Rudyard Kipling Elementary School
9351 S. Lowe Street

Participating teachers:
Lauren Smith, 2nd grade
Christine Wyatt, Music

Context  |  Process  |  Reflections  |  Standards

Mrs. Lauren Smith (2nd Grade classroom teacher) and Mrs. Christine Wyatt (general music teacher) constructed a unit integrating both music and science. This unit grew from the students’ learning needs in each classroom: Mrs. Smith’s students needed to be able to apply the concept of measurement in science and for Mrs. Wyatt’s students to use music vocabulary in the context of music pieces and songs.


Students often have a difficult time verbalizing what they are hearing in the music that is playing. Building a music vocabulary is vital to students being able to describe and understand what the music conveying. This understanding helps students become more engaged during live performances and help them to express themselves effectively in their own performances.

Student learning objectives for the unit were to demonstrate understanding of tempo vocabulary (allegro, andante, largo) and dynamics vocabulary (piano, forte, crescendo, decrescendo), and to use that understanding to sing a song with good intonation and breath support and demonstrate proficient ensemble skills.

First, the students were introduced to the definitions of allegro, andante and largo. They did learning activities that required them to practice listening and labeling what they were hearing. For example, in one activity I played a beat that was either allegro, andante, or largo on a hand drum, and the students practiced moving their feet to the beat of the drum. They also dramatized the different tempos within the context of a musical story, which helped them with language arts literacy as well as music.

The students were introduced to the definitions of piano and forte and did similar learning activities to help them differentiate loud from soft sounds. Finally, students were introduced to the definitions of crescendo and decrescendo. They used classroom instruments with the story “Gilberto and the Wind” to dramatize the wind growing louder and softer.

After they had learned the terms, the students used classroom instruments to accompany themselves while singing a song “Care for the River” to the tune of “Wade in the Water.” The lyrics to the song are as follows:

Care for the river
It is Chicago’s future
Care for the river
Kipling students care for the Chicago River

Verse 1:
Learn all you can about the River today
Care for the Chicago River
We’ll keep it clean so it’s here to stay
Care for the Chicago River


Verse 2:
We won’t dump in garbage or chemicals, no way!
Care for the Chicago River
We need the water and in it we play
Care for the Chicago River

Integrated units can help students understand abstract and intangible concepts because they present the same concept within different contexts. For example, students may have a hard time understanding what a vibration is, but they come to school already knowing what music is. Teaching vibration in the context of music makes it easier for them to understand because they understand the context. In addition, parallel instruction by the classroom teacher meant that the students understood vibrations prior to coming to my classroom and as a result, I was able to discuss how those vibrations are used in music. The classroom teacher and I felt the students gained a more solid understanding of sound and music because we coordinated our instruction to support each other.

Professional development workshops, such as those offered in this program, are important because they enable teachers to continue learning not only about the latest educational research findings but also from each other to improve our teaching practice. In addition, collaborating with a cultural institution such as the CSO during this process is extremely valuable because they are able to provide educational opportunities for the students that are not normally available to them. As in many CPS schools, our school is too small to have a student orchestra. I can speak and show my students videos about the string family, but when musicians actually come to the school and play string instruments for the students, the students have a deeper understanding of strings and orchestra music. This personal, concrete experience makes music more relevant to their daily lives.

This unit connects with CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.A.1, CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.A.2, CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.D.9 and IL State Fine Arts Standards 25, 26, and 27.