Themed Lesson: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

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Zdeněk Macháček/Unsplash

Age Range: All Ages

Introduction: In this lesson, activities are paired with listening suggestions to help listeners discover and enjoy music inspired by animals. Select activities listed below based on time allotted, classroom goals, and student needs.

Total Music Time: 8:19

Free Downloads:


  1. Listen to "March of the Royal Lion" from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens (start video at the 0:39 mark). Notice, about 15 seconds in, that the piano starts super low, plays into its high register, then goes back down to the low notes.

  2. During this part, have students imagine a lion's giant jaws opening up to roar. Each time student’s hear the “roar,” have them open their mouths as if they are the fierce lion.

  3. If space allows, instruct students to march proudly around the room.


  1. Listen to “The Tiger” by Henry Cowell.

  2. After listening, discuss:

    • What words would you use to describe a tiger? Ferocious? Aggressive?

      What words would you use to describe the music you hear?

    • Are they the same words?

    • Do you ever hear some notes that sound a little like a tiger pouncing?


  1. Listen to Hungarian Sketches, II. "Bear Dance" by Bela Bartok.

  2. Listen to the piano version of the same piece.

  3. After listening, discuss:

    • Which do you prefer?

    • Do you think this music is meant to suggest a bear hibernating in his den, or do you think the bear is active and awake?

    • If you wanted to write hibernating music, how might that sound different?


  1. Have students use this worksheet to think about how they would make music inspired by these three animals.

  2. Underneath each picture, ask students to write some words that describe each animal.

  3. Underneath the words, write some instructions or experiment with some sounds to try to create music. If you have classroom instruments, you might let students experiment with different instruments and timbres. Remember that voice is an instrument.

  4. If desired, students can share their Animal Compositions with their classmates.


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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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