Listening Lesson: 'Mother Goose Suite'


Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will listen to one movement from Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite.

"Mother Goose" (or Ma mere l'Oye in French) is a suite, or collection of five pieces by the French composer Maurice Ravel. Ravel decided to take five Mother Goose stories and turn them into music.

Today we will listen to one movement, or one story, from the suite and use it to help us think about storytelling and story sequence.

1. The story we will listen to today is about Little Tom Thumb. Tom was a little boy who went for a walk in the woods. He threw breadcrumbs on the path so he could find his way back. But soon he discovered that the birds in the forest ate all the crumbs!

2. Watch and listen to this video. You will hear Ravel's music, and you will see some animation that helps tell the story.

3. Now, review the key events:

• Little Tom Thumb goes for a walk in the woods.
• He drops bread crumbs to help find his way.
• He notices lots of creatures (a butterfly, a dragonfly, a ladybug, and a bird).
• The bird eats his crumbs.

4. Make some personal connections with the story.

• Do you ever walk in the woods?
• How do you keep from getting lost?
• How do you think Tom felt when the birds ate his crumbs?
• What do you hear in the music that helps tell the story? (Hint: maybe you noticed a sound that reminded you of a bird's song.)

5. Listen one more time, and tell the story out loud as you listen. Maybe you want to try telling the story with stuffed animals or action figures. If you like drawing, maybe you want to draw your own version of the story.

6. Maurice Ravel wrote the Mother Goose suite for two pianos, but soon after, he orchestrated it, which means he re-wrote it for the instruments in an orchestra. And a little after that, he added even more music to turn it into a ballet. You can hear the entire suite of stories, played by an orchestra here.

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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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