Kipling Elementary School

Year 3 - Grade 4


We started the year by introducing students to the concept of graphic notation–the idea that you can represent the sounds you hear by drawing any sort of shape, squiggle, design, OR picture.  We then moved into creating sounds based on scenes, whole pieces based on paintings, and creating and notating our music compositions in ABA form.


Ms. Wyatt leading the class in brainstorming sounds we'd hear in a rainforest.

Ms. Wyatt leading the class in brainstorming sounds we’d hear in a rainforest.

Ms. Wyatt's "sound graphic" to represent the music.
Ms. Wyatt’s “sound graphic” to represent the music.


Student #1

Students started by experimenting with how sound could be represented by symbols.  They then created a class composition based on a painting of a Civil War battle. We discussed how to create the sounds of the battle without using actual cannons or gunshots, and how to give the impression of a sound (jingle bells for horses whinnying) versus trying to re-create the actual sound (wood blocks creating the clip-clop of horses hooves).

Kipling post-its


Student #2

We also looked at structure and form in a composition, and how we could create a graphic score composition using ABA form. We revised our ABA compositions, paying attention to rhythm, dynamics, and articulation, but most of all, trying to make the A sections identical.  We talked about how a piece of music can be based on something, but not follow it exactly, therefore, you can have repetition in musical form (ABA) that doesn’t follow a story or a picture literally. Our inspiration this time was a painting of Paris!


Student #3

Then we worked with layers and multi-part compositions.  We used graphic organizers to create a free-form composition using 4 instruments.  We created our own symbols for the instruments that communicated dynamics, length, and articulation.



Towards the halfway point of the project, the students appeared to become more comfortable with the idea of transforming pictures into sound and using sound to represent pictures. Emphasizing music vocabulary helped the students to be able to describe the sound they heard and the sounds they were making. We then embarked on a project in which they would use these newfound skills to create a soundtrack and tableaus to bring a story to life.  The students embarked on a project to use sounds and drama tableaus to bring the story of Wiley and the Hairy Man to life.


Student #1

We started exploring how music can transform a story and help tell the story.  One way that music tells a story is with sound but no words, so we experimented with other non-verbal ways to tell words.  Students created tableaus inspired by music to communicate both the mood/emotion of the music, and to tell the story they heard in the music.



Student #2

We settled on an African-American folk tale, “Wiley and the Hairy Man” as our main text for our musical storytelling project.  Each group was responsible for telling a part of the story. Students used a graphic organizer to help their groups come up with their sounds and tableaus.



Student #3

Students performed “Wiley and the Hairy Man” with instruments for Mrs. Manois’ kindergartners.  I think they were surprised at the warm welcome and appreciation they received when they were finished!


Student #1

Students were reading the novel Holes, so we decided to explore how music can have a dramatic arc like a novel, and how composers use music to set the mood.  Students then had to invent a story, one line at a time, based on the music they were hearing (and what the students before them said!).


Student #2

Then we examined what makes compelling characters, both in music and in literature.  Students listened to some famous character leitmotifs (or “theme songs”) such as Darth Vader’s theme from Star Wars and the theme from Jaws that signalled the shark’s approach.  Finally, students had to compose a leitmotif for one of the main characters in Holes using the glockenspiel.

Student #3

Finally, students put their knowledge of music, soundtracks, and elements of a dramatic narrative into practice by composing a Holes “Symphony” in five movements to tell the story of the novel without words.  Everyone learned the “Stanley leitmotif” on recorder and incorporated it into their movement.  In their movement, they had the option to use recorders, small percussion, glockenspiels, kazoos, and themselves.

Year One
Year Two
Year Three

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