performance, detailing something for which they were grateful. After the performance, the audience was invited to come up and read the gratitude leaves!  The third graders and the audience really enjoyed this performance, and I was very pleased with what they did musically, from singing, to dancing, to playing instruments! Hopefully I've explained everything so that you could recreate it or adapt it for your own students.   If you're looking for more programs that are accessible and easy to use with your students, check these out:  

You can also read about another fifth grade performance, based on “On the Day You Were Born,” here, a fifth grade performance, based on “Wangari's Trees of Peace,” here, and a fourth grade performance, based on the book “Olivia's Birds,” here.   Which programs have worked for you? Let me know, and feel free to send me any questions. Good luck, and have fun!

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