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Music Composition and Photography

Harold C. La Mott
Woodman Park School, Dover, New Hampshire

Subject: Music
Grade: 6

"Students who had difficulty with written language developed alternative forms of communication through music, art, photography, and poetry."

Purpose and Description of Project

Harold La Mott aimed at developing a synergistic project that stressed the integration of music composition, still photography, poetry, and art as an alternative means of communication. His goal was to bring this about by creating a music/slide show based on his students' original composition.


Students listened to several pieces of music that had been written to evoke images and then reported to the class on the uses of videos with contemporary music. Students were asked to create a set of lyrics for an original song that could then be illustrated with pictures. They brainstormed possible subjects, ideas, and feelings, and, in their language arts classes, the participating classes selected a topic and wrote a poem for the lyrics.

The next step was to create the music-by calling out random numbers that corresponded to notes on the piano, or by the students' actually creating melodies at the piano or synthesizer. Students made decisions as to the mood-i.e., major or minor. La Mott used the synthesizer to help students decide on a rhythm. The melody was transcribed by the students on a staff, and then, in preparation for illustrating the lyrics with photography, they designed record jackets for their song. After experimenting with various musical instruments, the students decided on their song's arrangement. The students discussed how they could share their creative experiences and decided on a slide/tape presentation.

Junior high school students in the Title I-sponsored camera club agreed to take the slides, based on the possible scenes suggested by the sixth graders. Students from the elementary school band recorded the songs, and the camera club helped in synchronizing the lyrics and the slides under the supervision of their advisor. The finished product was presented at a public performance. The slide/tape show was used as a measure of how effectively the students communicated their ideas.

Materials, Resources, and Expenses

The language arts teacher assisted La Mott's students in writing the lyrics, and the eighth-grade camera enthusiasts, under the supervision of their club advisor, transposed the lyrics into visual form, photographed the scenes, developed the slides, and synchronized the slide/tape show. Workshops funded by the parent/teacher association were designed to give the sixth graders an appreciation of musical composition and lyric writing, and to give the eighth graders an understanding of photography as an art and a unique means of communication.

Outcomes and Adaptability

Pre- and post-tests showed an increase of student knowledge of photography terms and of the uses of photos and musical concepts in conveying ideas. Students who had difficulty with written forms were able to use music, poetry, and photos as alternative means of communication. Motivation remained high as students derived pleasure from creating something of their own.

La Mott suggests that the project could be initiated in music, art, or language arts classes. He concluded that the project was easily adaptable to multi-grade levels and abilities and to individual, small group, and large group settings.

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