Lesson Plan

Creating Themes and Variations Ipad 1:1

Students can create their own themes and variations on those themes.
Sara P.
Music Teacher
Tyrrell Middle School, Wolcott, Connecticut
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
My Subjects Arts

Students will be able to...

1. Identify and understand what the difference is between a theme and variation in music.

2. Identify  different ways on how to change a theme in music.

3. Understand the history on the famous composer Charles Ives.

4. Listen and identify the different variations in Charles Ives famous piece "Variations on America."

5. Review rules on how to play boomwhackers and successfully play a theme and variation on boomwhackers.

6.  Learn and create their own musical theme and variations  in 4/4 time using the iPad app IWriteMusic.

7. Perform their theme and variations in 4/4 time for their peers.

8. Evaluate and critique peer's theme and variations.

Grades 6
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook:

Activity: Exploring

1. Engage students by asking them what a main idea is and connecting it to what a main idea is in music which is called a theme.   The teacher will then have the students explore how to change a theme in spaghetti.

Ways to change a theme in spaghetti:

  • Change the sauce
  • Change the noodles
  • Add different ingredients(meatballs, vegetables, cheese, etc.)

 2.  Once they figure that out, they can then connect different ways to change a theme in music which is called a variation.

Student Instructions

1. Students will use their critical thinking and prior knowledge skills in figuring out different ways on how to change a theme in music and what the difference is between a theme and a variation in music.

2 Direct Instruction:

1. Once the students understand what a theme and variation is in music, the teacher will introduce the composer Charles Ives.

2. The teacher will have the students open their Silver Burdett music textbooks on p.162 and 163.  The teacher will choose some individuals to read the text at the bottom of the page on the short biography they give on the composer Charles Ives.

3. After the students have read the biography, they will listen and follow along with the listening map for Charles Ives's famous piece "Variations on America" on p. 163 of their text and think about what makes each variation different.

4. The teacher will use the website listed above: www.charlesives.org on the ipad and scroll down the compositions section of the website to where this piece is located and play the recording for the students.

5. After listening to the piece, students will have a group discussion as to the different ways Charles Ive's changed the variation from the theme.

Ways to change a theme:

  • Rhythm
  • Pitches
  • Instrumentation
  • Harmony
  • Tempo
  • Dynamics

3 Guided Practice

Activity: Creating

1. The teacher will explain and go over the rules on how to use musical boomwhackers.  The teacher will then allow the students to select one boomwhacker from a C pentatonic scale(C,D,E,G,A). 

2. The teacher will have the main theme of the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" up on the whiteboard. 

3. Students will use the boomwhacker pitch they selected and play it at the appropriate time during the song.  Students should be able to identify that the main theme is the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

4. The teacher will then have the students use their creative thinking skills to help create a variation on the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb" on the whiteboard as a class.

5. The teacher will explain the rules that go along with creating a variation such as:

  • There must always be 4 beats per measure.
  • One note must always stay the same in each measure.
  • The first pitch of the song must begin on E and the last pitch of the song must be on C.

6. The teacher will help the students to perform the piece on the boomwhackers with a steady beat and tempo.




4 Independent Practice

The teacher will then have the students get independent practice by creating and writing their own theme and variation on ipads using the free ipad app iwritemusic.

1. The teacher will teach the students how to incorporate different notes into the app, how to erase notes, or to add rhythms, etc.

2. Once the students understand the basic principles of how to use the app, the students will be left to work independently on their own to create their own theme and variations in the ipad iWriteMusic app.

3. The teacher will walk around and help any students that need further guidance in how to use the software.


5 Wrap Up

1. Once each student has completed writing their own theme and variation, the teacher will have the students take turns performing their theme and variations for the rest of the class.  The students will then evaluate each composition and give feedback to students as to what they did well and what they could improve upon in the future.