Tag Archives: Music Education

Video of the Week #264: What the Beatles Understood About Musical Theory


This video is a little longer than what I usually post for Video of the Week, but if you have a little musical knowledge and you’re a fan of the Beatles, you’ll probably love it. If you don’t and you’re not, you’re excused.

Video of the Week #148: Sarah McLachlan’s Schools of Music


As a former music educator, I am so grateful that Sarah McLachlan started three music schools in Canada.

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Saint Saens (France, 1835-1921), who composed it in 1886, requested that Carnival of the Animals not be published until after his death, because he was concerned that it might detract from his “serious” work.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.


The Genius of Carl Orff

The Genius of Carl Orff

Carl Orff (born July 10, 1895; died March 29, 1982), the prolific German composer, is perhaps most famous for his secular oratorio Carmina Burana, based on medieval poetry. Listen to the opening chorus, O Fortuna:

If you’re an elementary general music teacher, you’re probably familiar with, and possibly using, his Schulwerk, the process he devised for teaching music.

The music he composed for Schulwerk uses layered repeated patterns that make it possible for even young children to play parts in ensembles.

From 1924-1943, Orff served as the music director for the Güntherschule, a training school for dancers and gymnastics teachers which he cofounded with Dorothee Gunther. His goal was to help dancers become more musical in their movement. After the school dissolved during World War II, he began synthesizing his technique as a way of teaching music to children.

Orff Schulwerk employs a combination of improvisation, ostinati (repeated rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic patterns), speech, rhythm, play, singing, movement, and use of instruments such as recorders, xylophones, metallophones, glockenspiels, drums, and other percussion. It is used in music training from preschool through junior high and beyond, and in music education programs in colleges and universities world-wide.

Four well-known quotes from Carl Orff help illustrate the ideals at the heart of Orff Schulwerk.

Tell me, I forget, show me, I remember, involve me, I understand.–Carl Orff

Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study. They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child’s play.–Carl Orff

Elemental Music is never just music. It’s bound up with movement, dance and speech, and so it is a form of music in which one must participate, in which one is involved not as a listener but as a co-performer.–Carl Orff

Experience first, then intellectualize.–Carl Orff

In  Schulwerk, students learn musical principles by first making music, then generalizing what they’ve experienced over time. It is guided discovery.

Listen how simple musical motifs are layered to create a complex piece. This approach lends itself beautifully to student composition. Dance is also a part of the full performance.

Variations on Hot Cross Buns:

Here are some older children performing at an Orff Schulwerk convention:

Though he passed away more than forty-four years ago, Carl Orff’s legacy lives on through his own compositions and through the millions of musicians who learned how to play, improvise, and compose as a result of the process he founded.


Monday Morning Wisdom #30

Monday Morning Wisdom #30