Music & Literacy: Create a Musical Story


Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will generate original artistic ideas in response to verbal and written prompts.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Create a Musical Story

Note to Teachers: Language and examples are geared toward early elementary; however, the lesson concept can be adapted and is very appropriate for older students as well.

ENGAGE students

INQUIRE. “Raise your hand if you like books.” (Pause.) “Raise your hand if you like music.” (Pause.) “Adding music to a story makes it more exciting. Today we will create our own soundtrack for a story to make it exciting and memorable.”

EXPLORE sounds

READ. Select a favorite book to read aloud. (Scroll down for book recommendations!) While reading, pause after key moments and ask students to brainstorm sound effects (body percussion or vocal sounds) that enhance the story. Establish a “start” and “stop” signal to cue students. (i.e. Book: “The boy ran away!” Sound effect: Drum on lap quickly for 5 seconds)

EXPLORE. Gather some classroom instruments or found objects. Read the book again and allow students to explore and improvise sound effects using instruments.

CREATE. Fine-tune the group’s musical choices by adding “story cards” like the examples below from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Use words or graphics depending on your students’ literacy level.

Story Cards - Create a Musical Story
Story Cards - Create a Musical Story
Story Cards - Create a Musical Story
Story Cards - Create a Musical Story

REFINE. Practice and refine your musical story!

PERFORM. Assign a conductor to start and stop cues. Take turns as the reader/narrator.

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following activities to enhance learning.

WATCH. Listen to storybooks that have been commissioned as musical pieces, such as: Perfect Square, One-Dog Canoe, or the classic Peter and the Wolf.

LISTEN. Listen to an episode of YourClassical Storytime. Notice how the music helps tell the story.

REPEAT. Repeat the lesson with another story, or spend time polishing the performance of the first book, record it, and share it with parents.



  • Moo by David LaRochelle

  • Snail Trail by Ruth Brown

  • Mortimer by David Munsch


  • Skeleton Cat by Kristyn Crow

  • The Z was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg

  • Tuesday by David Wiesner

  • Be You! by Peter H. Reynolds

Tip: Books with a lot of animal sounds work well for vocalization and vocal development. Action-oriented books work well if you have a lot of classroom percussion instruments available.

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

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

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