Overview: This lesson uses music to identify patterns and develop observation skills needed in science.
Today’s lesson aligns music standards for patterns with the new Next Generation Science Standards for teaching heredity. This lesson is intended for use in first grade. It relates the understandings of similarities and differences between adults and baby animals to the theme and variation form in music. In this musical form, the theme comes back over and over and is the main piece that you hear. The variations sound similar to the theme, but have some distinct differences, much like a parent to a child. We used Mozart’s Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as an example that 1st graders are familiar with as a catalyst to experiment with both of these topics.
Ask students to listen to Twelve Variations on Vous dirai-ja Maman (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) and raise their hand when they hear the part that repeats and always sounds the same. Identify this as the theme. Ask students if the parts that are not the theme sound the exact same, similar, or completely different than the theme (similar). This is called theme and variations. Ask students as a group to create a movement for the theme. Then, tell students that each time they hear the theme, they will dance that movement, and when they hear the variation, they can create their own motion.
Play the song again and then ask students to think about their individual motions on the variation. Were they similar to the Theme motion? Should they be? Repeat as needed.
Step 1: Give each child a picture from the Animal Scrambles Picture Sheet that you have cut. Each student must find their partner – each pair should have a baby animal and its matching adult animal. Ask students to identify as a pair what characteristics about their animals are the same and which are different. Discuss the class observations.
Step 2: Choose one animal (ie: the penguin) from the pictures and showcase the baby and adult version. Look at the items that were labeled “the same” and create a rhythm to clap for those items (ie: each time you say beak, flippers, or color = pat, clap, pat, clap). This is your theme. Any part that was different is your variation.
Closing: Explain that you will call out a body part of the selected animal. If it was something that was the same between the baby and adult, they will clap their “theme” rhythm. If it was something that was different, they can create their own 4-second rhythm. This is the variation. Remind them that the variation should sound similar to the theme, but not the same.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.