Third Grade Pentatonic Compositions

7 Mar

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Last year, as second graders, my students composed simple do-mi-so songs and used SMART Notebook software to print and share them (see my post about that project here). Now that those students have learned the extended pentatonic scale (s, l, d r m s l d’), I needed a creative way to get them to apply that knowledge through composition.

I decided to create a worksheet similar to the one we used in second grade, and like that project, we completed it as a whole class before I separated the students into small groups to work independently. Here is a SMART Notebook file with the template that also shows my markup from one of the third grade classes.

The students were involved in creating their compositions before I decided what we were going to do to share those songs. I didn’t want them to make something on the computer like they had the previous year, but I could not think of a really good idea. So what did I do? What any crazy person would do: I asked the kids how they wanted to share their songs! Each of my three classes chose a very different method of sharing their compositions with an audience (should have seen that coming). *Note: I have not had formal training in Project Based Learning (PBL), but this whole process had many of the elements of a PBL unit, as you can read here.

This project took much longer this year than it did in second grade. This is due to the fact that the content is more advanced (quite a bit beyond do-mi-so and ta, ti-ti, rest), and also because I divided the students into smaller groups so that each student would have a voice. It was more work for me to monitor and assist the groups to make sure everyone was being successful. I also did a lot of observational formative assessment throughout the process. And of course, after the compositions were written, the students had to practice and prepare for their presentations.

I have a difficult time personally justifying projects that take more than 3 or 4 class meetings, but when I look back on just how many standards we were able to address through this unit, I just need to get over it. Here are the National and Ohio Music Standards for third grade that were incorporated into this project:

Standards Addressed

Below are the finished products of the third graders’ pentatonic composition unit. Enjoy!

Mrs. Laemmle’s class chose to create posters, record their songs, and turn it all into a slideshow presentation. The posters are also displayed in the hallway outside the music room.


Mrs. Tackett’s class chose to have an assembly performance on the stage. Due to the poor acoustics in the gym, we filmed the students’ performance in the music room immediately after they performed on stage. The sound quality is much better in this video than it was in the video from the gym.


Mrs. Watkins’s class chose to perform and explain their projects to the morning kindergarten classes because students at our school don’t get to have music class until first grade.


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