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A Musical Carnival of the Animals!

Pamela has been a music teacher in many settings for over 30 years. She enjoys sharing things that her students have used to explore music.


A Suite by Camille Saint Saens!

A carnival ~ a musical carnival of animals can bring so much excitement! As a professional musician who has performed in this carnival, a music educator who has enjoyed teaching it to children, and a kid at heart who likes to be silly at times, I can agree with many that the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens is an imaginative and fabulously fun piece of classical music!

After teaching about The Carnival of the Animals to many classes, I created an online lesson plan on my blog, Joyful Songs about "The Elephant". It includes a lesson and lapbook / notebook worksheets. I was asked by visitors to create more pages containing lesson plans and ideas that I have used with my classes. So, this is a project I am starting for them and anyone else who it may help.

You may simply read through if you are just interested in the carnival and Saint-Saens, or you may use any of the lessons for working with children. I love music and simply want to share its excitement with others! As time permits, I will be working on other movements of the suite and downloading some free worksheets for kids, also. So, please join us at the carnival! : )

Photo Credit Thanks to Animal Photos!

Saint-Saens Recording - Music of a Creative French Composer

Introduction to "The Carnival of the Animals"

Animals and Their Sounds

~ Objectives: introduce students to the theme of the unit; help them think of sounds animals make and characteristics of the animals that could sound different ways; introduce musical concepts of tempo, dynamics, pitch, and rhythm; sing a familiar song; have fun!

Sometimes people like to create music that reminds them of animals. Have the students name some of their favorite animals. Ask the students questions to help them to think about particular characteristics of animals. Is the animal large or small?

Is its movement fast or slow? (tempo - speed of the song.)

Would the animal sound loud or soft in its actions? (dynamics - volume of sound.)

Would the animal have a high or low sound? (pitch - the frequency of vibrations making the sounds higher or lower.)

Would their sounds be long or short? (duration - the length of the sound;

rhythm - combinations of short and long sounds, patterns of sound)

Can you think of any songs about animals? Have students name some they know, then sing a few! (Possibilities: Old McDonald Had a Farm, 5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Bingo, etcetera ~ Find more at Animal Songs from DLTK or Animal Songs from Kiddles.) I use some felt-board animals to put up for Old McDonald and a few finger puppets for other animal songs to make it fun for the kids.

Orchestranimals! - written by Vlasta van Kampen

Time to Move!

Music & Movement Compliment Each Other

Movement Activity: Move Like an Animal that sounds like ...

~ Objectives: use their energetic wiggles to express sounds; think about different characteristics of animals and how they could be expressed with musical sounds

Tell the students that you are going to play various sounds on the piano that you would like them to move like. You could play particular songs about an animal on the piano if you wish, but I play things that may be representative of animals.

For example, loud, low, slow notes could be an elephant walking through the forest - the kids love to stomp to a slow beat waving to trunks (arms) back and forth. Or, high, fast, twittery notes could represent the flight of a bird with their little bird wings soaring through the room. Groups of notes jumping up and down the keyboard could represent a mob of kangaroos! (All three of these are animals that Saint-Saens composed song about, so it is preparing them for that, also.)

Be creative with what you play! You may want them to guess which animal you have in mind, or have them name an animal and you create a sound for it. The kids will probably have plenty of ideas to try!

Romantic Period Composer - Camille Saint-Saens

A man named Camille Saint-Saens wrote many pieces about animals. Someone who write music is called a composer. (Students will enjoy looking at his photo and reading some of his biographical information.)

Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) was a French composer from the Romantic period of music. He composed Le Carnaval des Animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) in 1886.

Camille's presence into the world came on October 9, 1835 in Paris, France to Jacques and Clamence Saint-Saens. Although his father passed away when he was a baby, his great aunt taught him piano and his mother encouraged him in music. Young Camille bloomed with musical talents at a very young age by first composing music at the age of three and performing widely just a few years later. By the time he was only ten years old, he was able to play all of Beethoven's piano sonatas (not an easy feat), worked on his first symphony, and was presented with a music award by the Society Sainte Cecile. At seventeen he became the organist at the church of Saint Saverin, and later became the organist of two other churches.

More Honors:

* Saint-Saens became a teacher at the Ecole Niedermeyer at the age of 25 where he met one of his most renown students, Gabriel Faure.

* Saint-Saens was instrumental in developing the Société Nationale de Musique with other prominent French composers of the time in order to encourage more interest in the music of France.

* In his mid-30's, he became a member of the National Guard.

* Two doctorate degrees in the field of music were presented to Monsieur Saint-Saens during his lifetime - one from Cambridge in 1893 and the other from Oxford in 1913.

* The Grand-Croix of the French Legion of Honor Award was presented to him in 1913.

Although best known for composing Carnival of the Animals, his compositional repertoire consists of numerous selections for opera, choral, orchestra, and chamber ensembles. Famous piece include Samson and Delilah, Dance Macabre, Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, and Symphony No. 3 in C minor.

Died December 16, 1921 in Algiers, Algeria

For more about the composer, the suite, the Romantic Period of music, France, and the French language, research using the following links.


Saint-Saens Notebook Page

Composer, Romantic Period Music, & France Lapbook Mini Books

Carnival of the Animals Drawing Book

Research Sites:

Saint-Saens - simple biography from Classics for Kids.

Profile of Camille Saint-Saens from About.com

Photo credits (below) thanks to Wikipedia.

Camille Saint-Saens

Camille Saint-Saens


The Composer's Nation

Since Monsieur Saint-Saens was a French composer, have the students locate France on a world map and show students where it is in relationship to your community.


Where is France? ~ Flag & Map - minibooks for lapbooks from Homeschool Share.

The Romantic Period of Music

A Romantic Music Timeline and articles about the Music of the Early Romantic Period and Late Romantic Period written by Espie Estrella contain style characteristics and information about the greatest composers of the time.

Romantic Period Music: This article from wordiQ defines "romantic" period music, it's influences, instrumentation, nationalism, classical roots, and differences between the early and late periods. A long list of Romantic Period composers are listed at the bottom of the page.

The Suite ~ A Musical Joke

Continuing the Lesson

Le carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) is a sweet suite of fourteen animal movements! Huh? Sorry, I'm being a little bit silly. What I'm trying to say is that this carnival is a collection of instrumental pieces inspired by many wonderful animals ... and, apparently by a few of Camille's friends say some sources!

Notice that I did not say (uhm ... type) a collection of "songs" above but used the terms "instrumental pieces". A song is a selection of music that has lyrics or words sung to it. An instrumental piece is just that - a piece of music written for instruments! A movement is one section or miniature piece of music that may be played individually, but is meant by the composer to be performed with other movements that share a common thread. A suite, therefore, is a group of movements placed together as one musical piece. The movements of The Carnival of the Animals are as follows:

~ Introduction; Royal March of the Lion

~ Hens and Cocks

~ Wild Donkeys

~ Tortoises

~ The Elephant

~ Kangaroos

~ Aquarium

~ People with Long Ears

~ The Cuckoo in the Forest

~ Aviary

~ Pianists

~ Fossils or Bones

~ The Swan

~ The Finale

Although the "Carnival" is almost always performed by an entire orchestra these days, Saint-Saens first composed it in 1886 for a small chamber ensemble of flute, clarinet, pianos (2), violins (2), viola, cello, bass, and glockenspiel. Composing the suite in fun, he was afraid that if it were released to the public that people would not take him seriously as a composer, therefore, he would only allow one movement, "The Swan" to be published and released during his lifetime. The other movements were not published until after his death. Oh ... had he only known that they would be his best loved musical pieces!!

Poet Ogden Nash wrote humorous lines to go with each movement of animals. Many orchestras include these poems as part of their performance of the suite. You may want to check out "Blogden Nash" for info about him and his poetry.

Some performances of the "Carnival" by various groups have included costumed actors, dancers, and live petting zoos! Such fun stuff for families!

Camille Saint-Saens' - "Le carnaval des animaux" (Duboit) - No. 1-7

"Le carnaval des animaux" - (Duboit) - No. 8-13

(Duboit) - No. 14

Please vote for your favorite! : )

Listen to the Rhythm

~ Objectives: tempo; tone color; dynamics; pitch; rhythm; steady beat; quarter and eighth notes and rests; time signature

Play the "Introduction" of The Carnival of the Animals for the students. Tell them that introduction means the start or beginning of something, in this case, the introduction to the suite. Ask students several questions about what they heard. What is the tempo or speed? Does it change? What tone colors or sounds (instruments) did you hear? What dynamics (loud or soft) were played? Did the pitches in each phrase go up or down?

Write the rhythm of the "Introduction" melody on the board. I actually created rhythmic note and pattern cards for felt-board years ago that I use to create rhythms of the pieces my students study. Teach student to distinguish between quarter notes and eighth notes by the way they look and by the amount of time on each. Ask students to echo clap and count each measure after you. Depending on the ages of the class, sometimes I have them count with numbers (1 2 3 4) , and sometimes with the syllables ta = quarter note. and te-te = 2 eighth notes (ta ta te-te ta). With older children, I discuss time signatures and their function - especially the amount of beats per measure.

Once students are able to clap the entire rhythm, teach the students how to sing the melody with the following silly lyrics. Saint-Saens did not write lyrics to his pieces, they are just my additions to help kids remember melodies, rhythms, and concepts they are learning about each movement.

Carnival of the Animals ... Camille St. Saens ... wrote this suite ... Intro start ...

Faster Speed ... eighth notes play .. notes go up .. .played by strings ...

louder now ... at the end.

Dooowwwn ... uuuup! (Body or hands go down with piano, and up with strings.)

Vocabulary for Music Students

~ composer: a person who creates and writes new pieces of music

~ dynamics: the volume of sound as far as loud and soft

~ eighth note: a note which in 4/4 time receives 1/2 of a beat

~ instrumental piece: a selection of music written for instruments

~ introduction: the beginning of something or first piece of a suite

~ movement: a section; one instrumental piece or song of a suite

~ pitch: the frequency of vibrations creating higher and lower sounds; more vibrations create high pitches; fewer vibrations create low pitches

~ quarter note: a note which in 4/4 time signature that receives one beat

~ rhythm: the duration of sounds; their combination and patterns

~ song: a piece of music that has words to be sung

~ suite: a collection of musical pieces

~ tempo: the rate of speed of a piece of music

~ time signature: numbers at the beginning of a piece of music which tell musicians two important things; the top number gives the amount of beats per measure; the bottom number names the type of note that gets one beat

~ tremelo: two or more pitches repeating rapidly


© 2010 JoyfulPamela2

Thanks for visiting the carnival!

JeffGilbert on February 27, 2013:

This is a great introduction to classical music for children, particularly if there's a narrator. Great lens!!!

crstnblue on September 19, 2012:

Excellent lens! Thanks for sharing!

MelanieMurphyMyer on July 18, 2012:

We enjoyed Carnival Of The Animals during our homeschool years as well. :) Adding your lens to my Music Draw And Write Worksheets lens. Thanks for the resource!

Fay Favored from USA on April 23, 2012:

Really well put together. I'm sure the kids enjoyed this unit of study.

blessedmomto7 on April 19, 2012:

Love the music! Cool lens!

jadehorseshoe on December 23, 2011:

Very Nice Lens!

anonymous on July 21, 2011:

What a glorious experience you present for us here! Perfection from start to end.

lasertek lm on May 26, 2011:

great links!really informative lens, kudos!

Take a peek at my lens, Homeschooling 101: Guide to Free Curriculum and Other Resources.

akumar46 lm on May 08, 2011:

Very nice lens.Thanks.

Ruthi on February 15, 2011:

What an amazing lens! In fact, I've added a link to it on my Lyrical Impressions lens I just published..:-)