Composing Order: STEAM Lesson

By | 2018-01-04T10:34:26+00:00 April 12th, 2016|

Overview: This STEAM lesson is for K-2 students and focuses on ordering objects of various sizes.  This lesson provides students with an opportunity to use sound duration in music as a pathway to creating a composition using these objects.

CONTENT AREAS:  Math  and Music


In today’s free lesson, we’re showcasing a not-so-obvious connection between math and music: order and measurement.  Typically, when we share ideas for connecting math with music (particularly in the elementary grades), we talk about fractions and note values.  This is a great choice and a natural pairing, but it’s not the only one.  In fact, today’s lesson prepares students for this more advanced pairing through the basic technique of ordering sound duration.  Understanding that sounds are long, short and medium in length (duration) is crucial to being able to manipulate them later on.  Similarly, students need to be able to accurately view objects and place them in the correct order before they can measure and build upon them.

So in this lesson, students are exploring the sizes of objects and the duration of different sounds.  Then, they categorize each of these objects and sounds into 3 columns: Big/Long, Medium/Medium, or Small/Short.  If your students have been provided with previous music instruction on half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes (late 1st/2nd grade), the categories can also contain these labels.  If not, the size/duration labels will work just fine.

After categorizing the objects and sounds, students then move on to creating a musical phrase composition.  Each phrase must contain a certain about of objects from each column.  Each object is assigned a sound that matches the size of the object to the duration of the sound.  Students then perform their compositions as a whole group.

composing with order


This lesson is so engaging, hands-on, and exciting for students.  You can do this with instruments or without, so there’s not a lot of materials that are needed in order for it to be effective.  In the end, we’re looking to see if students could order those objects and sound durations correctly, as well as create a musical piece using some guided parameters.  Enjoy this musical/math connection!

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Susan Riley is the founder and President of 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.

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