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K-2: Create a Music Carnival

by Rowena Licko, Learn NC

This is a lesson in which the students will combine their knowledge of rhythm, pitch, and tone color with their imaginations to create original compositions about animals. They will use “Carnival of the Animals”, by Saint-Saens, and “Peter and the Wolf”, by Prokofiev, for comparisons.

A lesson plan for Grade 2 Dance Arts Education, English Language Arts and Music Education

Learning outcomes

1. To use classroom instruments to create musical interpretations of animals

2. To move creatively to original musical interpretation

3. To compare students’ musical ideas to those of St. Saens in “Carnival of the Animals”

4. To hear the music of St. Saens

Time required for lesson: 90 Minutes


  • Animal masks made in art class
  • Paper and pencil
  • Classroom instruments
  • “Carnival of the Animals” recording


Students will:

  • make masks depicting four or five of the animals from “Carnival of the Animals” in art class, with several students using the same animal for their masks.
  • match animal names to rhythm patterns (elephant= quarter, quarter, half, for example), and they will clap and say the rhythms with the animal names.
  • shadow dance to “Aquarium”, from “The Carnival of the Animals.”
  • brainstorm to decide what animal is depicted in “Aquarium.”
  • list characteristics of the music that reminded them of that animal.


1. The teacher will divide the class into small groups, according to the animal mask they made in art class. (The art teacher will have had four students make an elephant mask, four students make a turtle mask, etc.)

2. Each group will have a recorder, with paper and pencil, to record the thoughts and ideas of the group.

3. The recorder should ask and record the answers to the following questions about the group’s animal: “Is the animal fast or slow; loud or soft; heavy or light; high or low; and what classroom instruments would be appropriate to describe this animal?”

4. Students will choose their instruments and create a song, incorporating the rhythm of the animal’s name in their composition.

5. Students will then create movement to accompany the composition. At this point, the group should divide itself into dancers and instrumentalists, or the teacher could designate these positions at the beginning of class, depending on how well the students work together.

6. Each group will perform its song and movement for the class.

7. The class will listen to “Carnival of the Animals” and compare St. Saens’ interpretation of the animals with their own.


Monitor each group’s discussion, making sure they understand the connection between the animal’s description and the tone color, pitch, rhythm, and instrument they decide to use.

After each group performs its’ composition, ask them to explain to the rest of the class why they made the choices that they did. Hold a discussion about whether or not the music and movement matched the animal. Why or why not? Be sure that tact and kindness are used with the students’ suggestions.

Listen to part of “Peter and the Wolf” to see if the students can identify the animals depicted by the music. “Why do you think that music sounds like a bird?”

Ask them to listen for animal sounds they hear during the week and decide how they could turn those sounds into music.

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