Kipling Elementary School

Year 3 - Grade 6


We began by introducing the students to the concept of using pictures to represent sound and sound being represented by pictures.  This was a new concept for many students.  The students began to realize that before the advent of digital recordings, the only way to preserve music was through using symbols for sound and/or passing them from person to person aurally.

Student #1

We started by creating compositions based on pictures.  We looked at how we could transform specific elements from a painting into specific sounds, and we used the musical vocabulary from previous years to be very exact when describing the sounds (for example, cannons in a civil war painting would be forte, staccato, and low-pitched). Then we chose instruments to represent those sounds, and we played a class composition based on the painting.

Student #2

We then added structure to our compositions.  Students had to create a simple piece in ABA form using pre-assigned small percussion instruments (bells, rhythm sticks, and sand blocks).

Kipling 6th ABA take 1

Student #3

Students were given a template to use as a guide to writing their graphic scores, and they had to combine the element of time (choosing the order of play for the instruments as well as how to layer them, duration of sounds, and rhythm over a steady beat) to answer the question “How can we transform a picture into a musical composition featuring loud and soft sounds and short and long sounds?”

Kipling graphic score


The students used their new skill of being able to transform sounds into pictures and pictures into sounds to bring a story to life.  The students then created a soundtrack and tableaus for the story of Anansi the Spider.  We chose this story because they were studying ancient African civilizations in social studies.  Sixth grade was the only class where their music and academic content integrated into the same project (simultaneously).

Student #1

We started our musical storytelling process by creating tableaus based on the emotion of the music, to get a sense of what mood or emotion music without words could communicate.  20140204_11423520140204_115036

Student #2

Students then had to take the concept of the tableau and apply it to the part of the story that was assigned to their group.  As they were thinking about how to show the story in tableau, they were also thinking about what musical sounds to use.  The had an organizer to help them plan.



Student #3

Finally, students added instruments, composed a theme song for one of Anansi’s sons, and put it together into a performance for the kindergarten class.


Student #1

Meanwhile, in the social studies classroom, students were learning about ancient African civilizations.  One of the vocabulary words in the students’ textbooks was polyrhythm. The book defined it as two rhythms played simultaneously. But that doesn’t really explain what a polyrhythm sounds like, so we practiced our own polyrhythms, both in the music and social studies classroom. This is in the music classroom.

Student #2

We also learned about the role of griots in African history, specifically looking at the evolution of griots in the area known now as Ghana.  Students then had to create a short chant or song about Kipling of something they’d want to pass down, and we debated whether oral traditions are a useful and reliable way of preserving information.

Student #3

Finally, using their Kente Cloth projects (where students had to research Kente Cloth patterns, and then design their own), students created Kente Cloth compositions. They transformed the colors and shapes in their patterns into sound, and created an ostinato using instruments and rhythm.  Because an ostinato is a repeating rhythmic figure, it was appropriate to have it represent a Kente Cloth pattern (something that also repeats over and over).


Year One
Year Two
Year Three

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