Tag Archives: Lesson plan

Carnival of the Animals

Carnival of the Animals

Throughout the U.S., arts education is in peril. As skill sets that aren’t evaluated by high-stakes standardized testing, the arts are systematically sacrificed on the altar of school budgets.

Megan Godshaal

Megan Goudshaal

Elementary general music teacher (and former colleague of mine) Megan Goudshaal, concerned about the lack of elementary art specialists in the school district we once both worked for, includes art projects in some of her music lessons. She gave me permission to publish her lesson ideas for Carnival of the Animals and photographs of the sample artwork she provided for her students.

Camille_Saint-Saëns_in_1900_by_Pierre_PetitCamille Saint Saens (France, 1835-1921), who composed it in 1886, requested that Carnival of the Animals not be published until after his death, because he was concerned that it might detract from his “serious” work. A favorite piece of children of all ages, portions will be familiar to you. Why don’t you start the video and listen while you read the rest of the article:

Carnival of the Animals consists of fourteen movements:

  1. Introduction and Royal March of the Lion
  2. Hens and Roosters
  3. Wild Donkeys
  4. Tortoises
  5. The Elephant
  6. Kangaroos
  7. Aquarium
  8. People with Long Ears (well, we can’t say jackasses in school)
  9. The Cuckoo
  10. Aviary
  11. Pianists (it’s a joke)
  12. Fossils
  13. The Swan
  14. Finale

In multiple lessons given to one or more grade levels, students listen to and discuss the music. (In my classes, students filled out a worksheet that asked them to identify what the composer did in each section to suggest the animal named.) Then, each class chose a section to illustrate.

This is an activity anyone who hangs around children–teachers, parents, caretakers–can do.

Here are the art projects Goudshaal used:


The Lion


Hen and rooster with hand cutout “tails.”


Donkey with yarn accents.





Kangaroo, complete with joey


Our district had a special die-cutting machine with with fish dies for “Aquarium.”


A bird for the “Aviary.”


For “Fossil.”

Goudshaal traced the swan outline with chalk on black construction paper, then provided the orange bill cutouts and white scrap paper which students tore and glued on as “feathers.”


As an alternate for the lion, you could make a mask similar to this (full directions at learn create love):

lion mask

You don’t have to cut out the eyes, or add the popsicle stick.

Instead of cutouts, another way to portray the animals is with scratch art (directions here).


If the students are reluctant to draw the animals freehand, you can provide a photocopied line drawing of the animal which they can fasten with paperclips on top of the prepared art paper (as in the directions cited above) and trace HARD with a pencil.

You can probably come up with many creative ways to make the animals. (I confess, the torn-paper swan is my favorite.)

Getting back to the music, which movement do you like best? I love Aquarium. So mysterious.

Share your ideas about combining music and art for children in the comments below.