3rd Grade Lessons
Our lessons are based on recommended Core Knowledge Curriculum by grade. However, these lessons are suitable for a wide range of ages, so we encourage exploration across grades. A few lessons, such as "What Is Sound / Music" overlap between grades, and may have similar content, but are useful to reinforce and expand learning.
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Music Genres - Coming Soon
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Lesson 1 - What Is Sound?
"What is sound?" Objects that vibrate make sound. Sound always comes from a sound source that is vibrating. Vibration is a kind of motion. It is a fast back-and-forth motion. When the vibration stops, the sound stops.
Objects can be made to vibrate by plucking, hitting, blowing and much more. When an object vibrates, it moves the air next to it. Air is made up of tiny molecules so small we can’t see them without microscopes. Sound moves by these molecules bumping into each other, which carries the sound to our ears.
The following video is a look at how vibration produces sound:
The above video is a further discussion of the nature of sound.
Sound moves in waves like when you throw a rock into a pond and the waves ripple out from the rock in all directions. Waves come in all different sizes and shapes. This affects how loud and what kind of sound we hear. The more energy put into a sound, the more vibrations are created. More vibrations will make the sound louder and go farther.
Pitch is the word used to describe whether a sound is high or low. Frequency = pitch. Frequency is how often or frequent a sound wave moves up and down. The more frequent a wave moves up and down, the higher the pitch. Generally, the longer or bigger the object the slower it vibrates, meaning the pitch will be lower too. The opposite is true for shorter / smaller objects.
1) "This Land is Your Land" - Woody Guthrie - 1940
2) "Alouette" - traditional French - 1879 - Songs can have a different feel in a foreign language. Alouette is French for "lark".
3) "This Little Light of Mine" - Harry Dixon Loes - 1920s - Gospel song written for children
4) "This Little Light of Mine" - Bruce Springsteen version - 2006 - Talk about how multiple, very different versions of a song can be made.
5) Guitar oscillations captured with phone. Oscillations are back and forth movements, such as those caused by the vibration of a guitar string.
6) Drinking glass music. Musician lightly taps the side of a glass with a spoon to make musical sound. The pitch (how low or high the note is) depends on how much water is in the glass.
Play the animal sounds below. Animals commonly communicate via sounds. Sound travels differently in the air vs. the water. Echolocation is used by animals like sonar, to bounce sound waves off of objects to see how far away they are. Bats are practically blind and use echolocation to "see" by hearing. Note the similarities in the "clicking" sounds used by bats and dolphins.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 – 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and recording artist. She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings, characterized by a unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and steel electric guitar that was a precursor of rock and roll. She was the first great recording star of gospel music, later referred to as "the original soul sister" and "the Godmother of rock and roll". She influenced early rock-and-roll musicians, including Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.
"In the Mood" - Glenn Miller and His Orchestra - 1939
"Shout, Sister Shout" - Sister Rosetta Tharpe - 1941
Lesson 2 - What Is Music?
What is Music? That's both an easy and difficult question. Music is a combination of sounds made in a way humans recognize as a purposeful pattern. People have likely made at least basic music since they first walked the Earth. Beat is something we feel very early on, and even babies respond to music.
Why do people make music? People make music to have fun, communicate, worship, express their feelings, share in a way that goes beyond words, and so much more. Music begins with beat and rhythm. They are the foundation and structure of music.
The following video is a look at the difference between beat and rhythm:
The video above is an introduction to musical notes.
On top of the foundation of beat and rhythm, music typically includes a series of notes played together and separately. Each note has a pitch, which is how low or high the note is. A scale of notes includes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G and returns to A. This is known as an octave.
A melody is a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying. It is the tune; the part that you can hum or sing along with, and is likely the part you recognize most. Harmony is the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.
1) "Do-Re-Mi" - Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music - 1965
2) "In the Good Old Summertime" - George Evans / Ren Shields - 1902 - Performed here by Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1952. Les Paul is a legendary guitarist and is the only person to be included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The National Inventors Hall of Fame. He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar and multiple recording innovations.
3) "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" - traditional Scottish folk song - 1740s
4) "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze" - Gaston Lyle, Alfred Lee - 1867
5) "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (with lyrics) - Von Tilzer / Norworth - 1908 - Often sung at the opening of baseball season and during games.
6) "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" (dance performace) - Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly - 1949
As a class, start beats and rhythms together. Use "Hickory Dickory Dock" (see Intro to Music PDF) or another song to illustrate the difference between beat and rhythm. Try speaking the song without the melody and clapping to the rhythm. Each clap goes with a syllable of a word. If you have rhythm sticks, bring them out to create patterns together.
Music builds and shifts into other music, and has since the first caveman struck two rocks together to form a beat. Orchestras led to big bands which formed Jazz. Jazz later morphed into Rock and Roll.
Singing without musical accompaniment is known as a cappella. In addition to singing, the voice can produce percussion, often known as beat boxing. Pentatonix is a well known example of an a cappella group. Each member of the group has a special vocal range. When blending low and high notes, as well as beats, the combined sound fills the range a person can experience, which is generally more satisfying.
Play the video above to hear the a cappella group Pentatonix sing the evolution of music.
Lesson 3 - Sound Dynamics and Orchestras
Dynamics is critical to expressive and enjoyable music. The dynamics of a piece is the variation in loudness between notes or phrases. Dynamics are indicated by specific musical notation. Terms are given to express this. For example, playing softly would be "piano" or "pianissimo", well loud would be "forte" or "fortissimo". These terms are in Italian as much of classical music finds its origins in Europe. A piano's full name is actually a pianoforte, given its full dynamic range, but people call it just "piano" for short.
One of the ultimate expressions of dynamic range can be found in orchestras. Orchestras contain families of instruments such as percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds.
The following video is a look at the instrument families in a typical orchestra:
The above video is a brief introduction to how orchestras can create different sounds and make us feel different emotions. Future lessons will take a closer look at each family of instruments in the orchestra.
Orchestral music is incredibly diverse in the sounds it can create and thus the feelings it can move in us. It has provided entertainment through history, whether from a live concert, a recording to enjoy at our leisure or the background for movies and TV. It has been the foundation of many other musical styles as well.
1) "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" - traditional African American spiritual - 1927
2) "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)" - Harry Dacre - 1892 - sung here by Nat King Cole
3) "The Sidewalks of New York" - Charles B. Lawlor - 1894
4) "In the Hall of the Mountain King" - Edvard Grieg - 1875 - Famous classical pieces are often borrowed by pop music and movies. This song was modified in the movie Trolls for the song "Hair Up"
5) "The Imperial March" - John Williams (from Star Wars) - 1980 - Movies and shows are greatly enhanced by orchestral and other music to evoke emotions.
6) "The Barber of Seville" - Gioachino Rossini - 1816 - Classic cartoons like Bugs Bunny used orchestras to accompany the animation. In some cases, a famous piece of music like in this clip was used as the story, and the animation was drawn to follow the music. Live orchestral performances still celebrate this connection to TV and movies today.
Sound dynamics from a human voice can be controlled by how you use air to project your voice. Singers control sound by breath control; getting a full breath into their lungs and using their diaphragm to control how much air they use as they sing. Opera singers train for years to project their voices and to be able to hold long, loud notes with one breath. Singing is comparable to air escaping a balloon. Ideally, the air should come out of the balloon with a steady pitch—slowly. When it is forced out fast with a squeeze, however, the balloon produces an unpleasant and irregular tone. Bring a balloon as an example and have the students practice proper "belly balloon" breathing.
Overcoming disabilities: Andrea Boccelli is blind and is known as one of the top opera singers ever. Beethoven was deaf when he wrote one of his most famous pieces: "Ode to Joy." Mandy Harvey is deaf and writes music, sings, plays instruments and won 4th place in American's Got Talent in 2017.
Lesson 4 - Wind Instruments
The wind instruments include the woodwind and brass families of instruments.
Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. Common examples include flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. The main distinction between these instruments and other wind instruments is the way in which they produce sound. All woodwinds produce sound by splitting the air blown into them on a sharp edge, such as a reed.
Despite the name, a woodwind may be made of any material, not just wood. Common examples include brass, silver, cane, as well as other metals such as gold and platinum. The saxophone, for example, though made of brass, is considered a woodwind because it requires a reed to produce sound. Occasionally, woodwinds are made out of earthen materials, especially ocarinas.
The following video is a look at the woodwind instruments in a typical orchestra:
A brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by vibration of air in a tubular resonator. The term brass instrument is slightly misleading, as not all brass instruments are created from brass. In fact the term is defined by the way the sound is made; where the player's lips vibrate against a mouthpiece, creating the noise which is then controlled by either valves or a slide. The list of brass instruments includes horns, trumpets, bugles, cornet, flugelhorn, the trombone, tuba, and more.
1) "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" - Claude Debussy - 1894 (flute focused)
2) "Rhapsody in Blue" - George Gershwin - 1924 (clarinet focused)
3) "William Tell Overture" (finale) - Gioachino Rossini - 1829 (brass focused)
4) "Horn Concerto No. 1" - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - 1791 (horn focused)
5) "Yankee Doodle" - American Patriotic Song - 1780s - Sung here with traditional fife, drum and brass, Yankee Doodle is a well-known American song, the early versions of which date to before the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.
6) "El Condor Pasa" (The Condor Passes) - 1913 orchestral piece by Peruvian composer Daniel Alomia Robles based on Peruvian folk music. Considered to be the second national anthem of Peru. Covered by Simon and Garfunkel in 1970. (pan flute, similar to an instrument dating back to Ancient Rome)
Rossini wrote his overture inspired by the legend of William Tell. The finale is often used in film and television. It is particularly familiar through its use in the American radio and television shows of "The Lone Ranger".
Talk to the students about what instrument they may play or wish to play in the wind instrument family. Many schools learn music on a recorder or similar instrument. Discuss how the pitch is changed by covering holes, or otherwise changing how air moves through the instrument.
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Johnny B. Goode" - Chuck Berry - 1958
"La Bamba" - Ritchie Valens - 1958 - A Mexican folk song, originally from the state of Veracruz. It is best known from this 1958 adaptation by Ritchie Valens which was a top 40 hit in the U.S. and one of early rock and roll's best-known songs.
Lesson 5 - String Instruments
String instruments are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner. Musicians play some string instruments by plucking the strings with their fingers. or by rubbing the strings with a bow, causing them to vibrate.
The bodies of many string instruments are hollow inside to allow sound to vibrate within them, and are often made of different kinds of wood. The part of the instrument that makes the sound is the strings, which are made of nylon, steel or sometimes gut. The strings are played most often by drawing a bow across them. The handle of the bow is made of wood and the strings of the bow are actually horsehair from horses' tails! Sometimes the musicians will use their fingers to pluck the strings.
The strings are the largest family of instruments in an orchestra and they come in four sizes: the violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest, the double bass, sometimes called the contrabass. (Bass is pronounced "base," as in "baseball.") The smaller instruments, the violin and viola, make higher-pitched sounds, while the larger cello and double bass produce low rich sounds. The strings stretch over the body and neck and attach to small decorative heads, where they are tuned with small tuning pegs.
The following video is a look at the string instruments in a typical orchestra:
Examples of String Instruments
There are many types of string instruments in addition to those found in an orchestra. They can be as personal as a ukulele and as powerful as an electric guitar. They can go back to ancient time with instruments such as the lute, and there are numerous styles found all over the world. Listen to the video above to see and hear many examples.
In some keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord, the musician presses a key that plucks the string. On a piano, however, those vibrations are initiated by hammers hitting the strings rather than by plucking or by moving a bow across them. So, the piano also falls into the realm of percussion instruments. As a result, today the piano is generally considered to be both a stringed and a percussion instrument.
1) "Scheherazade" (Oriental Dance) - Rimsky-Korssakov - 1888
2) "The Star Spangled Banner" (string quartet) - Smith / Key - 2016
3) "Country Fiddle" - Acoustic Rush - 2014
4) "Malaguena" (Flamenco Guitar) - Yannick Lebossé - 2011
5) & 6) "Der Vogelfanger" and "Papageno" (from The Magic Flute) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - 1791 (Example of opera combined with strings)
Talk about how versatile an instrument like a violin can be. It can be played in classical music as well as country where it is commonly referred to as a fiddle. The style of play drastically changes the feel of the instrument.
Discuss string instruments from around the world. For example, the sitar of India or the Chinese Zither. Certain instruments provide a traditional sound that is distinctly from a particular country. Certain scales and tones are used to further this identity.
Compositions are often inspired by stories or life experiences. Rimsky-Korssakov based Scheherazade on One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights) which is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age.
Lesson 6 - Native American Music and Percussion
Native American music, music of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. The Americas contain hundreds of native communities, each with its own distinctive history, language, and musical culture. These communities—although united in placing music at the center of public life—have developed extraordinarily diverse and multifaceted performance traditions.
Singing and percussion are the most important aspects of traditional Native American music. Vocalization takes many forms. Percussion, especially drums and rattles, are common accompaniment to keep the rhythm steady for the singers, who generally use their native language. Native American music plays a vital role in history and education, with ceremonies and stories orally passing on ancestral customs to new generations.
The following video is a brief look at Native American Instruments:
A Look at Percussion
Drums can be found in history predating 6000 B.C. The first drums were simple, involving any items that could be hit to make a sound. Slowly, drums changed and became more detailed. With a strong connection to sacred and ceremonial celebrations in Africa, percussion instruments often symbolize tribal royalty, and they have also been used to send messages over long distances. During the Renaissance period in Europe, drums played an important role in the military, enabling soldiers to send coded messages and instructions to each other across many miles.
Percussion instruments produce sounds by scraping, plucking, striking, or shaking. Thus, all drums and bells are percussion. Within the percussion family, instruments are subdivided into those that can produce a pitch and those that don’t. Percussion instruments include bongos, snares, pancake drums, buffalo drums, and more. Other members of the percussion family include cymbals, maracas, rain sticks, woodblocks, castanets, triangles, bells, and shakers.
Native American Songs:
1) "Kima Dulnah" - Native American flute (Audio only)
2) "Chumash Welcome Song" (Audio only)
3) "Cherokee Morning Song"
4) "We Will Rock You" - Queen - 1977
5) Top Secret Swiss Drum Corps - 2012 - Performing at an annual military team performance event in Scotland.
6) Stomp performances (See bonus section)
STOMP is a percussion group, originating in Brighton, United Kingdom that uses the body and ordinary objects to create a physical theater performance using rhythms, acrobatics and pantomime. See two examples in the above song list.
Have the students create their own beats (safely) using their bodies, desks, pencils and other common objects around them. See if they can get into a beat as a class together. Also, try starting rhythms and see if they can mimic them.
Lesson 7 - Colonial Music and Country Music Roots
American Colonial Music was a mix of many cultures, including indigenous people who lived there before colonists arrived, colonists from the British Isles and Europe, and slaves brought forcibly to the colonies. Many new arrivals brought musical traditions and instruments with them. These people included slaves, who maintained many rich musical traditions related to drumming, singing and more.
People in the colonies used music for many purposes. Some religions used music, and the singing of psalms was an important part of many Christian services. People also enjoyed dancing, and musicians played instruments to accompany jigs, reels, and minuets. The military used music, too. Officers hired small bands of instrumentalists to play at parade and dances, and soldiers with fifes and drums played 'field music' while marching and in battle.
The following video is a brief look at American Colonial Music:
The Roots of Country Music (Mini Documentary)
Country music rose from deep and intertwined roots – from fiddle tunes and hymns and from work songs and ballads; from smoky saloons and secluded Appalachian hollows; from barrios along the southern border and the wide-open spaces of the American West.
Country music is not—and never was—one style of music. It has always been a mixture of many styles, springing from many roots and sprouting many new branches to create a complicated chorus of American voices, joining together to tell a complicated American story, one song at a time.
1) "Hey Ho, Nobody Home" - 16th century (Example of a "musical round")
2) "Virginia Reel" - Colonial Dance - 17th century
3) "Li'l Liza Jane" - published in 1916. Shares the chorus melody with the West African song "Fanga Alafia."
4) "Fanga Alafia" - West African song of welcome and peace - pronounced "fahn-ga."
5) "Li'l Liza Jane/Fanga Alafia (Example of a "musical round")
6) "Down in the Valley" - first recorded by Darby and Tarlton - 1927
7) "Polly Wolly Doodle" - sung here by Shirley Temple - 1935 (Song premiered in 1843)
8) "Forever Country" - Artists of Then, Now & Forever - 2016 (See bonus section)
Talk more about musical rounds. Try the famous example "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" together.
This lesson focuses on the roots of country music. Country music is quite diverse and a genre lesson could focus on more modern country music. Engage in a discussion regarding any country music interests of the students. The above music video "Forever Country" provides a taste of more "modern" country music.
Lesson 8 - Composers: John Philip Sousa and Patriotic Music
John Philip Sousa (1854 – 1932) was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era known primarily for American military marches. He is known as the "American March King".
Sousa began his career playing violin and studying music theory and composition. His father enlisted him in the United States Marine Band as an apprentice in 1868. He left the band in 1875 and learned to conduct. He eventually rejoined the Marine Band and served there for 12 years as director, after which he organized his own band. Sousa aided in the development of the sousaphone, a large brass instrument similar to the helicon and tuba.
The following video shares a brief history of Sousa:
John Philip Sousa (1854 – 1932)
Upon the outbreak of World War I, Sousa was awarded a wartime commission of lieutenant commander to lead the Naval Reserve Band in Illinois. He then returned to conduct the Sousa Band until his death in 1932.
Among his best-known marches are "The Stars and Stripes Forever" (National March of the United States of America), "Semper Fidelis" (official march of the United States Marine Corps), "The Liberty Bell", "The Thunderer", and "The Washington Post".
1) "Stars and Stripes Forever" - Sousa - 1896 (The official national march of the U.S.)
2) "Semper Fidelis" - Sousa - 1888 (The official march of the U.S. Marine Corps. The words Semper Fidelis are Latin for "Always Faithful" which is the motto for the U.S. Marines.)
3) "You're a Grand Old Flag" - George M. Cohan - 1906
4) "America, the Beautiful" - Poem lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates (1893) and music by Samuel Ward (1882) - first published together in 1910. Sung here by Ray Charles - 1972. Ray Charles overcame physical challenges (blindness) to find great success.
5) & 6) "America" (My Country 'Tis Of Thee) and "God Save the Queen" (British National Anthem). Discuss how the songs have the same melody, but very different patriotic meanings.
This lesson is especially suitable around President's Week.
What is the difference between a band / marching band and an orchestra? - Strings!
Talk about the different types of bands and ask if anyone has band experience. Consider showing or discussing "Battle of the Bands" videos, which are common friendly competitions between colleges and branches of the U.S. military, especially between drum sections.
Lesson 9 - Composers: Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990) is one of the 20th century’s foremost composers with highly influential music that has a distinctive blend of classical, folk and jazz idioms.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York and studied piano and composition both in the U.S. and Europe. He was concerned with crafting sounds that would be seen as “American” in its scope, incorporating a range of styles in his work that included jazz and folk and connections to Latin America.
An Oscar-winning writer of film scores as well, Copland died on December 2, 1990.
The following video shares a brief history of Copland:
Aaron Copland (1900 – 1990)
Some of Copland’s most prominent pieces included "Fanfare for the Common Man", "El Salon Mexico" and "Appalachian Spring", for which he won the Pulitzer.
1) "Fanfare for the Common Man" - Aaron Copland - 1942 (Often used by the U.S. military.)
2) "Hoedown" (from Rodeo ballet) - Aaron Copland - 1942
3) "El Salón México" - Aaron Copland - 1936 - The work uses Mexican folk music as a musical depiction of a dance hall in Mexico City. Performance by the National Symphonic Orchestra of Peru.
4) "Simple Gifts" (from Appalachian Spring ballet) - Aaron Copland - 1944 - Black and white photos by famous photographer Ansel Adams.
5) "Simple Gifts" - Alison Krauss (singer) and Yo-Yo Ma (cello) - 2001
"Simple Gifts" is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848. The song was largely unknown outside Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used its melody for the score of the ballet Appalachian Spring.
This lesson is especially suitable around Thanksgiving. Ask what the children are thankful for, and how music can move us. Other thankful songs to consider are: "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw.
Lesson 10 - Composers: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) was a composer of the Romantic period and the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally. He is generally regarded as the most popular Russian composer of all time.
His music has always had great appeal for the general public in virtue of its tuneful, open-hearted melodies, impressive harmonies, and colorful, picturesque orchestration, all of which evoke a profound emotional response.
The following video shares a brief history of Tchaikovsky:
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)
Tchaikovsky's work includes 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 3 ballets, 5 suites, 3 piano concertos, a violin concerto, 11 overtures, 4 cantatas, 20 choral works, 3 string quartets, a string sextet, and more than 100 songs and piano pieces.
His ballets are some of the most famous ever composed and include:
"Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Nutcracker".
1) "Swan Lake" (Finale) - composed by Tchaikovsky - 1876
2) & 3) "The Nutcracker" (March and Waltz of the Flowers) - composed by Tchaikovsky - 1892
4) "Danse of Floreandores" (jazz version of Waltz of the Flowers) - Duke Ellington / Strayhorn - 1960
5) "1812 Overture" - Tchaikovsky - 1880 - Written to commemorate the successful Russian defense against Napoleon's invading Grande Armée in 1812. Tchaikovsky conducted a performance of the overture at the dedication of Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1891. That was one of the first times a major European composer visited the United States. The 15-minute overture is best known for its climactic volley of cannon fire, ringing chimes, and a brass fanfare finale. It has also become a common accompaniment to fireworks displays on the U.S. Independence Day.
Talk about dancing. Who enjoys dancing to music and what styles? If anyone is in a dance class, have them share their experience. "The Nutcracker" is a common winter production often associated with Christmas. Have any of the children seen or participated in it?
Have the class get up and dance to a Tchaikovsky piece and give their rendition of ballet.