As the school year is winding down, and I am getting closer to my due date, I have been trying to do lessons at school that substitutes could easily do. I have decided to finish the school year with an instrument unit. My favorite pieces I use to explore instruments are Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click them, I may receive a small commission.
What is the Carnival of the Animals?
The piece was composed by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886. If you are not familiar with the piece, the composer uses the instruments to imitate different animals. The piece is comprised of fourteen movements which each represent a different animal. The piece was originally composed for a private audience. He didn’t even want the work publicly released until after his death! However, today Carnival of the Animals is a very well known piece, and possibly the most popular work of Saint-Saëns. It is very enjoyable, and as you listen to the music, you might recognize many of the movements. It was meant to be a fun composition, and I think your students, or children, will agree.
I do an entire unit study on the Carnival of the Animals with my younger students. When we first listen to the music, we practice being musical detectives. As they listen, they try to guess which animal the composer wanted us to think of as we listen to the music. They have so much fun trying to figure out the different animals!
We briefly cover all of the pieces during our overview of the music the first week. Then the following weeks, we go more in depth with a few of the movements. For example, this week my first graders will be focusing on the Aquarium piece. We will be reading one of my favorite children’s stories, The Rainbow Fish. The book is a beautiful story about sharing with others. We will also be decorating our own Rainbow Fish.
Carnival of the Animals Series
I’ll be sharing some of the different lessons we do on the website over the next few weeks, if you would like to do listening lessons with your children at home. I love doing listening lessons with children. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be musical, you can still do listening lessons with your children at home! You can follow along with the music, provide listening logs (like SQUILT pages or listening journals), and learn about the background of the music together.
As you listen to the music, you can talk about the tempo (how fast or slow the music is), the melody (the tune of the song), pitch (do they hear mostly high notes or low notes, etc.), instruments they hear, and anything that makes the music unique. You can also use movement to help children feel the music. In class, we will be doing a parachute activity, but if you have scarves at home, those would also work very well.