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Plan: Musical Imagery: Exploring the Visual Power of Music

Subject: Music, language Arts, Technology, Visual Arts, Dance

Grade level: 3-5

Estimated Time of Completion:

Students will learn about musical imagery. They will link this musical concept to that of literary phrases they will gain an understanding of the use of imagery in both genres. Students will use Sonic Daydream in Sound Lounge to experiment with musical imagery. The lesson will culminate with the creation of student poems accompanied by student composed music.


  • Students will listen to, analyze, and describe music.
  • Students will evaluate music and music performance.
  • Students will explore the relationship between music and the language arts.
  • Students will compose and perform a melody.
  • Students will write a poem.

Materials Needed:

Short musical selection of teacher’s choice that the students are not familiar with. Some possible suggestions that evoke images:

  • Bernstein: The Dance at the Gym from West Side Story ( action, urgency)
  • Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man (solemn, royal)
  • Grieg: In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt ( mystery, danger)
  • Kabalevsky: Galop from The Comedians (whimsical)

The six phrases from Sonic Daydream written separately

Winter wind crosses

Summer storm swallows

Children’s school yard revelry

Mississippi’s gentle flow

Freight train barrels by

Time rings eternal

Available pitched instruments

Writing Materials


  1. Begin the lesson by having the students close their eyes and listen to the chosen musical selection. After listening, have the students share their ideas of what imagery the music brought to mind. Use the following questions as springboards for a short discussion:
    • - What did the music remind you of?
      - What picture did it create in your mind?
      - What was it about the music that created the image? (i.e. tempo, instrumentation, texture, etc)
  2. Read the six phrases from Sonic Daydream and briefly discuss the following:
    • - What musical instruments/ensembles does each phrase suggest?
      - What tempo would be suitable?
      - What dynamics would you use with each phrase? Why?
      - What style of music might be appropriate for each example?
  3. Access Sound Lounge and Sonic Daydream and click on each phrase. After listening to each phrase, compare it to the suggestions the class made in number three.

  4. Continue in Sonic Daydream exploring the possible sound combinations of the phrases, discussing how the class feels about each combination.
    • - Do these musical phrases it together? Why or why not?
  5. Students will divide into small groups and write a phrase.
  6. Students will use available pitched instruments to create a musical phrase that fits their literary phrase.
  7. Students will share their musical and literary phrases.
  8. In their small groups, students will write a poem using their literary phrase. They will determine where the text lends itself to the placement of the musical phrase they have created, rehearse their piece and share it.


Students should have actively participated in all group discussions.

Groups will verbally assess each other following presentations.

    • Did the music suit the poem?
    • What musical elements were particularly well used to illustrate the poem?
    • What area would you choose to improve on in the future and how?

Relevant National Standards:

Language Arts

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process.

This lesson addresses the following national content standards established at

Information about the author

Tara Hofmann has been teaching music for seventeen years. Her experience includes vocal and general music for grades K-5 and she now specializes in music technology and the integration of classroom curriculum for Fairfax County Public Schools in Falls Church, Virginia. Tara holds a BA in music from St. Mary's College of Maryland and an MA in New Professional Studies-Teaching from George Mason University.

In 1990, Tara wrote, recorded and produced Vegetable Blues and Other Tasty Tunes, a children's cassette tape and coloring book set. She has directed children's musical theatre and was President of Cracked Egg Productions, her own production company. A 1997 recipient of an Impact II Disseminator Grant focusing on "Integrating Music Technology In The Elementary School Setting", Tara has conducted workshops at Gettysburg College and been a speaker for the Greater Washington Reading Council. Currently she is the vocalist for Tara Hofmann & Friends, a jazz ensemble that performs regularly in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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