Vaudeville Lives in Song and Dance Man

Song and Dance Man
written by Karen Ackerman
illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Caldecott Medal
Laptime: preschool - early elementary
Story Circle: preschool - early elementary

Have you ever been to a vaudeville show? I have. Every year a man in my community who loves the old songs and corny jokes and who especially loves to make people laugh produces a vaudeville show called Howard's Follies. The theater is packed, the music is great and people laugh until they cry. It is a fun experience. To me and many other people in our little town, Howard is The Song and Dance Man.

In this charming book, Song and Dance Man by author Karen Ackerman, a grandfather tells his grandchildren about, "...a time before people watched TV, back in the good old days, the song and dance days." Then they all troop up to the attic where Grandpa opens his old vaudeville trunk, pulls out his hat, cane and taps and puts on a show for the kids. He dances and sings and tells the old jokes and, for that moment, time falls away and they are all back in the song and dance days. The children connect with Grandpa's history and Grandpa is able to share with his grandchildren some of the magic of who he was and is.
The colored pencil drawings, by Caldecott Medal winner Stephen Gammell, jump off the page with movement and rhythm - they truly dance.

Song and Dance Man - Laptime Lesson Plan Idea
Have a neighborhood joke party
You will need:
  1. Joke books from the library
  2. Ingredients for cupcakes (every party needs cake)
  3. Paper cups that you can write on.
  • Go to the library and check out one or two joke books.
  • Read through and pick out your favorite jokes.
  • Practice telling them so that you get the timing right (timing is everything when telling a joke).
  • Bake and decorate cupcakes.
  • Print out a different joke on each paper cup.
  • Invite your neighborhood friends over for a joke party.
  • Start the party with a vaudevillian joke routine, no longer then 10 minutes. End the routine with a set of Knock Knock jokes and let the audience say the, "who's there" part.
  • After the show invite everyone to enjoy cupcakes and a beverage. As you enjoy the refreshments give everyone a chance to tell the joke that is on their cup.
Song and Dance Man - Story Circle Lesson Plan Ideas
Put on your own Vaudeville Show
A vaudeville show is just a fun-filled variety show. Everyone in your class has a talent so give them a chance to shine.
  • Read Song and Dance Man
  • Talk to the children about putting on their own Vaudeville Show. Who can dance, or sing, or tell jokes or play and instrument? The goal is for everyone to participate in some way, even if your shyer kids only say the, "Who's there" part of a Knock Knock joke they will enjoy the laughter that the joke brings. If children are taking dance or music lessons encourage them to show their stuff. Make sure that you have some group acts for kids that don't want to perform alone. One group number that includes everyone in the class is a great way to close the show. Choose a song that the whole class already knows for your closing number.
  • Make a list on a large piece of paper or the white board of who will do what. Keep it simple and plan on a show that is no longer than 30 minutes.
  • Send a note home informing the parents about your Vaudeville Show. This way they can encourage their children to participate and make sure that they have their dance shoes or instruments, etc. for the day of the show. Of course, invite the parents to attend.
Tuesday - Thursday
  • Rehearse the group numbers
  • Help the kids learn their jokes.
  • Make an order of performance mixing the music, dance and jokes so that there is good variety and you don't too many acts of one type in a row.
Friday Morning
  • Have a dress rehearsal. Run through the whole show. If you need an M.C., you can choose a student to announce the acts or the teacher can do it. Ask a parent volunteer to help organize the acts that are waiting and make sure that each act is ready to go on.
  • Be sure to plan a group bow at the end of the show.
Friday Afternoon
  • Show time!
  • When the Vaudeville Show is over invite the parents to stay for a meet the performers reception. Serve some cookies and punch and give the parents time to take pictures and tell the kids what a fantastic Vaudevillian performance they gave.
Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York and in Canada by Random House of Canada, Ltd.

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