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15 Minute Lesson Plan

15 Minute Lesson Plan: Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony”


Where Did the Blog Go?

(Sung to the tune of “Who Let the Dogs Out…”)

I was off to the races on this little blog and quickly figured out blogging is a real life job, that takes lots of real life hours. Surprise!

Plus, some other projects took over…namely a fast-forward track to the music curriculum I am writing. I will be speaking at some conventions in 2017, and I am determined to have all those lessons that have been floating around in my head for a decade down on paper to pass on to others.

I’m hoping to figure out how to balance these projects, while still making dinner for my family. (Y’all, it’s HARD making a homemade dinner twice a month.)



I’ve been teaching and writing about Beethoven this week and having a great time helping my students find the storm in his Pastoral Symphony (that’s Symphony #6, if you are the counting type). I thought it would be a great topic for a 15-minute lesson plan.

Here we go!

Here’s your soundtrack: Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

(Assuming your kids do not have a 45-minute attention span for classical music, go straight to the 29:20 mark for the storm section.)

Quick Background: Our pal Ludwig loved nature, and he was known for taking long walks in the countryside. Symphony #6 (which came to be known as his “Pastoral Symphony” (also spelled Pastorale – if you’re fancy) depicts elements of nature through music.

Do a little musical sketching without telling your kids anything about the piece. The cover image on the Youtube video gives it away, so hide yo screen.

Have them sketch whatever comes to mind. Take note of the 32-minute mark when the music begins to transition. Beethoven moves from the storm to the peace that comes afterward. Let your kids listen a couple of minutes into the fifth movement (most symphonies have four movements, by the way. Beethoven wasn’t exactly a rule follower).

After they have sketched, give them clues to figure out what they were listening to. Maybe try a joke, like this:

Why do mother kangaroos hate rainy days?

Because then the children have to play inside.

Just kidding. Don’t do that.

After they have guessed your much nicer clues, play the piece for them again and see if they hear the “thunder” that comes in the first 30 seconds (when you begin at 29:20 in the linked video) and the resolution of the storm as the piece moves into the sunshine. Pretty cool!

Integration opportunity: Incorporate this lesson into weather studies for young children. Even my three-year-old pre-school students could identify the thunder.

Happy listening!





{15 Minute Lesson Plan} George Bizet and “Toreador Song”



Yesterday we talked about the (short, tragic, yet productive) life of George Bizet. Missed it? Catch up here. (Don’t miss the gratuitous puppy pic to offset the tragic-ness.) 

Today I bring you a 15 minute lesson plan to teach your kids just a bit of Bizet’s memorable music.


  • Gather paper and your art supplies of choice.
  • Listen to a few minutes of Toreador Song.
  • Without telling your child anything about the piece, invite them to sketch what they hear. (More information about Musical Sketching here.)


  • WHO: Composer George Bizet, 1838-1875.
  • WHAT: Toreador Song, from the opera Carmen.
  • WHEN: Written in 1874; premiered in Paris in 1875.
  • WHERE: Bizet lived in Paris, France. Carmen is set in Seville, Spain.
  • WHY: Toreador Song is sung by the bullfighter Escamillo at the opening of the 2nd act. Carmen has her sights set on him, but third party Don Jose is jealous. Love triangle ensues.


  • Watch the live version here, featuring Escamillo’s grand entrance. Discuss what they heard the first time and what they hear now, after learning more about the piece.
  • Discuss your favorite parts of the piece.



Completed your fifteen minute lesson and want more? Use Classical music as your launching pad to other subjects:

  • Add a literature component: bring Spanish bullfighting culture to life with great books. For young children, go for the classic The Story of Ferdinand. Middle grades will enjoy the Newbery award winning Shadow of a Bull.
  • Add a writing component: give older students this prompt – “George Bizet wrote an opera set in Spain, without ever having been there. He did all his research through books he found in Paris libraries. Choose a country you are interested in – but have never visited – and do some research. Write a short story that captures the spirit and culture of your chosen country.”


Let me know if you try this 15 minute lesson plan! Send me an email me at – I’d love your feedback!



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