First Grade - Music - Lesson 14 - Peer Gynt


Review terms ballet and opera.

Listen to piece of classical music by Grieg.

Identify pizzicato strings as plucked rather than bowed strings.


Classroom size world map

Recording of Grieg's Peer Gynt suite, see suggestions below

Pictures of instruments from books or magazines

Sugggested Recording

Philips Best of Grieg CD 438380 has both the Suite No. 1, Op. 46 and Suite No. 2, Op. 55.

Naxos has a Budget CD 8.550140 for $5.99 that has the two Peer Gynt Suites played by the Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra.

Background for the Teacher

Edvard Grieg was a great Norwegian composer who lived from 1843 to 1907. He wrote the Peer Gynt Suite at the request of his friend, Henrik Ibsen, who had cast the Norwegian folk tale as a drama. The folk tale revolves around the life story and adventures of a reckless daydreamer named Peer Gynt who lives with his widowed mother on a farm in the mountains of Norway. Rather than helping her, Peer spends all his time either daydreaming, roaming the countryside and getting into scrapes, or telling tall tales. Some of the tales are pretty unsavory, such as Peer's kidnapping of a bride on her wedding day, his own marriage to and abandonment of a beautiful, virtuous, woman named Solveig who spends her life awaiting his return, his seduction by an Arabian dancing girl named Anitra, and his final return and death in Solveig's forgiving arms.

In spite of the fact that this is not a winning tale, Grieg's two Suites--there was more music but the Suites have the best of it-- are remarkable and remain perhaps the most beautiful and well-known of all his music. Peer Gynt is a wonderful example of programmatic music, a form of classical music particularly popular in the nineteenth century in which the sounds of the music and its instrumentation tell a particular story. The individual incidents represented in the pieces of the Suite can be summarized for the children without going into the whole sad tale of Peer's misadventures, and they will enjoy the fact that they can identify what is happening just by listening to the music.

The three selections most accessible to the children are all from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. They are "Morning Mood," which takes about 4 minutes, "In the hall of the Mountain King," 2-3 minutes depending on the performance, and "Anitra's Dance," 3-4 minutes. The fourth selection in Suite No. 1 is "Ase's Death," which is relatively long and slow, unlikely to hold the children's interest. One selection from Suite No. 2 that the children would enjoy if you have it on your recording is "Peer Gynt's Return," sometimes also known as "The Storm" because it depicts a furious storm at sea, easily recognizable in the music. The guided listening that follows is for the first two pieces listed above.

First Grade - Music - Lesson 14 - Peer Gynt


Tell the children that in classical music there are two different kinds of music: one where the music expresses itself out of its own sounds and seems to create shapes, colors, and even feelings just out of the music itself. The other kind of classical music tells a story that someone has written down in words. Say: Let's make a list on the board of the pieces of music we've listened to this year that tell a particular story. If no one volunteers, help by suggesting Peter and the Wolf. Write the name on the board and next to it write: music tells the story. Discuss that a bit with the children, perhaps naming some of the characters in the story and the instruments that represented them.

The others that the children may remember are:

Sorcerer's Apprentice - music tells the story

The Nutcracker- music and dancing (ballet) tell the story

Hansel and Gretel - music (including singing) and acting tell the story (opera)

Use this as an occasion to review briefly with the children the meaning of the terms ballet and opera before going on to the selections they will hear for today's lesson.

Tell the children that the music they will hear today was written by a Norwegian composer more than a hundred years ago. The music tells about the adventures of man named Peer Gynt, which is a Norwegian name. Ask: What country would you guess a Norwegian composer would come from? (Norway) Say: Norway is a country in the northern part of the continent of Europe. It is spelled just exactly the way it sounds: NOR WAY. Can someone try to find it on the map in the northern part of Europe?

Say: The name of the Norwegian composer is Edvard Grieg, and he loved his country very much. What do you suppose he loved about his country? Take a look again at Norway on the map. You can see that Norway is a country in northern Europe that shares a long border with its neighbor, Sweden, and all the rest of Norway is surrounded by seas (point out on map). You can also see all the little inlets of the sea that come into Norway and all the mountains. Those are some of the things that are especially beautiful about Norway--the mountains and the sea. Say: Another thing that people in Norway love is to tell stories about trolls and elves. You've heard some stories about trolls, so you know they are usually little, mischievous men who have some magical ways, and they are not always so nice. In folk tales from northern Europe, you sometimes see trolls and elves standing under brightly colored mushrooms, deep in the forest. That's another thing about these characters--they usually live deep in the woods, so there is always something a little bit scary about them.

Tell the children that you will play a short piece from Grieg's Peer Gynt that is called "In the Hall of the Mountain King," and it is the part where Peer Gynt has an adventure with some little trolls up in the mountains. Say: This is not an opera like Hansel and Gretel or a ballet like The Nutcracker, so we'll just have to picture what's going on in our imaginations from the way the instruments play Grieg's music. I want you to close your eyes and listen carefully, and--when the piece is over--I want you to tell me whether these little trolls are friendly and kind or not and whether they're playing with Peer or not. See if you can figure out what's going on just by listening to the sounds and rhythms the instruments make.

Play the piece for the children, and talk about what they think is happening and why.

(They will be able to tell that something scary is going on, and that things get more and more

threatening as the piece goes on.) Tell them that, in the story, there are hundreds of these nasty

little trolls in a mountain cave, first just waiting to pounce on Peer (who's not a very nice person himself) and then swarming all over and around him in a kind of terrible dance. Tell the children you will play the piece again and you want them to listen for some musical ideas:

1. Does the piece get louder or softer as it goes along? (starts softly, gets very loud)

2. Does the piece get faster or slower as it goes along? (gets progressively faster)

3. What do you hear at the very end of the piece? (cymbals crash, then church bell rings)

Finally, show the children some pictures of the instruments of the string family: bass, cello, viola, and violins and ask the children to identify them. Tell them there are two basic ways that stringed instruments can be played: with bows is one and plucking or picking at the strings is another. Say: I'm going to play the piece one more time for you, and I want you to tell me which way you think these string players start playing this music, with bows or plucking the strings.

This time, as they are listening project the two lines of music below, and point to the notes as they are played at the beginning of the piece. When the piece is finished, have them tell you the answer (plucked) and point to the little word that says "pizz." Tell them, that is the signal for the musicians to pluck their strings instead of bowing, and the full word is pizzicato (pit zi KAH to).

What is that word? (pizzicato).

Tell the children you will play one more piece from Grieg's Peer Gynt for them, that they can just relax and close their eyes and listen. Say: The piece is called "Morning Song," and you'll hear the sun gradually rising over the mountains. You'll hear the flute and the oboe (ask from which family of instruments--woodwind family) sound like the birds that sing just before dawn, and they will sing back and forth to each other. It's a very peaceful day that's beginning, so just imagine what a beautiful dawn might be like in the mountains of Norway as you listen.

First Grade - Music - Lesson 15 - Songs


Learn to sing a spiritual and look carefully at its notation.

Review the term folk song.

Collect one song at home from family member.

Report to the class about collecting song from home.


Words and music to "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore," see attached

Worksheet for Folk Songs, see attached

Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

Background for the Teacher

"Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" combines the forms of black spiritual and sea chantey and originated in the Sea Islands of Georgia. There, during the time of slavery, each plantation had its own crew of slaves and boats. The Sea Island slaves made up the work songs that they sang as they crewed the boats. It is hard to tell at this point whether the Michael of the song refers to the Archangel Michael or to an oarsmen who was leading the work crew. The Jordan River was of course a symbol of longed-for freedom for the slaves.


This is an ideal song to teach to the children as an example of "Call and Response" form, especially because the words to both Call and Response are exactly the same for the first three verses. In addition, the music for the Call starts out on middle C and moves half way up the C scale to G, while the music for the Response answers that by moving back down from G to the home base of middle C. If you put the music on a transparency and use the overhead as you teach the song, point out the time signature, the quarter notes and quarter rest, the half notes and whole note. Go through it once singing the numbers of the beats rather than the words, since the rhythmic values are so simple and straight forward.


Michael, row the boat ashore. Halleluia!

Michael, row the boat ashore. Halleluia!


Michael's boat is a music boat. Halleluia!

Michael's boat is a music boat. Halleluia!


Sister, help to trim the sail. Halleluia!

Sister, help to trim the sail. Halleluia!


Jordan River is chilly and cold. Halleluia!

Chills the body but not the soul. Halleluia!


The river is deep and the river is wide. Halleluia!

Milk and honey on the other side. Halleluia!


If you get there before I do. Halleluia!

Tell my people I'm coming too. Halleluia!

Folk Song Activity

Review with the students the meaning of the term folk song. See, for example, Lesson 5, where we talked about traditional or folk songs as those in which no one knows exactly who wrote either the words or the music; rather, someone, or a group of people, just began singing them when they were working or playing together or to celebrate a special event. Parents taught them to their children, who taught them to friends, and pretty soon more and more people knew these songs. Eventually someone "collected" them, which means that someone decided to write down the music and the words so they would not be forgotten. Usually, by the time folk songs are written down, there are different versions of the same song--maybe words that are slightly different or tunes that are not quite the same.

Pass out the "Folk Song From Home" worksheet and tell the students that they are going to be folksong collectors. Say: Take the worksheet home and ask your parents, grandparents, or some family member at least as old as your parents to tell you about a song they learned "by heart" when they were young. If they are able to teach it to you, you could bring it to class by singing it for the rest of us. If they should want to write down the words to share with the class, we've made some room for that too.

Read through the worksheet with the children to make sure that they clearly understand what it says. Set a time when the worksheets should be returned, and remind the students about it, so there will be enough to share with the class at the next music period.


First Grade - Music - Lesson 15 - Songs


Name of the Student ________________________________________________

Name of the Song ____________________________________

Name of Family Member Who Knows the Song ____________

What Year Did You Learn it? ___________

Where (what town, city, state) did you learn it? ____________

Can you write the words for us? ________________________