Brianne Gidcumb | June 2014

Teaching ELA and Core Arts Standards Through Music

One of my favorite musical units to teach primary students is Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. This piece is rich with opportunity to teach students about elements of music, as well as to utilize reading (literature and informational) skills. I think it is a perfect point of entry to try an art integrated approach, whether in the music classroom or the literacy classroom. Here are some lesson seeds that outline some ways that Peter and the Wolf can be connected in teaching ELA standards, as well as standards in dance, theatre, and media arts.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.6 Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.

DA:Cr1.1.2a: Explore movement inspired by a variety of stimuli (for example, music/sound, text, objects, images, symbols, observed dance, experiences) and suggest additional sources for movement ideas.

Tell students that they will be listening to a piece of music that tells a story. Introduce the characters in the story, and listen to excerpts (character motifs) of the musical score of “Peter and the Wolf” (without narration). Students should recognize that each character is portrayed by a different instrument and a different melodic motif. Have students develop a movement to accompany each melodic motif. Listen to a section of the music, having students perform movements to signal that they heard each character correctly.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.10 With prompting and support, read prose and poetry of appropriate complexity for grade 1.

TH:Cr1.1.2b: Collaborate with peers to conceptualize scenery in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, creative drama).

Have students read a “Peter and the Wolf” Story Sheet (one can be found at After reading, divide students into groups and have them discuss and identify important plot points. Have the students develop short pantomimes for each of these plot points.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

MA:Pr4.1.2: Practice combining varied academic, arts, and media content into unified media artworks, such as a narrated science animation.

Working in pantomime groups, assign students to portray each of the characters from the story. Using the important plot points previously identified, have students further develop their pantomimes. Using iMovie, have groups record these pantomimes and insert the appropriate music (character motif/instrument) from the score as the soundtrack for the movie. Extension: Have a student narrate the film.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

TH:Re8.1.2b: Identify causes and consequences of character actions in a guided drama experience (e.g., process drama, story drama, or creative drama).

Ask students to make a list of characters in the story and traits of each character. Have each character write a journal entry about their experience in the story. (What happened? How did you feel? How did you overcome challenges?) Students can draw on their experience and inferences from the music, the story, and the video.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.6 Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.

MU:Re7.2.2.a: Describe how specific music concepts are used to support a specific purpose in music.

Introduce Sergei Prokofiev as the composer of the musical work “Peter and the Wolf.” Explain that he used different musical instruments to represent characters in the story. Engage students in a discussion on how each instrument/melodic motif represented the traits of each character, referring to musical elements of timbre, pitch, rhythm, etc.

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: