The Carnival of the Animals, written by Camille Saint-Saens in 1886 is an imaginative and fun musical suite that uses classical music to portray animals. Here’s all you need for a mini unit study of this classic. You can use the ideas and resources in this post for an easy-to-implement homeschool music lesson that is perfect for kids in kindergarten through second grade.
What You Need
The supplies are super simple, and you probably can do this unit study for free!
- Carnival of the Animals music (either CD or on YouTube)
- Coloring pages
- The Carnival of the Animals book (optional)
Check out this recording, which shows each animal in the suite while you listen.
Or, here’s another version to watch and listen to so that your kids can see the musicians at work!
What You Need to Know About the Music
The Carnival of the Animals was written as a humorous musical suite, which you can grasp from the portrayal of pianists as animals in one of the movements, as well as the composer ripping on the “old music” of his day in the “Fossils” movement. You might have to explain some of these ironies to your kids. Or you might not!
There are fourteen movements, each representing a different animal. These movements are short and enjoyable, even for the K-2 crowd.
Keep in mind that the best way to teach music to young children is to get them moving, feeling the music, and enjoying the storytelling that accompanies a masterpiece like this one.
Homeschool Music Lesson Plan
You can do one movement per day. Here’s a simple plan for what to do:
- Tell your child the name of the movement (named after the animal)
- Listen to the movement together
- After listening once, talk together about the sounds and instruments that represented the animals. How would you describe the animals? Use lots of describing words!
- Listen again as your child completes a coloring page
After you’ve completed the entire movement after 14 days or so, you can go back and listen to the entire suite and let your children act out the animals as the movements change. See if they can remember which animal is being depicted.
Kids love acting out things, and when you can get them kinesthetically involved in music at a young age, you are giving them a solid foundation that they can build upon later.
If you want to add even more creativity and imagination to this music lesson plan, you can have your kids choose their favorite animal that was not included in the suite and compose a simple musical theme depicting that animal. They can also create a drawing or painting of this animal.
You can ask them questions like this about their added movement and animal theme:
- How does this animal behave? What kinds of words describe this animal?
- Would the musical instrument portraying this animal need to have high or low sounds?
- Would the music be fast or slow?
- How can you use music to creatively “show” the animal?
If you use narration in your homeschool, you could also include an oral narration about the way a certain animal sounded in the suite. You could then take one sentence your child says, write it down, and turn it into a simple copywork exercise.
No matter how you use The Carnival of the Animals as a homeschool music lesson, remember to have fun! There’s no way to mess this up and the sky’s the limit when creatively exploring the music.
Want some free coloring pages to go along with The Carnival of the Animals? You can grab them at 4onemore.com
Abby is a former public school teacher, now homeschooling her five children. She’s in the trenches just like you and knows it can be challenging to be home with your kids all day while you struggle to keep up with the housework and educate your kids (and maybe even work on the side!). She blogs over at www.4onemore.com and hosts the Homeschool with Moxie podcast.