Themed Lesson: Fairy Tales


Age Range: All Ages, with support for young learners

Learning Objective: Students will engage emerging literacy skills such as character identification and use of descriptive words to compare and contrast music featuring fairy tale characters.

Many composers over the years have set fairy tales to music. This is the second of three lessons where we will listen to different musical fairy tales. Find the first lesson about The Swineherd's Suite here.

1. In the first musical fairy tales lesson, we heard one complete fairy tale told with music only. Today we will focus on fairy tale characters.

2. Brainstorm a list of fairy tale characters. You might think of specific characters, like Cinderella, or a general character type, such as a witch or a fairy. Today we will think about five different fairy tale characters and hear music created for each of them.

3. The five characters we will focus on are Sleeping Beauty, the Sugar Plum Fairy, trolls, a witch, and a prince. Draw a grid like the one below. Think a little about each character. Write or say out loud some words that describe each character. Then draw a picture.

Sleeping Beauty grid
Sleeping Beauty grid
Katie Condon

4. Now let's listen to a musical depiction of each of these characters. Sleeping Beauty is first. Her theme begins about 40 seconds into the video below. As you listen, read your descriptive words. Do those words also describe the music?

5. Here is music for the Sugar Plum Fairy, as composed by Peter Tchaikovsky, from his musical Christmas fairy tale, The Nutcracker.

6. Our next characters are trolls. Here you hear a musical Dance of the Little Trolls from Johan Halvorsen's Scenes from Norwegian Fairy Tales.

7. So many fairy tales have witches. Here's some music called The Witch's Ride from Engelbert Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel.

8. Sergei Prokofiev wrote a musical version of the famous Cinderella story. This part is called Mazurka and Entrance of the Prince.

9. Finally, in Peter Tchaikovsky's musical re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, he wrote a section called "Procession of the Fairy-Tale Characters." As you listen, imagine a parade full of every fairy tale character you can imagine. Notice when the character of the music changes. Maybe that's a new fairy tale character marching by. If you would like a refresher about the story of Sleeping Beauty, here is a version to read or have someone read to you.

10. Want more fairy tales? Try listening to this episode of Classical Kids Storytime – Beauty and the Beast.

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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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