This year we are learning about composers, and who better to learn about than the masters. We will take four weeks to learn and listen to only one soul-soothing creator before moving on to another. Four weeks gives us time to really learn about each one without having to cram it in or rush through it. Time enough to learn if we like that composer and would like to hear more.
Music is a funny thing. You can start off not liking a song at all. But listen to it a few time and it starts to grow on you. Next thing you know, you catch yourself humming it as you wait for the elevator. Sometimes we need to hear it a few times to really enjoy it. Familiarity and anticipation help us to enjoy the song.
I decided to begin with Ludwig van Beethoven.
I know my children have heard Fur Elise, Ode to Joy and the 5th Symphony (among others), so I thought Beethoven would be a good start to our year.
And so far, so good.
Besides those pieces, we have learned a bit about Beethoven's life, and listened to a number of other compositions like Menuet in G Major.
Our available resources are not the same for every composer, so each study is not exactly the same as the previous one. For the most part though, they are similar.
Our first week with Beethoven, I gave the kids a fact sheet about Beethoven I found at Making Music Fun and we read through it together. We listened to a few songs on YouTube followed by a couple podcasts on Classics for Kids - About Ludwig van Beethoven, and Beethoven the Pianist.
The second week we listened to a third podcast - Beethoven's Symphonies, and more performances of Beethoven's compositions on YouTube. We filled out a couple entries on one of our Composers Study cards. These entries have room for the name of the piece and a short description of the music. We also read about Beethoven in Why Beethoven Threw the Stew by Steven Isserlis, a book found at our library.
Our third week we will listen to the podcast Music that Imitates Inanimate Objects. We will listen to more of Beethoven's music while working on related word puzzles, and fill out another music description card for our Composers folder.
Our Composers folder is basically a lapbook and made from an office folder. A school folder (the kind with the pockets) would work as well. Opening the folder flat, and then folding the edges in so they meet in the middle (so the flaps open and close like a set of double doors) gives us the basic form we will use.
This style will allow us to add two sets of composer cards on each inside flap, and three across the top of the middle section. The bottom of the middle section will be for the art sheets showing their visual interpretation of the compositions we pick (one per composer).
The Composer cards are a bit like trading cards except we will stack them into a little book and add them to the folder instead of trading them.
The first card is for a printed picture and the composer's name. The second card has room for personal information like birth and death date, country, music period, etc.
The third, fourth and fifth cards are for music description. We may not use all of these with all composers, dependent on the time we have.
The last card is to make a colorful stamp representing one song. The idea is color only with no distinct, identifiable items in the picture.
Underneath is a small piece to cut out for a pocket, with a space for the composer's name. This can be glued to the folder to hold the cards once they are filled out and attached at the top (with glue or staples).
At other times in the week, such as when we work on art, we will listen to Beethoven's music as background music. A playlist on YouTube is handy for this. Many compositions are long and some repetition is good so you may not need a long list to play. Throw the playlist on and let it loop when it gets to the end.
If you are interested in our cards, you are welcome to use them too.
Download them below or find them on the Download link at the top.
Composer Study Cards
Composer Study Art Sheets ('draw' the song)