Teaching Music History and Appreciation: Chopin

Posted by Collin on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 Under: music appreciation

From time to time, I try to squeeze in something that can often get neglected in weekly lessons - music history and appreciation. It's really a shame that it gets put on the back burner because learning to listen is so vital to music students. Further, time spent studying the works of great composers (and the performances of those works by great pianists) is invaluable in teaching students musicality, variety of interpretation, pianism, as well as performance and stylistic conventions for the particular era for which the piece is representative.

To that end, I've had some of my young students learning about Chopin this month, and I thought I'd share some of the resources that I've used for that purpose.

For starters, I had each student read the brief (and free) biography of Chopin provided by MakingMusicFun.  We would usually do it during the lesson on days where maybe the student had forgotten his or her book or was under-prepared.  I've found that it works better to have them read the bio in the lesson because a) you can make sure they actually do it and b) you can play examples of the composer's music in the background while they work.

After the student has read the bio, I have them fill out this Job Application worksheet.  It's very open-ended and can be used for any composer (or other historical figure).  The downside in using it with the Chopin bio is that students struggle to find the answers to the questions in the bio text (They are there, but they are implied rather than directly stated).  But with a little guidance, it's not so bad.

Depending on the age of the student, I  also give them this Word Search from the same site for homework.  (It unfortunately doesn't include the list of words to find on the sheet itself, but I've made a second sheet that you can download to give with it.  (It's available thru the Fan Freebies tab on my Facebook page.)

As a final exercise, I like to make sure that students become familiar with one famous work by the composer.  With young students or those new to Classical music, I usually pick something that is a "greatest hit."  That way the student is more likely to engage with the material.  For Chopin, there are of course a lot of options from which to choose, but one which I've stuck with is his "Minute Waltz" because, well, it's short and works well for fidgety kids.  I've created a handy worksheet to have the students do after listening to the Minute Waltz.  If the student is young, I do it with them, but students in late elementary and above do it for homework.  

You can find the Chopin worksheet on my Facebook Page again under the Fan Freebies tab.  

Here's a preview:

In : music appreciation 

Tags: music history  music appreciation  chopin  printables