Themed Lesson: Stars

themed lesson thumbnails
Stargazing · Greg Rakozy/Unsplash

Age Range: All Ages

Learning Objective: Students will have opportunities to create, perform, respond and connect to pieces of music written about stars.

Note to Teachers: As opposed to a sequential lesson plan, themed lessons are a pick-and-choose model. Select repertoire and activities from the lists below based on your time and needs.



CONNECT. Before listening to a piece, choose one or more of the quotes about stars below to share with students. Ask them what the quote makes them think of. Then, listen to the music.

  • “I know nothing with certainty, but the sight of stars makes me want to dream.” - Vincent Van Gough, painter

  • “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” - Maya Angelou, poet

  • “Not just beautiful thought - the stars are like trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they are watching me.” - Haruki Murakami, author

  • “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they would live a lot differently.” - Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes book series

RESPOND. Use the provided information below to learn a little about the piece of music you are about to listen to. After listening to a piece of music, discuss if the sounds of the music matched the intention of the composer.

  • The Whirling Ways of Stars that Pass - This piece is written by Johann Johannsson. The music is from a movie about the famous scientist Stephen Hawking, who studied many things, including the cosmos.

  • Black Star - Pianist Christopher O’Riley plays his interpretation of the rock band Radiohead’s song, Black Star.

  • Asteroid 4179 - An asteroid is basically a chunk of mineral or rock flying through space. There are different kinds of asteroids. This piece by Kaija Saariaho was written about a specific asteroid - Asteroid 4179, which is also called "Toutatis." (Click article to see a picture of the asteroid!)

  • When You Wish Upon a Star - Kids might recognize this song from the Disney movie Pinocchio!


Option 1: Create your own stargazing party! Turn off all the lights and use flashlights to shine on the walls or ceiling. While listening to one of the featured pieces, use the flashlights to follow the melody!

Option 2: Using classroom instruments, listen and reflect on which instruments have a timbre (TAM-ber) that sounds like stars. If you have pitched instruments, choose a set of 3-5 pitches for students to experiment with to create their own short “star melody.”

PERFORM. For younger students, teach a short song about stars, such as “Star light, Star Bright” and sing it as a group. For older students, they might pick a poem about stars and add a rhythmic ostinato or sound effects. Then, perform the poem for the class or a partner.

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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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