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The author of this lesson compares the development of a song with the development of a story character


Language Arts, Music  


4, 5  


Title – Language Arts/Music–Giving Characters a Heartbeat
By – Tikay Banks
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Music
Grade Level – 4-5

This lesson is from a literature based writing workshop I created centered on (substitute a book of your choosing) The unit is designed to teach a variety of concepts, including story elements, the writing process, and writer’s craft, and to encourage students to write creatively. This lesson will focus on creating believable, well-rounded, in-depth characters to enhance the students’ stories. The goals and objectives for this lesson were chosen to improve the students’ writing abilities, and their understanding of similar processes in other arts. While students will need to be cognizant of and sensitive to various cultural and social issues in order to write effectively, these issues will not be a major focus of this lesson.


          This lesson will utilize:

  • CD player and CD of “The Beat Goes On” (optional)
  • Tambourine (optional)
  • Cut-out of character
  • Stuffed character
  • Computer with word processing software (i.e. Microsoft Word)


  1. To get students’ attention, ask them if they recognize the cutout of the character from your story. Ask them to give a few words that describe the character. Explain that they are going to be learning about how to write realistic characters such as (character) but that the class will begin with an activity.
  2. Sing one line from “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher. Comment on how an artist might make that line better. Divide the class into four groups. Have one group simulate the bass line of the song vocally. (You will need to model this for them—Bum bum bum, ba dum ba dum bum bum.) Tell them that they are to repeat this for the entire activity once they begin. (Note: Students with visual impairments should be included in this group as the other groups will rely on visual cues.) Tell the second group that they are to sing, “The beat goes on… …the beat goes on” when you point to them. The third group will simulate the trumpets, (again, you will need to model this line—na na nuh nah na nuh na na. [repeat]), and the fourth group will sing “la-di-da-di-dee… …la-di-da-di-dah” when pointed to. Encourage students to move their bodies with the beat, and allow some students to play the tambourine. Get the students started, and sing with them. Ask them how the song they just sang compared to the original line you sang for them. Briefly, discuss how composers add instruments and additional vocals to add depth and texture to compositions. Match the pace with the conversation, and encourage students to answer questions using previously learned information.
  3. Discuss the relationship between writing music and writing stories. Show the students the cardboard cutout again, and compare it to the one line from “The Beat Goes On.” Ask them to describe the character with more detail, and then show the stuffed character. (Allow students with visual impairments to feel this animal first, and then pass to the rest of the class.) Explain that by adding additional details, they can add dimension to their characters—in effect, give them a heartbeat.
  4. Provide the students with time to work on their stories in the computer lab. For homework, ask the students to imagine where their main character lives, and what his or her house/bedroom/closet is like. Tell them that they are to write a brief description of their character and their character’s house/bedroom/closet in their reading/writing journals.

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