Lesson #2 – Music’s Role in Society


Review vocabulary for describing a piece of music

Practice describing a piece of music without personal judgement.

Time: 40-50 Minutes

Download Lesson Plan

Download Music Resources

Creator: Betsy Nolan, Musical Educator

Institution: Edmunds Elementary, Burlington, VT


Lesson Plan


Musical Resources

What is this lesson about?

In this lesson students will continue to develop their listening and responding to music skills and begin to explore different ways music is used in society as well as the similarities and differences in the roles music plays in different culture.

  • Learning Objectives:

    • tudents will practice describe a piece of music without personal judgement.
    • Students will explore the ways music is used in society.
    • Students will look for similarities and differences between musics from different cultures that share a common purpose.

Lesson Plan: NNP #2

  • Deeper discussion can investigate our ideas and beliefs about what we actually hear. Why do we “like” or “dislike” music? Is culture important, or is music heard objectively by the ears and brain?
  • Section 1: Listening & Responding

    Before saying anything about it, play the song once and ask students to listen with an open ear/mind, perhaps write down any reactions/thoughts/feelings they experience.

    Possible Questions:

    1. What do you hear? – Using the word bank, describe what you hear.  Do not share your feelings or opinions about the music.

    Vocabulary Word bank

    Melody, harmony, major, minor, instruments, loud, soft, dynamics, tempo, beat rhythm, timbre, crescendo, decrescendo, form, verse, chorus, bridge, mood


    2. Emotional Response:  Based on our group description, talk about how this music makes you feel and why.

    3. What don’t you hear? – What strikes you as “missing” or “desired” in the song? This can help to point out the context in which we hold our musical experiences, even if we aren’t aware of it.

    4. Provide contextual (i.e. historical, cultural, regional) information about the song.

    Section 2: Social & cultural practice

    Read or handout copies of the translation of one of the songs.

    1.  Start with a discussion on the meaning of the lyrics. Are you surprised by the meaning or not? Does knowing the meaning change the way you experience the song?

    2. What roles did these songs play in their cultures?

    3. What songs from your culture do you know that might play a similar role?

    4. In what ways are the songs musically similar?  In what ways are they musically different?  In what ways are the songs lyrically similar?  In what ways are they lyrically different?

    Section 3: Engaging

    After getting the context for the first listening example have students brainstorm the different ways songs are used in society, ie. celebration, spiritual practice, work songs, game songs, lullabies, story songs, lesson songs, etc.

    1. Which of these have you used in your life?

    2. How did you learn them? 

    3. Which ones could you see yourself teaching to someone else in your life?

    Section 4: Collective Reflection

    Facilitate reflection, possibly stepping back except to record responses on the board, of what it was like to describe the song and to think about the different ways music can be used by different cultures..

    Possible prompts to give:

    1.  What was difficult or easy about describing the songs without adding your opinion of the music?

    2.  What surprised you about the songs?

    3. What surprised you about our brainstorm?

    3. After thinking about the uses of song in different cultures what can we guess about the role of music in people’s lives?

    Section 5: Taking it out into the World!

    Talk to a family member about what songs they know that share this common use.  How was this person’s experience the same or different than yours?  What factors influence those similarities and difference?


  • Vermont Framework of Standards


      Students show understanding of music CONCEPTS and VOCABULARY by…

      A7-8:14 Students analyze, interpret, and respond to art by…

      A7-8:17 Students show understanding of how the arts impact life by…

      A7-8:18 Students show understanding of how the arts shape and reflect various cultures and times by…


      H&SS7-8:16 Students examine how different societies address issues of human interdependence by…


      • Describing aural examples of music using appropriate terminology (e.g., pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, form, timbre, texture, articulation, harmony, phrasing, style).
      • Explaining qualities (elements, principles of design, expression) that may evoke emotion and meaning.
      • Relating varied interpretations of works of art using some or all of the following (e.g., observation, personal experience, cultural context).
      • Comparing/contrasting works of art, which may include a student’s own work.
      • Demonstrating an understanding of how the arts contribute to physical and mental health (e.g., self-expression, such as anger, joy, confusion, frustration).
      • Researching and describing how the arts reflect cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.
      • Analyzing how shared values and beliefs can maintain a subculture (e.g., political parties, religious groups). i
      • After examining issues from more than one perspective, defining and defending the rights and needs of others in the community, nation, and world (e.g. AIDS in Africa; One Child Policy in China; nuclear waste disposal). i
      • Analyze differences and similarities among people that arise from factors such as cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and religious diversity, and describe their costs and benefits.
  • Inyange - Harvest Song


    Inyange is a Burundian song and dance group based in Burlington, Vermont

    “The following song is about Burundian culture, about the harvest season. Those who harvest are grinding by using a pistil, the words say “I was there at the farm, I was alone, nobody came to help me so let me do it myself” and those who were not active, who were lazy, feel jealous. They say “Oh, now you’re harvesting, next year I should do like you.” The song is meant to encourage those people.”  – Aline Niyonzima

    Listen to how the rhythm of the song will help someone who is working with a pistil to grind grain.