Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 5 - More Notation & a Round

Note For the Teacher

Recognition of time or meter signature, quarter note, half note, and whole notes are introduced in Third Grade; since fourth graders have not yet followed the BCP curriculum for Third Grade, this material will be new to them.


Recall definition of unison.

Recall definition of round.

Sing "White Coral Bells" as a round.

Observe time signature as 4/4.

Notice quarter notes, half note, and whole notes.

Notice resemblance of first 4 notes to those of descending C major scale.


Notation of "White Coral Bells" from Lesson 3, used as transparency


Show the class the transparency of "White Coral Bells." Ask them the name of the song and what the person who wrote the words meant by white coral bells (the color and shape of the flowers called lily of the valley). Ask them: How does the melody of this song begin--by going up or going down? (down) Say to them: Let's try singing this song in unison. Do you remember what that means? (Everybody sings exactly the same music or notes at exactly the same time.)

If the students seem not to remember the song, sing it for them line by line, as in Lesson 3, having them sing each line back to you as you point to it on the transparency. Then have them sing the whole song. Beat a 4-beat pattern, so they begin to have the idea of how important rhythm and meter are in keeping a group singing together. Simply move your hand in a down-up motion, 2 per measure, so that the first movement down is the first beat, its movement up is the second beat, the second down is the third beat, and its movement up is the fourth beat.

When they have sung it well, congratulate them, and ask: Who remembers the name of the other way we said we could sing it? (as a round or canon)

What does that mean? (Everyone sings the same music but not at the same time.) Tell the students that you could have 4 different groups singing this round, but, for now, they will try it with just 2. Say to them: The first group will begin, and, when they are half way through the song, I will signal the second group to come in. We will all sing the song twice, and the first group will have to wait for the second group to finish. You will hear some nice harmonies when we do it. (If, by this time in the year, you know who your stronger singers are, be sure to have some or all of them in the group you do not sing with. Alternatively, you could try not singing, divide up your strong singers evenly between the 2 groups, and help out if any one group gets lost.)

This time, while conducting with one hand, use the other to point to each group when it needs to come in. The second group will of course begin as the first group gets to line 3, and you will have to give them a strong preparatory look well before that, then signal them in with a good downbeat. Since they are singing the song twice, both groups will have a good chance to hear one another in full harmony. As they get better at it, you will want to remind them to really listen to one another, but at the beginning they will probably be concerned only with belting out the part they are supposed to sing so they don't get dragged into the other part. Encourage them.

When they have finished the song as a round, tell them they are going to help you identify some more things about music notation. These are the things that help us to read music, so we can sing any song we see, even if we have never heard it before, just by following the special musical signs and notes.

Have someone come up and draw a circle with a finger around the very first musical sign he or she can see on this piece. Tell them the sign is a treble clef. Write the words on the board and have the students repeat the words after you. Say: There are different kinds of musical clefs, and some of them have different shapes and different positions on the music staff. The treble clef always has this shape, with its curly end circling around the second line on the staff.

Ask someone to circle the next sign. (It is the 4/4.) Tell them that sign tells us the meter of the piece, and some people call it the time signature. There are several possible time signatures, and this one tells us that there are 4 beats in each measure, and a quarter note gets 1 beat. Show them all the vertical lines and say: At the end of each measure is a vertical line, so we know just where a measure begins and ends. If this piece has 4 beats to each measure, and a quarter note gets 1 beat, which notes do you think are the quarter notes, the hollow notes with stems, the black notes with stems, or the hollow notes without any stems? (Point to each one as you talk about it.) When they have figured out that the black notes with stems are the quarter notes, because there are 4 in a measure, have someone come and point to each quarter note in the piece.

When they have done that, point to the first note in the piece and say: This note is held twice as long as a quarter note; what do you think its name might be? (half note) Have someone come and point to all the half notes in the piece. Then point to the last note in each line and say: This note is held 4 times as long as a quarter note and twice as long as a half note. What do you think its name might be? (whole note) Tell them they are good mathematicians.

Finally, tell them you will all together count all the beats in this piece, according to its time signature, or meter sign, which is what? (4/4, 4 beats in a measure; a quarter note gets one beat) Count 1, 2, 3, 4 for each measure, tapping 1 beat for each quarter, 2 for the half notes, and 4 for the whole notes. (There are 2 dotted half notes in the piece that each get 3 beats; if a student asks about it, tell them you will talk about it in another lesson; simply to give it 3 beats.)

If they seem to like being able to count out the beats, you could have them sing the song in unison once more, this time singing numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 in each measure instead of words. At the end of the class, you could point to the first 4 notes of the song, and ask them: Do you remember writing the C major scale, going up and going down? What about the first 4 notes of "White Coral Bells"? Do they remind you of the C major scale? (Hopefully, someone will recognize those 4 notes as the first 4 notes of the C major scale going down.) Suggest to them that they sing the first 4 notes of the song with the notes of the scale. They will sing do, ti, la, sol; then, let them finish singing down the rest of the scale.

Note for the Teacher

In the Third Grade, students listen to Wagner's overture to Die Walküre and learn what the function of overture and prelude are in music. Since fourth graders have not yet followed the BCP curriculum for Third Grade, this material will be new for them.


Listen to 2 orchestral pieces by Mozart.

Recall the meaning of overture (3rd Grade Die Walküre, extra Oct. Listening Lesson).

Observe changes in dynamics in Mozart's music as crescendo and decrescendo.


Classroom-size world map

Recording of Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, see Suggested Recordings

Recording of Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, see Suggested Recordings

Suggested Books

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.

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.

Easily read by 4th graders, this storybook first biography gives them 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, very accessible, and

full of lively dialog that brings Wolfgang and his family to life.

Switzer, Ellen. The Magic of Mozart. New York: Atheneum, 1995.

An extensive biographical section, best suited for reading aloud by the teacher, opens this book. What follows is a group of photographs that show a performance of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute by puppets of the Salzburger Marionettentheater. This includes a telling of the story of the opera as well as interesting brief descriptions of the several different kinds of puppets and marionettes made and manipulated by puppeteers.

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 may be difficult for most 4th 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.

Fourth Grade - Music - Lesson 6 - Mozart

Suggested Recordings
For Overture to The Marriage of Figaro: Mozart Overtures (complete) Naxos CD 8.550185
For Eine kleine Nachtmusik: Naxos CD 8.550026

Teacher Background
Reading one of the Suggested Books aloud would be a good way for the students to learn about Mozart's life. In the absence of that, check the Hirsch book or tell them some of the following. Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg to a family that loved music. Mozart's father Leopold was a composer and violin teacher; Mozart's sister was a piano prodigy as a child and held promise as a composer until that activity was frowned upon by Leopold. The Archbishop of Salzburg became their patron, enabling both children to travel and perform at an early age. Nannerl was a keyboard player; Wolfgang played both violin and keyboards. They traveled with their father to Paris and London several times when Wolfgang was between 7 and 10 years old, by which time he had already written several compositions.

The next Archbishop of Salzburg was less sympathetic to Mozart, and so he sought patronage elsewhere. In Italy he received commissions for operas; in Germany he found some precarious and brief employment with various patrons who had need of music for church or court. The last ten years of his life were extremely difficult, in spite of the fact that his music had achieved some renown. He was largely without patrons and supported himself by giving lessons and playing in public as much as possible. He died when he was only 35 years old and was buried in a common pauper's grave, having written some of the most brilliant symphonies, chamber music, operas, and concertos the world had known to date. He was one of the first to write specifically for the piano and for the clarinet as symphonic instruments. (Keyboards up to Mozart's time meant harpsichord, cembalo, organ, or clavichord.)

Tell the class that they are going to listen to two different pieces by a famous composer whose name is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Ask whether anyone has heard his music, knows his name and/or anything about him. (Many may have heard of him because of the play and film Amadeus. Let them tell what they know.) Tell them something about Mozart's life, and then say: The first piece of Mozart you will hear was written about the time the United States Constitution was written. It is called Eine kleine Nachtmusik, which is German for A Little Night-Music. Mozart wrote this piece for a string orchestra. Which instruments would you find in a string orchestra? (violins, violas, 'celli, and basses)

Tell them that Mozart wrote Eine kleine Nachtmusik in 4 short sections, or movements, but we will hear only the first 2 today. The first movement opens with a fanfare. Ask the students: Do you remember when we heard a piece called Fanfare For the Common Man by the American composer Aaron Copland? (Second Grade, Lesson 10) We talked about fanfares then, and how they used to be used in royal courts to announce the entrance of very important people, such as kings, queens, and honored guests. Who can guess what kind of instrument would play a fanfare? (brass, horns, trumpets) Tell them Mozart's piece starts with a fanfare played by the strings, which was an unusual thing for a composer in those days to do; it was Mozart's way of saying, "Hey, listen up, some good music is beginning."

Say to them: Listen for that fanfare; it's the very first thing you hear, and it will come back again several times. The other thing I want you to listen for is the way little bits of melodies get thrown back and forth in a very playful way between high string sounds, like violins, and very low string sounds, like double basses. You could even think of the way a rubber ball gets tossed around by 3 or 4 different people. Mozart is really playing with the melodies in this piece.

Play the 1st movement, pointing out the fanfare as it starts and the playing back-and-forth of melodies. Afterwards, say to them: You may have heard that some melodies get repeated a little softer, then again a little louder. This happens again in the 2nd movement. Listen for the echoes and imitations, and see whether you can notice when the music is getting softer and when it is getting louder. When you hear it gradually getting softer, bring your two hands together softly and gradually. When you hear it get louder, let your hands and arms open as wide as they can. Play the 2nd movement.

Next, tell the class they will hear another orchestral piece of Mozart's: his Overture to an opera called The Marriage of Figaro, which takes only 4 minutes. Before listening to the music, review the meaning of overture with the students. (In Third Grade, they listened to a Wagner prelude. They were told that music that comes before an entire opera and sets the mood is called an overture; if it comes before one particular act of an opera, it is called a prelude.) Ask who remembers what the purpose of an overture is (sets the mood, sometimes introduces bits of melodies that will appear in the opera). Tell the students that you want them to listen carefully to this very short overture and be prepared to tell you what kind of a mood or scene it sets. They should be able to tell from the overture whether this opera will be a comedy or tragedy. Play the piece and let them tell you what they think (comedy).

Ask the students: What would you say about the tempo? Is it fast or slow? (very, very fast) Does it ever slow down? (no) Does anything in the overture change from beginning to end? If no one noticed that the last third of the piece just keeps getting louder and louder, draw their attention to it and then play it again for them. Tell them that in music when it gets louder and louder we call it a crescendo [kre SHEN do], a word that means growing. If the music grows softer, we call it decrescendo [DAY kre shen do]. Write the two words on the board and have them repeat the two words. Then ask them: What happens towards the end of this piece--do you hear a long crescendo or decrescendo? (crescendo)