In this unit, students read like detectives, asking questions and looking for clues about what characters are thinking, feeling, and doing. As they read, students compose music that represents those investigations in order to gain a deeper understanding of the characters and how they relate to the central theme of the story.
In this unit, students create a whole-class musical composition to Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, a Newbery Medal winning author. Seedfolks is told in a series of character chapters connected by a central theme. To prepare, students become “reading detectives,” annotating the text as they ask questions and look for clues about what characters are thinking, feeling, and doing. In doing so, they are making inferences and text-to-text connections and working toward identifying a central theme of the book. As students read, they learn a range of music elements and create music using classroom instruments and found objects to represent what they have learned about the characters. As a culminating event, the class creates and performs a Seedfolks Composition for an invited audience.
Intention of Unit
A4L Unit 4, Planting a Community, was initially designed and developed to target four primary literacy goals that were identified by teachers as particularly difficult for their students to master and apply – making inferences, text-to-text connections, determining theme, and annotating text. The integration of an art form was perceived as a promising character traits with musical sounds and rhythm, by inspiring students to express and convey meaning and emotions, and to facilitate visualization of a theme for the text.
Unit 4 Art Form
The art form designed for this Unit is music. In much the same way that a story is conveyed in motion pictures or any media arts genre, the music is interwoven and connected to the text and images to identify and guide the viewer’s emotional interpretation of about what the characters are thinking, feeling and doing. E.g.; the musical score is connected to descriptions of images and actions so that once the viewers have experienced the combined words with associated sounds, they can visualize what is happening when only the associated music is heard.
The creation of music through found objects as well as available musical instruments is used as the art genre in this Unit. This decision was made to comply with the strategy for equity and access used in all the A4L Units so that all students could experience the creation of a musical score even though their school may not have access to traditional musical instruments and students are not already knowledgeable about how to play them.
This approach of relying on sounds, rhythm, dynamics, duration, pitch and timbre is not unprecedented and is masterfully used in music and dance compositions such as the Stomp and in the motion picture August Rush, as well as many other examples. By using found objects to make sounds that convey the personality traits and actions of the characters in Seedfolks, students learn to listen intently and to discriminate the meaning of sounds and to be resourceful in finding ways to create music without formal music instruction.
Vocal Music: In addition to using music produced with found objects, a musical alternative is to use sounds produced by the human voice or body. For example, the voice can also produce sounds that create different levels of dynamics, duration, pitch and timbre. The voice alone is sufficient to produce the range of sounds and variations to define the characteristics of each character in the text and a thematic overview of the book. The voice may also be effectively supplemented by sounds created using other parts of the body (e.g. clapping, rubbing hands, humming, stomping feet, etc.) or through a combination of voice and use of other found objects or musical instruments as suggested in the Unit.
Visual Arts & Writing: A substitute for the art genre of music could also be visual arts and writing, in which the students complement the association of sounds with quick linear gesture drawings and later with colors that convey character traits, emotions, and action.
Newly Added Feature: This Unit's student texts have been translated into Spanish.
Common Core State Standards
Arts for Learning is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. This Overview describes the scope of the standards and this Quick Reference Guideprovides each of the standards fully or partially met within this A4L Unit, followed by the charts that specifically identify the standards addressed in each lesson and step in the Unit. The standards are also coded and listed at the beginning of each lesson in the unit. Arts for Learning also provides a comprehensive student assessment program in each unit. This A4L Assessment Toolkit Quick Reference Chartindicates an overview of the locations of the tasks to be scored in the unit.
Each A4L unit is developed on a common framework and contains a 3-part sequence of instruction that educational research suggests will help students become more self-directed, independent learners. There is a gradual hand-off of responsibility--from teacher to students-- that is supported by assessment and teacher help as needed. Throughout A4L units the arts serve as motive and means to advance reading for meaning and writing thoughtfully.
RL 3.2: Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
RL 3.5: Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
RL 4.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
RL 4.5: Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
RL 5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
RL 5.5: Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
RL 5.7: Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).
Speaking & Listening
SL 3.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 3.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
SL 3.1c: Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
SL 3.1d: Explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
SL 3.2: Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
SL 3.3: Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
SL 3.6: Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
SL 4.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 4.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
SL 4.1c: Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
SL 4.1d: Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
SL 4.2: Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
SL 4.3: Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.
SL 4.6: Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
SL 5.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
SL 5.1b: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
SL 5.1c: Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others.
SL 5.1d: Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained from the discussions.
SL 5.2: Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
SL 5.3: Summarize the points a speaker makes and explain how each claim is supported by reasons and evidence.
SL 5.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
Unit 5 includes the following Life & Learning Skills:
-Critical and analytic thinking
Differentiation Options will appear throughout the unit to suggest ways to scaffold or challenge student learning. Use the number of helping hands to select the level of differentiation that best supports student learning.
Highest level of scaffolding. Select this option if students are learning strategies for the first time, if the text is challenging for them, or if students require more guidance during activities. Part 1 lessons are written for the highest level of scaffolding.
Moderate scaffolding. Select this option if students require some support comprehending the text or navigating the activity.
Least amount of scaffolding/Extending the instruction. Select this option if students are ready to work more independently, move more quickly through the material, or are ready for additional challenge.
Key instructional steps where the arts are used to leverage literacy-learning (and vice versa) are marked with . Smaller leveraging moments also occur throughout the lessons.
Process: Give an overview of the lesson objectives: Revisit the central story theme of Seedfolks; instruct on the rondo form; compose, share, and reflect on musical themes for Seedfolks.
Theme: Literacy & Music Connections
In this unit, "theme" is used both as a literacy and a music term, representing the big ideas that tie a piece of music or a story together.
In a story, a theme is a big idea, or one of several, that give the story its meaning. In music, a theme is a musical idea that is important to the structure of the composition. These concepts come together in the final Seedfolks Composition.
Theme is used three ways:
1. Central Story Theme - this term is used for the "big idea" the class selects as the main theme of the story.
2. Character Theme - this term is used for the piece of music students create for each character. Each chapter is a character vignette and thus operates as a mini-story with its own big idea(s). By tracking the themes of the character vignettes, students will be able to identify big ideas that span across the entire story.
3. Seedfolks Theme - this term is used for the main musical theme composed for the final Seedfolks Composition. The Seedfolks Theme is a musical interpretation of the Central Story Theme.
Introducing the Lesson
"Today we're going to revisit the central theme statements we brainstormed for Seedfolks. We'll listen to a piece of music that will help us prepare for our final performance and compose music that reflects the central theme of Seedfolks."
"By the end of today's lesson, you will be able to say, 'I can choose a central theme for Seedfolks and use music to represent that theme'."
Process: Guide students to review the central theme statements from their brainstormed lists on page 29 in their A4L Notebooks, and to think about what ties all the characters together. Students discuss and decide on a Seedfolks central theme statement that will support their whole class Seedfolks Composition.
Choosing a Central Theme
"Open your A4L Notebooks to page 29. We're going to choose one central theme that we think ties all our characters together. To do that, we want to reflect on the Seedfolks central theme statements we brainstormed earlier and the new chapters we read. Remember, themes are the ideas and lessons that give the story its meaning.
"Let's read the theme statements aloud. (Read Seedfolks central theme statements aloud.) Take a few minutes and read over your journal entries. Are there any similar ideas that tie the characters together? What did each character learn about him or herself, or another person? If you want to remember what each character did in the garden, you can go back to your Seedfolks Character Charts and Reflection Journals.
" (Students review A4L Notebooks pages 21-22.)
"Pair-share with a partner anything you'd like to add to the theme statements list or change about the statements we already have. (Students pair-share.) Let's share out. I'll record your ideas.
" (Students respond. Record.)
"Talk with your table and circle 1-2 favorite central theme statements from the list. There are lots of possible themes for this book. We're choosing the central theme that ties all these characters together and stands out for us. Think about what you're taking away from this book. (Students discuss.) Let's share out. Each table will report their top choices and I'll tally them up. Then we'll decide.
" (Each table shares and a theme statement is selected.)
"Let's all record this central theme statement at the bottom of our Seedfolks Central Theme page.
Process: Guide students to sit in Seedfolks Ensembles. Tell students to wait for the "Go" signal before moving.
Starting the Lesson
"Now that we've decided our Seedfolks central theme, we're going to learn a new music technique to help us get ready for our whole class Seedfolks Composition. When I play the "Go" signal, move to sit with your Seedfolks Ensembles." (Play "Go" signal. Students move.)
Process: Make a connection between the central theme of the story and the rondo form. Rondo is a classical form that includes a recurring theme (A) and two or more episodes or contrasting themes (B, C, D). The rondo form has been selected to organize the individual character themes and the central theme of Seedfolks into one compositional piece. See this resource page for a color-coded example of rondo form.
Guide students in listening to an example of the rondo form using the A4L Music, Track 19, "Rondo Example: Bach," which comes from a recording of the Allegro Assai, from J.S. Bach's Violin Concerto in E, BVW 1042. Have the students indicate when they hear the recurring A theme by putting their hands on their heads. You may also keep track of what section is playing by displaying the Bach Rondo Listening Chart on the document camera.
A4L Music, Track 19, "Rondo Example: Bach"
Timing for rondo form instruction is 15 minutes.
Music Composition Terms
Rondo Form: A classical form that includes a recurring theme (A) and two or more contrasting themes (B, C and D) so that the resulting scheme might be:
In this unit, rondo form has been selected to organize the individual characters' themes (contrasting themes B, C & D) and the overall theme of Seedfolks (recurring theme A) into one compositional piece.
Theme: A musical idea that is important to the structure of the composition. In this unit, theme is used in three ways:
-Central Story Theme
Introducing Rondo Form
"We've just been talking about how the Seedfolks central theme gives structure to the story. It's the same with music. Composers also use themes to give structure to music. The form we will use for our Seedfolks Composition is called rondo form."
"Rondo is a classical form that includes a recurring theme [A] and two or more episodes or contrasting themes [B and C]. (Display color-coded visual of rondo form in Resources, page 53.) In the rondo form, the recurring theme [A] has the same function as the Seedfolks central theme we just selected. And just as the Seedfolks central theme gives structure to the story and ties all the characters together, the recurring theme in a rondo form gives structure to the musical piece and ties all of its elements together. In our Seedfolks Composition, the rondo form will organize a main musical theme that we will compose today, and our character themes, into one entire composition."
"We can represent the rondo form like this. (Point to each episode on the Rondo Form chart.) You can see that A represents the part of the music that keeps repeating, while B, C, and D are each different. In our Seedfolks Composition, the A section will represent the central theme of the story, while B, C, D, and so on will each represent a different character's theme."
Playing Example of Rondo Form
"Let's listen to a recording of a rondo written by Johann Sebastian Bach (YO-han Se-BAHs-tian BAHK) titled "Violin Concerto in E." It uses solo violin plus strings and a harpsichord. A harpsichord is a type of keyboard instrument. You'll hear it as a plunky sound in the background."
"First we're going to listen to just the opening A theme." (Play 0:00-0:14 of A4L Music, Track 19, "Rondo Example: Bach," then stop.)
"When we listen again, every time you hear that A theme I want you to put your hands on your head. When the section ends and moves on to a contrasting theme, put your hands in your lap. Here's an overview of what we'll hear (Display Bach Rondo Listening Chart. Point to various points of the chart as you are explaining):
A - Main Theme, string section and harpsichord, then
B - Solo violin plays, with harpsichord
A - Main Theme
C - Solo violin again, playing a different melody
A - Main Theme
D - Solo violin intertwines with other strings; a thicker layer of sound
A - Main Theme
E - The solo violin shows off, playing very fast and fancy
Then, listen to what happens just before the final theme returns - I'll ask you!
A - Final Main Theme
Here we go.
Play A4L Music, Track 19, "Rondo Example: Bach." As each A section returns, wait a moment before you put your hands on your head. This makes the students listen, rather than just follow you. Also point to the Bach Rondo Chart to keep track of where you are in the music. The sections and times are as follows:
0:00 A - Main Theme
0:14 B - Solo violin and harpsichord
0:27 A - Main Theme
0:41 C - Solo violin in 2nd melody
0:55 A - Main Theme
1:08 D - Intertwining of solo violin and other strings
1:21 A - Main Theme
1:35 E - Violin "shows off"
2:04 A - Final Main Theme)
Did you notice what happened before the final A section? (Students may respond "music slowed way down.") Yes, this makes the ending more dramatic. You might wish to do this in your Seedfolks Composition as well."
Connecting Rondo Form to Seedfolks Composition
"When we put our whole class Seedfolks Composition together, we'll follow a similar pattern. It will start with our A section, representing the central theme of the story. Then in between each A, different Seedfolks Ensembles will play a character theme for one of the characters. For example, Kim for B, Ana for C, and Wendell for D, Gonzalo for E, and Leona for F (Show Seedfolks Rondo Chart). Next, we will compose the A theme for our whole class Seedfolks Composition."
Process: Guide students to compose a main Seedfolks theme in their Seedfolks Ensembles. Engage students in a brainstorm of key words, feelings, or moods that are generated by the central theme statement. Discuss ideas, feelings, and mood as sound and brainstorm instruments to represent these concepts. Review the criteria for composing a theme--and note that while the actual criteria has not changed, the focus has shifted--this theme will reflect the central theme of the book rather than individual characters. Guide ensembles to think about ideas, select instruments, and compose Seedfolks themes.
Timing to instruct on and compose themes is 25 minutes.
Step Alternatives: Compose the Seedfolks Theme as a Class
This unit has each ensemble composing a Seedfolks theme. Another option is to lead the class in composing one class-wide theme. This allows all students the opportunity to play in the recurring Seedfolks Theme (A) during the performance. Instead of individual ensembles writing a theme, the class would compose together. For more information on how to lead this activity, see this resource page.
Definition: Elements of Music
Duration: Describes how long a sound lasts over time: (longer, shorter)
Dynamics: Volume of music or sound:
(softer, medium soft, medium loud, louder)
Pitch: Highness or lowness of a sound:
Timbre/Tone Color: Describes the quality or color of a sound:
"In composing the Seedfolks theme, we will be reflecting on the larger ideas and lessons that give the story its meaning, rather than one specific character. Think of it as 'setting the stage,' or creating a mood that represents the overall theme of the book."
"Our central story theme statement for Seedfolks is. . . (Review central theme statement.) What feelings come to mind? What one or two words summarize this theme? Think about what you're taking away from the book. I'll write these ideas on the board." (If the theme is "People can change," students may respond "hope," "possibility," "I can change," "it makes me feel like things can get better," or "I feel happier." Record.)
Brainstorm instruments for Seedfolks theme.
"How can we represent these ideas with instruments? What kinds of sounds might we make? (Students may respond "We could start slowly for 'sad' and transform to a happier, livelier sound for 'hope.'" "We could each play separately and softly, and then come together, and be louder and stronger.") Think back to the character themes that have been composed in this class. Maybe there is an instrument that you used, or another ensemble used, that you think would fit the Seedfolks theme. What comes to mind?" (Students may respond "I remember a slow, low drum for Kim--it sounded really sad," and "I like the bongo for Wendell, because it had lower and higher pitches--it could symbolize changing moods.")
Introducing Seedfolks Theme Criteria
"The criteria for the main Seedfolks theme are the same as for the characters' themes you have written. The only difference is, you are writing to reflect the central theme of the book, as opposed to an individual character. Read More...
The length of your main Seedfolks theme will be about the same as the character themes. Let's review the Theme Criteria."
"Each Seedfolks theme will have the following criteria:
1. A clear beginning and end.
2. One or more music elements that change (dynamics, duration, pitch, and/or timbre).
3. All musicians play sometime during the theme.
4. Overlapping sound, when more than one instrument is playing.
5. A change in layering. Examples might be: transitioning from a solo (one) instrument to more than one; changing which combination of instruments are playing together."
Ensembles Brainstorm Ideas, Select Instruments, and Compose Themes
"You will have 15-20 minutes to work in your Seedfolks Ensemble to compose a Seedfolks theme. Remember to notate your composition on the Notation Chart on page 23. I'll check in after 15 minutes to see if you need more time. Then we'll present and reflect."
"Talk with your ensemble about how you might translate these ideas into sound. Think about which instruments have the music elements you think will best represent the theme. Then, select four or five instruments from the music stations. Pick from a variety of stations, so your theme will have varying timbres. I'll let you know when it's your turn to select instruments. Think about the theme criteria and use the Composer's Questions as you experiment with your instruments and make decisions."
(Play "Go" signal. First set of ensembles gathers instruments. Repeat process for remaining ensembles. Use "Freeze" signal and "At rest" cues as needed. Alert ensembles to time left, "10 minutes left, 5 minutes left--you should be practicing your theme at this point." Say, "As you practice, what strategy can you use to know when to start to play?" Check in at 15 minutes. If most students need more time, allow more time.)
Process: Guide ensembles to present and reflect on their Seedfolks themes. Pre-determine if the Seedfolks Ensembles will share their themes in the front of the classroom or if they will stay at their desks, how many groups will present, and their order. See menu below, Presentation Management in the Classroom for suggestions for appreciating performances and focusing both audience and musicians. If you wish, you may video or audio record the presentations to further document the themes in preparation for the final performance.
Use the Music Reflection Starters either posted on chart paper or projected on the document camera. Timing for each group to present and reflect is 5 minutes. Optional: You may wish to video or audio record each ensemble's Seedfolks Theme. For the final performance ensembles may want to listen to a recording to what was previously created.
Presentation and Reflection Process
1. An ensemble spokesperson shares what members want to represent about the theme.
2. A second spokesperson shares his/her Notation Chart and explains what the symbols in their notation represent.
3. Ensemble plays the theme.
4. Class reflects using the Music Reflection Starters.
Coaching Tips for the Arts: Creating Seedfolks Theme
When students are composing their Seedfolks themes, keep in mind that this is an open-ended process without "correct" answers. Avoid making statements that reflect personal judgment of approval or disapproval. Take the role of guide--not arbiter of taste. Focus on the criteria.
Ask coaching questions and statements like:
-What key words from the central theme are you interpreting? Show me that in your body. How do you feel when you are like that? What instrument sounds like that to you?
-How might you vary the sound of this instrument? Look at the Elements of Music chart. Can you vary dynamics, duration, pitch, or timbre?
-Did the character experience a change in feeling or attitude? What combination of instruments, or change of musical elements, might illustrate this?
-Does your theme sound the same each time your ensemble plays it? What can you do to:
Know when to bring in the next instrument?
Know when to create the changes in dynamics, pitch, duration and timbre that you have planned?
-Use counting (1, 2, 3, 4) to help you know when to start and stop playing. For instance, the drum might start on "1," and the sticks come in on "3."
-Practice many times, so you can produce your sequence successfully each time you play it.
Coaching Tips for the Arts: Presentation Management in the Classroom
Order of Presentations:
Tell groups the order they will present/perform. This alleviates anxiety, and allows students to focus on the musicians.
When students finish presenting, appreciate their work with sign language applause. This is a quick way to appreciate student work and transition to reflection, the next group, or the next set of instructions.
Focusing Audience and Musicians:
When a group moves from the audience into the presentation space to present their work, there is usually side talking about the presentation. This is expected. Help
students refocus by saying:
"Audience ready? Musicians ready?"
The audience and musicians do not respond verbally--this is a self-check.
"Each Seedfolks Ensemble will play their theme and then we'll reflect on what we hear. A spokesperson will explain what you want to show about the central story theme through your music. A second spokesperson will place a copy of your graphic notation under the overhead, and explain the symbols you used and what they show. Then the ensemble will play its theme. After the ensemble plays, class members will reflect on what they heard, using our Reflection Starters."
"The order you will present is . . ." (Give order.)
"Let's have the first ensemble come into the presentation space." (Ensemble comes into the space or stays at their desks.)
"Audience ready? Musicians ready?"
"Ensemble, begin by telling us what you chose to represent about your theme, show us your graphic notation, and then play your theme. (Ensemble shares and plays.) Let's appreciate the ensemble with (sign language or beatnik) appreciation." (Students appreciate.)
"Audience, reflect back to the ensemble what you noticed and heard using the Reflection Starters and how what they played represented the Seedfolks theme. (Audience reflects.) Let's appreciate the ensemble again with (sign language or beatnik) appreciation." (Students appreciate. Repeat process for remaining ensembles.)
Process: Restore the room to its original state. Students return instruments to their correct storage unit. Feel free to assign students the responsibility of organizing instruments into bins and putting bins away. Students return to their regularly assigned seats.