Carnival of the Animals

This is a series of lessons that takes several weeks to complete.


Book; Carnival of the Animals by John Lithgow (comes with cd.) ISBN 0 -689-86721-2



Carnival of the Animals-Lithgow



Music text: Share the Music, 1995, Grade 1, pp 36-37; cd #2

Feathers, Fins and Fur, 1998, may be out of print. I got mine on ebay.

Video tape: Carnival of the Animals, Jim Gamble Puppets.
DVD: Move It; John Feierbend

Move It - Feierabend

The Lithgow book is really too long for young children to sit through at once, so I divide it between 2 lessons. The first week the students listen/read through “Aquarium” during the last 10 to 15 minutes of the class period.

Introduce the book by telling the students that “Carnival of the Animals” is a musical work by Camille Saint-Saens made up of short pieces meant to represent the way specific animals sound or move. The book by John Lithgow is a story that he created to go along with the music, and is narrated by him. It is about the adventures of Oliver Pendleton Percy the Third, who spends the night in a museum full of animals that come to life. (Many make a connection between the story and the movie “Night in the Museum.”) Great illustrations!

The animals are made up of “People from Oliver’s world”, so after each narration I ask the students to identify who has been turned into the animal.

1. Royal March of the Lion. Professor McBird has been turned into the Lion, who is being carried in on his throne to the Royal Processional by hyenas, who are classmates of Oliver’s. Occasionally the procession stops so that the Lion can roar, which I show the students by pretending to roar each time the piano plays the chromatic scale roar. Have the students identify the instrument making the roar. (piano.)

2. Chickens. (The parents of Oliver’s classmates.) One time only, I imitate the sound of a chicken to be sure they hear the similarity to the sound of the music. Have the students identify the instrument. (violin).

3. Rodents. (Little brothers and sisters of Oliver’s classmates.) Focus on how fast they run around. (Tempo.)

4.Tortoises. Have the students identify the characters, (neighbors) and listen for the slow version of “Can Can.” I move on after the main theme. This piece is too long for them to maintain their focus.

5.Elephants. Have the students identify the character. (The School Nurse.) I have the students sway slowly back and forth to the beat, as an elehphant would. Other movement could include swinging their “trunk”. I also call attention to large = low pitch. Have the students identify the instruments. (String Bass and Piano).

6. Kangaroo. The students can make hopping motions as they listen to the hopping music. Have the students identify the instrument, (Piano), and the character, (Librarian.)

7. Aquarium. Let the students listen to the narration, then do the movement patterns with them as shown in “Move It!” (dvd). Rather than show them the dvd I learn the motions myself and have the students imitate. Movement 1 I call Jellyfish, movement 2, Rainbow Fish, repeat. Movement 3, mermaid waving, movement 4 starfish, movement 5 bubbles.

Stop here to continue next lesson.

Lesson 2: I usually do this at the beginning of the lesson and follow up  with the Jim Gamble video, Carnival of the Animals.

Begin by reviewing Aquarium narration, music and movement.

8. Aviary. Have the students identify the characters, (the girls in Oliver’s class,) and the instrunent, (flute). Students may wish to do their own “interpretive movements.” Hmmm.

9. Jackasses. I personally choose to talk over part of this narration. I ask the students, (loudly), to identify the characters while Mr. Lithgow is saying the final phrase. (You’ll see why, and I bet you can guess.) Have the students identify the characters, (the boys on the wrestling team,) and the instrument. (Violin. It’s amazing how often they get this one wrong.)

10. Pianists. I like to make a big deal out of the fact that the music teacher is a baboon.

11. The Cuckoo. Identify the character and the instrument. Count the cuckoos. (21).

12.Fossils. Identify the instrument(s). Xylophone is the one I’m going for. Sometimes they can’t name the instrument, but they can turn around and point to it, saying, “We have those!”

13. The Swan. I teach them to conduct on this one. I have them start by closing their eyes and pretending that their extended hands are floating on water. From there I show and explain a 3 pattern, and have them conduct with me. (You have plenty of time to accomplish this…it’s a relatively long piece.

14. Carnival of the Animals…listen for: chickens, kangaroos, rodents and donkeys.

The students view “Carnival of the Animals” with the Jim Gamble puppets.

Third Lesson

This lesson does not necessarily need to follow immediately after the other two.  It can, but it could also be a nice review at a later time.

Using pp.36 and 37 of “Share the Music” for Grade 1, I have the students point to various  animals as I randomly name them.  This gives them the opportunity to locate them, and me the opportunity to be sure they know which animal is which.

Their next task is to point to the animal that is being represented in the music that they hear.  Share the Music cd#2 plays short excerpts in the following order: Chickens, Elephants, Persons with Long Ears, (donkey), Tortoise, Fossils,  Kangaroos, Aquarium, (entire piece), and the Finale.  This is a quick and easy way for me to assess their listening skills and familiarity with the pieces.  It takes about 15 minutes, after which they have their final viewing/listening experience with  Fins, Feathers,Fur, a combination of live animals and animation.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Friday, May 20; The Week in Review « Tuesday Music
  2. Jane
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 06:26:04

    Reblogged this on Tuesday Music.


  3. Trackback: Carnival of the Animals | Beth's Notes PlusBeth's Notes Plus

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