As the month of April is coming to an end, I thought it fitting to do one more listening lesson based off of the April playlist (if you haven’t seen the April playlist, you can check it out here). This month’s playlist consisted of jazz greats, earthy tunes and Easter music. We combined two of those things with this month’s previous listening lesson, based off of the song What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. To end the month, we’ll do a salute to one of our composers of the month, Prokofiev, and his famous work Peter and the Wolf.
Peter and the Wolf is one of the pieces I love to use when I introduce instruments of the orchestra. I like to save my instrument unit for the end of the year, right around test time. I use a lot of games, like instrument bingo, when teaching instruments and I find it’s a much needed break for the students who are in the midst of testing.
Peter and the Wolf is a great way to introduce instruments in a fun manner. It is such a delightful story, and children absolutely love it. There are many recordings, books, and movie interpretations. I used to show the cartoon version, but I have also had success with the Kirstie Alley version from the nineties.
Let’s get started!
Introducing Peter and the Wolf:
(here are some questions to get them talking)
- does this music sound familiar?
- do you recognize any of the instruments?
- did you hear any unique sounds?
- what is the story about?
- composed by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev
- composed in 1936 for a children’s theater
- it’s a musical story (a story told through music)
- each character is represented by a different instrument
- each character has a melodic theme
*story– start by introducing the story. Some children may be familiar with the story already. If that is the case, they might want to help you tell the story. You could read through the story, or just tell the story from memory. I like to put together a simple script of the story and tell the story using props.
The story of Peter and the Wolf is about a boy named Peter and his adventures in the meadow one day.
Characters in Peter and the Wolf:
- Peter (strings section)
- Peter’s grandfather (bassoon)
- wolf (french horns)
- bird (flute)
- cat (clarinet)
- duck (oboe)
- group of hunters (woodwinds, trumpet, timpani & bass drum)
*listening map-many orchestras have provided listening maps online for use, like this map from classics for kids
*matching-match instruments to the characters. Once you do the initial reading of the story, ask children if they have any guesses regarding which instruments will be used to represent each character. You could find clip art images to use as flash cards and introduce/review the instruments and their sounds. Once they know which instruments represent each character, ask them why they think that instrument was chosen. For instance, why is the grandfather represented by the bassoon? Why do you think the bird is played by a flute?
*draw/color– you can do this different ways. One way is to play the music first, without telling the students the story, and let them draw their first impressions. You could also have them draw a specific scene from the story at the end of the lesson.
*movement- play the music and have children act out the scene. You could use props, or just assign them different roles. If you have a class, you can divide them into groups and make each group responsible for a different part of the story.
*extension activity– have them create their own musical story (or sound story). Once they are familiar with the story of Peter and the Wolf, let them pick out a favorite book and choose different instruments to represent the characters. Then, have them retell their story using instruments.