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Lesson Plan: Math and Music - Fractions


Lesson Plan: Math and Music - Fractions

Students will use some of their favorite songs to develop an understanding of fractions.

Class: Third Grade

Duration: 45-60 minutes


  • tape or CD of familiar children's songs
  • staff paper
  • a transparency of the staff paper
  • overhead machine

Key Vocabulary: whole, half, beat

Objectives: Using their favorite songs, students will develop an understanding of whole and half (notes).

Standards Met: 3.NF.1 Understand a fraction 1/b as the quantity formed by 1 part when a whole is partitioned into b equal parts; understand a fraction a/b as the quantity formed by a parts of size 1/b.

Lesson Introduction: See if any of the students can sing the following songs in class:

  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • I've Been Working on the Railroad

Step-by Step Procedure:

  1. Tell students that they are going to write some music today. Each of the notes in these songs has a pitch (or sound) and also some timing (how long the sound lasts). For today's lesson, all we'll be working on is the timing.
  2. Clap out the songs with students. Make sure that they are clapping the sounds correctly, so that recording the notes will be easier. For example, on "Mary Had a Little Lamb", each syllable gets its own clap and then just one clap for the word Lamb: "Ma-Ry Had A Litt-Le Lamb (long), Litt-le Lamb (long), Litt-le Lamb (long)"
  3. After you do this a few times with familiar songs, show them that the fast notes are equal to one slow note. "Litt-Le" = two claps, "Lamb" = one clap. One way to highlight this to students, if they aren't quite understanding, is to have one student sing, "Mary had a little little," while another student sings, "Mary had a lamb lamb". This will be difficult, and probably will cause some giggles, but it shows how lamb is one whole beat, and little is two.
  4. Bring out the staff paper. On your overhead, draw little circles on the staff paper every time the students clap a beat. Write the words of the songs underneath these circles.
  5. Sing the song again, and go over the staff paper with students. Keep the slow notes on the staff paper open circles, and the faster notes can become filled circles. "Litt-Le" would get two filled circles, "Lamb" would get one open circle, for example. Since Mary Had a Little Lamb is such a repetitive song, by the end of the song, they will probably be able to help you with which circles should be filled in and which shouldn't.
  6. After you have done one song, talk to the students about how the large open circle can be thought of as a whole note, and the two filled circles are half notes. As they have gone over the song many times by now, they are getting closer to the understanding that "Litt-Le" = "Lamb", or two half notes is equal to one whole note.

Homework/Assessment: No homework for this lesson, unless students want extra credit. Then, they can take a piece of staff paper home and create notes for another favorite song. You can also share this website with students who want to explore this concept further.

Evaluation: Observe the class - try to get an idea of who is having trouble with the music part of this lesson, and who is struggling with the fraction part of the lesson. If students are worried about the fractions, keep a record, and make sure to meet with them in a small group or review this in a future lesson.

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