Submitted by Stephen Wight, Maryville, Tennessee

Idea posted September 15, 2011

I had the best lesson I've ever had on "Theme and Variations" today in 5th Grade:

Covers: Standard 8 (Cross-artistic connections), Standard 6 (Listen/analyze/describe)

***Activating Strategy***

Display some of Monet's "Haystacks" paintings; I used Wikipedia's entry, because if you scroll down, they have a grid of about 18 paintings. Six fit on my screen at once at a reasonable size.

Questions written next to paintings: (I have a promethean board, so I was using the "annotate over desktop" feature.)

  • What would you say is the theme of these paintings?
  • What are some differences between the paintings?

Discuss questions. Accept all reasonable answers; hide haystacks.

***Teach***

Rote Song: Simple Gifts; I taught it by first having them listen and try to tell me what the title meant, then by echo.

Listening: Appalachian Spring (Simple Gifts section) - Copland

  • Put haystacks back on board
  • Directed Listening Question: How is this piece of music like these paintings?

Accept all reasonable answers, but of course listen for answers related to Theme and Variations.

Listening: Appalachian Spring; this time, stopping after theme and each variation.

  • Directed Listening Question: What is the theme of this piece of music? Do you recognize it?
  • Directed Listening Question: In the next little section, what did the composer change?

Vocabulary: Tell students the name of the form, "Theme and Variations."

***Summarizing Strategy***

Have students give you examples of other things in life that come in "Theme and Variations" form. Some good answers I received today were:

  • Donuts
  • Pizza
  • Clothes

and several others. It was possibly the best 5th grade lesson I've ever had!

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