Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 13 - "My Grandfather's Clock"

Note to the Teacher

In the newly revised Core Knowledge Sequence (1997), a group of songs is recommended for Fourth Grade Music. "My Grandfather's Clock" is one of them. Henry Clay Work, an American composer, wrote the ballad in 1876 for singing at home and in the variety hall. He was a contemporary of the better known Stephen Foster. Most dictionaries agree that Work's song is the source for the name grandfather clock.


Sing a song from 19th-century America.

Define the term grandfather clock.

Identify the note values of the song and speak the words in rhythm.


Copies of the song "My Grandfather's Clock," (master attached)

Text of the song "My Grandfather's Clock," for transparency (master attached)


Tell the students that the song they will learn today is about a special kind of clock, called a grandfather clock. Ask if anyone can tell the rest of the class what a grandfather clock looks like. (A very tall clock that stands on the floor and has a visible pendulum that swings back and forth with a tick you can hear.) If they need some hints, ask questions such as: Where would you find a grandfather clock? Is it tall or short? Can you hear a grandfather clock ticking?

Write the text on the board and then sing the song for them:

My grandfather's clock was too tall for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor.

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,

It was always his treasure and pride.

But it stopped short,

Never to run again,

When the old man died.

Ninety years without slumbering:

tick, tick, tick, tick,

His life's seconds numbering:

tick, tick, tick, tick,

It stopped short,

Never to run again,

When the old man died.

Go over the words with the students. Help them to figure out "taller by half," and tell them that a pennyweight is a measure of weight smaller than an ounce. In a scale of weights, going from smallest to largest, the measures would be grain, pennyweight, ounce, pound. To weigh "not a pennyweight more" is an even stronger statement than saying "not an ounce more."

Show the students the transparency of the piece with the music written out, and use it to

review what they have learned about notation. Ask some of the following questions:

What is the first musical sign you see? (G-clef)

What is the next sign you see? (a sharp, F-sharp)

What is the time, or meter signature? (4/4)

What does 4/4 time signature tell us? (4 beats in each measure, quarter note gets 1 beat)

What do we call all those notes with little flags on them? (8th notes)

Are they slower or faster than quarter notes? (twice as fast)

What are the little, wiggly signs after the words "stopped" and "short"? (quarter rests)

Tell the students there is a sign they have not seen before right in the middle of the second staff. It is a double measure bar with two dots in front of it ( :| ). It tells us to go back to thebeginning and sing the same music over again before moving on. This time, when we go back, we sing the second line of words, beginning "It was taller by half..." and, when we get to the double bar with two dots the second time, we go right on. We call that sign a repeat sign.

Have the students say the first section with its repeat aloud with you. Tell them: There is a certain rhythmic pattern in this part of the song that you can hear with your ears. Starting with the word "grandfather's" the pattern sounds like bum ba ba bum ba ba bum ba ba bum ba ba bum ba ba bum ba ba bum. That pattern repeats exactly when you go back to the next line of words. Have them repeat the pattern on syllables, then on the words and ask them: What do you think makes that rhythmic pattern? (the accents in the words and they syllables; the pattern of 1 quarter followed by two 8th notes, 1 quarter followed by two 8th notes, etc.) Make sure they have that pattern in their ears before they begin to sing those first two lines. Then sing one at a time and have them echo it back to you.

When you get to the next part and sing "stopped" and "short," make sure to point out the quarter rests that make everyone be absolutely quiet on those beats. They can clap on the quarter rests to remind themselves about the silence they should observe in those places. When they sing the "tick, tick, tick, tick," remind them to sound like clock pendulums; they can move their heads or whole torsos from side to side in imitation of a grandfather clock.

Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 14 - Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana


Listen to "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Recall that most Medieval manuscripts were written in Latin.

Discuss the concept and symbolism of the Roman goddess Fortuna.

Observe that most instruments in this piece are in the percussion family.

Hear the term ostinato.


Recording of "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, see Suggested Recording

Suggested Recordings

Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, Naxos CD 8.550196 (full orchestra); BIS CD 734 (chamber version)

Background For Teacher

Carl Orff, a German composer who lived from 1895 to 1982, composed the Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuren). The first performance of the work was given in 1937 at the Frankfurt Opera House. In 1934, a second-hand bookseller had brought to Orff's attention a volume of Medieval poetry that had been published in 1847, based on a 13th-century manuscript. The poems were written in Medieval Latin and Middle High German. More than 200 poems and songs were included, many love poems, some parodies of religious poems, some complaints of students about various abuses by the clergy. It is extremely unusual, since it is one of the very few collections of secular songs and poetry from the 13th century. The name Carmina Burana was given to the published collection from the fact that the manuscript was found at a Benedictine abbey in Beuren.

Orff, composer from Bavaria, was vitally interested in the musical education of children. For several years he taught and developed a music course, based primarily on the use of rhythm and simple percussion instruments such as wood blocks and xylophones of different sizes. These lessons became well-known when they were published and recorded as Orff's Schulwerk (Schoolwork). In the Carmina Burana, which Orff thought of as a kind of "scenic cantata" with elements of movement and pageantry on stage as well as the music, rhythm is the most prominent feature. He dedicated the whole work of 24 sections to the goddess Fortuna, and the piece "O Fortuna" that the students will hear today begins and ends the entire work. Orff orchestrated the work in a chamber-size way that was revolutionary for the time, when orchestral pieces were written for ever larger and more lush-sounding orchestras. Orff orchestrated Carmina Burana for 3 vocal soloists, chorus, 2 pianos and 5 percussion players who play a whole variety of striking percussion instruments. This made it possible for schools and music groups without full orchestras to perform the piece. (He also wrote a more traditional orchestration as well, which is heard in some recordings, but the spare all-percussion version is in some ways stronger.)


Start the class by asking the students: What are the names of the four families of instruments we expect to hear in a symphony orchestra? (Write the names on the board as they give the answers: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.) Ask them for names of particular instruments to write under each family name. They need not be exhaustive lists, just repre-sentative.

Tell the students that the piece they are going to hear today was written shortly before the

Second World War by a German composer named Carl Orff. Tell them some biographical information about Orff. Say to them: Orff found an old book filled with poems and song texts that were originally written by hand in the Middle Ages on an illuminated manuscript. What language do you think these poems were written in? (Latin)

Say to them: Orff wrote new music for 24 of these very old poems and songs, and all the words are in Latin. The one you are going to hear today is the very first piece, and it is also repeated as the very last. It forms a kind of frame for the whole composition. Its name is "O Fortuna," and it is sung to the Roman goddess Fortuna. (Write the name on the board.) Ask them: What word do we have in English that comes from the Latin word fortuna? (fortune) How would you define the word fortune? (Accept any thoughtful answers. Words such as chance, fate, luck are likely synonyms.)

Tell the students you will play the opening piece "O Fortuna" for them (takes less than 3 minutes) and they are to think about two things as they listen. One is to notice which of the four families of instruments Carl Orff made most important in this piece. The other is to guess from what you hear, how the poet who wrote the words felt about Fortuna. Does he speak to Fortuna as a beautiful, kindly goddess, a cruel goddess, or some of both? You won't understand the words, because they are in Latin, but you can tell from the music itself what the poet and also the composer of the music are telling us about the goddess Fortuna.

Play the piece through for the students, and then have them talk about the most important family of instruments in the piece. Draw a big circle around percussion on the board when they have answered it. See whether they can name some specific percussion instruments they heard, such as drums and cymbals. Then tell them: Some of the most important percussion parts in this piece are played by two grand pianos. In what way is the piano a percussion instrument? (The sound is made by felt hammers striking the strings.) Ask the students: If the two most important elements in music are melody and rhythm, which one of the two do you think is more important to the composer in this piece? (rhythm) Which one of the two, melody or rhythm, do we hear most clearly when we listen to percussion instruments? (rhythm)

Next, ask the students to respond to the second thing you asked them to listen for: How did the poet, and also the composer, feel about the goddess Fortuna? (Encourage a discussion about this, and accept any thoughtful answers. The piece has a pretty driven, relentless quality about it due to the rhythmic insistence.) You may want to play the piece again at this point.

Write the word symbol on the board and ask the students: What symbol do you think of when you hear the word fortune? (wheel of fortune) Tell them that in the Middle Ages, the wheel of fortune appeared in many drawings and illuminated manuscripts, because people felt they had so little control over their lives. They didn't know what caused illness, most people didn't have any say in the way they were governed or decisions that were made about their lives, so the symbol of the turning wheel appears in many paintings and prints from the Middle Ages. Ask the students: Where do you see the symbol for the wheel of fortune nowadays? (TV show "Wheel of Fortune," roulette wheel for gambling and gaming, ferris wheel, carousel; encourage discussion of the different, unpredictable qualities of all of them)

Tell the students that the text of "O Fortuna" uses an image of the moon to describe Fortuna. The poet describes the moon's qualities of waxing and waning, losing and gaining, as inconstant, which means not constant, not predictable. Do you think that is a good image for describing the way fortune works in our lives? (Accept any thoughtful answers.)