Macabre Stories Arts Integration Lesson

By | 2017-11-16T13:06:33+00:00 October 27th, 2016|

Each year, we feature an arts integration lesson in October that connects in some way to fall celebrations.  In the past, we’ve included lessons on Dios de los Muertos, Fall harvests and Halloween.  This year, we selected the symphonic poem Danse Macabre from composer Camille Saint-Saens to provide inspiration for a spooky third grade writing and music lesson.



This lesson is terrific because the act of composition is reflected through both traditional and non-traditional text.  Students must be able to identify and develop a beginning, middle and end to the story and communicate these three parts distinctively.  Additionally, they use the original piece from Saint-Saens as a way to discover how composers utilize instruments and sound effects to highlight characters and moments in a selection.  For older students, this could even be extended to represent allegories and personification.

While you could use this lesson during Halloween, it doesn’t have to be limited to just that date.  This story is about life and death, good and evil, and I have used it successfully any time that the weather turns colder. The poem that the music is based upon by Henri Cazalis actually says that the “winter wind blows”, so I’ve used this all the way through January with students and it has still been appropriate.

No matter when you choose to use it, this lesson will provide you and your students with an expressive opportunity to explore stories, poems and music in a whole new way.

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About the Author:

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. Email Susan
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