In Grade 2, I do a focus on the elements of music, reviewing many familiar terms (tempo, dynamics, pitch) and introducing new musical terminology as well. It’s the common PYP cycle of analysis and synthesis: We break the music down into its building blocks, and then manipulate the separate blocks in order to express something new. describing music pyp

Throughout the unit, each class has kept a running list of the feeling and emotion words they’ve used to describe some of our listening examples. These lists include typical words like “happy” and “sad”, but also some more interesting ones like “mysterious” and “aggressive”. I put these words on separate slips of paper and stuck them in a box. Then we put our musical descriptors (fast, loud, low, soft) into another box. In small groups, the students chose one paper from each box, and their challenge was to compose an instrumental soundscape that fit both descriptors. The students come up with some very expressive music, but what was even more interesting was the conversations.

It was enlightening to hear how students used the terminology, made connections to Drama or literature, and translated their thoughts into sounds. I think my favorite part was a class discussion we had about different kinds of anger, thanks to the group that drew both “angry” and “soft”. They started out by claiming they couldn’t do it, but we came together as a class to imagine situations where anger might sound “soft”, and they probably had the most expressive soundscape in their class!

There are so may ways to work with the elements of music, and I’ve had great success as well as great failure. What are your most creative approaches?

Expression and the Elements of Music
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2 thoughts on “Expression and the Elements of Music

  • 5. September 2016 at 17:01

    Hi Janine,
    I love this idea and I especially love the idea of keeping a running list of adjectives used to describe music we listen to. I will certainly start using this idea with my students!
    We are currently doing a Grade 4 unit in collaboration with Art and the UOI with the central idea: The arts play a vital role in provoking thought and raising awareness. As the final UOI of Grade 3 had the central idea: Music extends our ability to create, reflect and express ourselves with a Line of Inquiry “Elements of music” , we are reviewing the elements of music in our Grade 4 Arts unit. I have decided to use Garageband, the Art teacher is using the art work of Keith Herring, the students will create music and art on a student selected topic about which they want to provoke thought. In art class the students chose their topics and walked around the school to decide where their artwork would be displayed. Student topics are on a variety of issues from Bullying to Read! to Dance! to don’t go backwards up the slide… They will use garageband and the elements of music to create a sound scape to accompany their visual art pieces and strengthen the message of their chosen topic. To share our learning we will do a gallery walk where music is playing along side student visual art pieces throughout the school. I am really looking forward to seeing what they come up with! I hope this idea is useful to you.
    Betsy Stalter

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      1. December 2016 at 01:33

      What a cool idea! It’s wonderful when we can extend and contextualize the learning for students, to help them understand how their arts learning has real relevance. Thanks for sharing what you are doing with your kids.


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