Third Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Alphabet Canon
Recall the names of lines and spaces in music notation.
Sing an alphabet song in unison.
Recognize the tune as that of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
Identify meter signature, quarter, half, and eighth notes.
Hear a definition of the musical term canon.
Sing the alphabet song in canon.
Music for "The Alphabet," to be used for transparency (attached)
(You will find the song written out for 2 groups in canon form so the students can see exactly what is going on musically. Generally, musicians would simply write the number 1 above the first note of the first measure and number 2 above the first note of the second measure, but that is a convention not at all familiar to these students, since they have not sung any other rounds or canons before this one.)
Tell the class they are going to learn an alphabet song, based on an old familiar tune they will probably recognize from when they were little children. It will be easy for them to sing the tune, or melody, because it sounds so familiar to their ears, but this time they will be singing it and also seeing it written out in music notation. Say to them: I am going to begin singing this melody, and you can join in whenever you recognize the tune from your musical memories.
Begin the tune (for "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"), simply singing it on the syllable "la" and encouraging the students to join in as they will; you may need to sing it through a few times before everyone has joined. Ask the students: What is the name of that tune? ("Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star")
Next, show them the first of the written-out notations of the song. Tell them there are many things in this music notation they have already learned and can name and a few new ones whose names you will explain. Ask them:
Name the lines on this music staff from bottom to top (E, G, B, D, F).
Name the spaces from the bottom to top (F, A, C, E).
What is the first musical sign you see? (G-clef, or treble clef)
What is the time, or meter signature? (4/4)
What does that mean? (4 beats to a measure, a quarter note gets one beat)
Do you see any quarter notes in the first measure? (yes)
How many? (4)
In the second measure, what do you see besides quarter notes? (half note)
Are there any other kinds of notes in this piece besides halves and quarters? (yes)
What measure are those in? (4th)
What kind of notes are they? (eighth notes)
Are they slower or faster than quarter notes? (faster)
How much faster? (twice as fast)
Congratulate them on all they remembered and tell them the few new things in this notation: The musical sign they see between the treble clef sign and the meter sign is called a B-flat, and they will learn more about that next year. The letters mf written just above the music staff stand for the words mezzo forte, which is the Italian for "medium strong" and is the way musicians tell
performers how loud to sing. If it simply said f for forte, we would sing it loud; if it said ff for double forte, we would sing it very loud; since it tells us mf for mezzo forte, we will sing it not quite as loud, but medium loud.
Next, have the students go through the piece with you, first saying the words only. Remind them to be careful about the fourth measure, where the eighth notes will have to go twice as fast as the regular quarter notes. When they have done that, have them sing it with you in very strict time (You may need to move your arm up and down on beats 1 and 3 to reinforce the strict time and make sure no one falls behind.) Tell them they have been singing this song in unison, which means that everyone sings exactly the same music at exactly the same time. Tell them that they can also sing the same song in canon. Say to them: In music when we sing a song in canon or as a round, which means the same thing, it means that everyone is singing the same music but not at the same time. We are going to sing this song as a 2-part canon. When we sing this song in canon, it is a little bit like playing "Follow the leader," with the first group being the leaders and the second being the followers.
Divide the class into 2 groups, and try to have a few really strong singers in each group. Show them the second version of the piece, with the canon written out so they can clearly see what is going on musically--that there are actually 2 versions of the piece going on at the same time. Ask them to look carefully at the music and tell you when the second group will begin the song (as soon as the first group has completed the first measure, or the d of A, b, c, d). Once this is clear, it will probably be easier for them to concentrate more on staying together with their respective groups than following the music, so you may want to turn off the transparency at this point and concentrate on leading them. Continue to reinforce the 1 and 3 beats so they can stay at the same tempo, and try to help those who lose their way. The best way to do this is usually to have each group stand or sit in a different place and to move physically from one group to the other if you need to join in because they have gotten lost.
Third Grade - Music - Lesson 12 - Variations on Familiar Tunes
Recognize the melody from Mozart's Piano Variations, K. 265.
Hear the term variations identified as a musical form.
Identify the melody from a set of organ variations by Charles Ives.
Recording of Mozart's Piano Variations, K. 265, see Suggested Recording
Biographical material about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, see Suggested Books
Classroom-size map of Europe and one of the United States
Suggested Recordings
W. A. Mozart, Piano Variations K. 264, 265, 352, 353 & 398, Naxos CD 8.550612
Charles Ives, Variations on America for Organ, Bis CD 510
Suggested Books
Student Titles
Downing, Julie. Mozart Tonight. New York: Bradbury Press, 1991.
Illustrated with watercolor paintings by the author, this biographical storybook is told in the first person, through the voice of Mozart himself, looking back on his life.
Isadora, Rachel. Young Mozart. New York: Viking, 1997.
A storybook first biography that gives students a good sense of how precocious Mozart was--writing music at age 4, before he could read words, and teaching himself to play the violin well enough at age 5 to be sent on a performing tour with his older sister.
Kaufmann, Helen. The Story of Mozart. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1955.
This biography holds up well in spite of its age. It is a chapter book, good for reading aloud, and full of lively dialog that brings Wolfgang and his family to life.
Krull, Kathleen. Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.
Krull has written a lighthearted, "upbeat" version of the lives of 20 composers. Kathryn Hewitt's watercolor portraits of each composer reinforce the style; she has painted caricatures that give a kind of quick impression of each of them as a personality, with
very large faces and heads, tiny bodies, and all kinds of telling acoutrements surrounding them. She includes a brief and breezy biography of Charles Ives on pp.71-73.
Thompson, Wendy. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. New York: Viking, 1990.
Part of a British series called "Composer's World," this book is filled with archival photographs and reproductions of contemporary paintings. The text is difficult for most 3rd graders, but it is a good student reference book. A carefully marked map shows the routes of Mozart's major performing tours. Also included is a simply written List of Works and a helpful Glossary of Musical Terms relevant to Mozart's compositions.
Teacher Reference
Hirsch, E.D., Jr., ed. What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know. New York: Delta, 1993.
Although this is Hirsch's 5th Grade guide, pp. 233 and 234 contain good information on Mozart, useful for teaching this lesson.
Switzer, Ellen. The Magic of Mozart. New York: Atheneum, 1995.
This book records in photographs a performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute by a famous group of puppeteers from Salzburg. Of more general interest is the extensive biographical section about Mozart that opens the book, which is well written and would be good for reading aloud to the class.
This website, set up by a record company, gives basic biographical information about classical composers, who are listed alphabetically.
Background for Teacher
The melody that is the theme of Mozart's Piano Variations K. 265 is best known to us as the nursery song "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." The melody itself is an old French tune known
to Mozart in the 18th century as Ah! Vous Dirai-je Maman. The students should be able to
recognize it as the same melody they sang for Music Lesson 11 as a 3-part round with a text about the alphabet. They may also remember singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in Kindergarten. Ives's Variations are all based on "America," so once again, the students should be able to recognize the melody easily.
Biographical information about Mozart is readily available (see Suggested Books and elsewhere including Internet), but practically nothing is yet available for youngsters about the American composer, Charles Ives. Ives was born in 1874 in Danbury, Connecticut, where his father was local bandmaster. His father was his first, and most influential music teacher. Charles began music lessons when he was only 5, learned to play several instruments, and served as church organist in various churches for most of his life. When Ives graduated from Yale he knew he wanted to continue being a composer and that he could not earn a living that way, so he began a long career in the life insurance business. His compositions are filled with experimentation and fun. They received practically no attention until the end of his life, when a few other American composers began to perform his music. Ives enjoyed a long , fruitful marriage with a woman named Harmony and died in New York in 1954.
Start the class by telling the students they are about to play a game called "Name That Tune." Say to them: I'm sure you will recognize this tune, but don't call out the name. Instead, take out a little piece of scrap paper and write down the name of the tune as soon as you recognize it. Play the Mozart Variations through (5-6 minutes) without telling the students anything further about the piece as you circulate quietly around the room to check on their answers. When the piece is finished, if everyone has written down a name that approximates "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (or they might guess "Alphabet Song" from what they learned in the last lesson), have one of them write it on the board. If there are some who didn't recognize the tune, try to have them sing the tune for you (can be without words, on syllable la), which may jog their memory. Congratulate them on their good ears.
Review with them a bit about how they sang the tune in the last lesson (as a canon with letters of the alphabet as words) and what words it has in "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Try to have them understand that the melody itself, the tune, is a very old one and known to people in many different parts of the world, and that the tune may have different words and even different languages, but they will always be able to recognize the tune. Ask them about the words to the music they just heard. Did they hear them? (no words) What instrument played the tune? (piano)
Tell them that the person whose music they just heard is a world-famous Austrian
composer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (write it on the board). Have someone find Austria on the map, and tell them he wrote this piece while he was on a tour in Paris, France (find it on the map also) in 1778, which is the time the American Revolution was going on in this country. This would be a good time to tell them some biographical information about Mozart and that
they will be hearing more music by Mozart in the future.
Ask the students whether they could describe what they think happens to the tune in the Mozart piece. If they are reluctant, guide them with simple questions such as: Does the tune stay the same or change? Does it sound like a children's melody or a grown up melody? How does it change? etc. Be guided by your own responses to what you have heard in all the transformations of the melody in the piece, and don't take too long with it, since they will hear another set of variations. If possible, at this point, try to arrive at a definition of variations as a musical term
(having now told them that Mozart wrote his piece as variations). It need not be complicated, but should be descriptive, such as a piece of music where a tune, or melody, keeps changing.
Tell the class that variations are a favorite musical form for composers, because it's so much fun for them to see how many different ways they can vary a tune. They can change the rhythm, the tempo (speed), sometimes the instruments, sometimes the words, even fill in the melody with extra little notes here and there. It's really just as if the composer first plays a game with himself, then with the listeners and performers to see just how much change can happen without the sense of the original tune getting completely lost. Say to them: That's the reason composers like to choose old, familiar melodies when they write their variations, just to be sure that the listeners can be in on the game and will surely recognize the tune that's being played with.
Tell them you will give them one more chance to play "Name That Tune." Say: You can write your guesses down on a piece of scrap paper just that way you did before. Say: The next piece you hear was written by an American composer who was born just about the time that Mozart was writing the variations you just heard. Tell them a little bit about Ives from the Background above (you may want to have someone point out Connecticut on a United States map), and then play the piece (about 7 minutes) as you circulate around as before. Repeat the steps you took before, writing "America" on the board and this time having them all sing the tune together (with or without the words).
Ask them whether they heard words this time (no). Ask them what keyboard instrument they heard (organ). Ask: What is the name of the kind of music you just listened to? (variations) Tell them: The organ is a good instrument for playing variations, because it has different voices, which means the composer has another set of things he can vary or change about the melody. Ask them: Which variations do you think are more playful, Mozart's or Ives's? Why? (Accept any reasonable answer.) In which set of variations was it easier to recognize the tune, the Ives or the Mozart? (Again, accept any reasonable answer, which will depend on individual familiarity with one or the other tune.)