Symphony for Mallets (In the Style of Beethoven)

Author: Jodi Offret
Year: 2021
Artform: Music
Subjects: Literacy, Math & Social Studies
Grade: 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade & 6th Grade
Duration: 2 sessions

You can use this lesson plan for multiple grades. With the older students we add more dynamics, change tempos, and even add in quite a few auxiliary non-pitched percussion instruments for which they write down the parts. The younger students receive more help reading their notes and we spend more time practicing the fourth movement to ensure that it comes together.


  • Xylophones
  • Bass xylophone instruments
  • A drum or two
  • Glockenspiels
  • Non-pitched percussion instruments


Download PDF Lesson Plan

Standards & Objectives

Fine Art Standards
Integrated Standards

3rd Grade Music: MU:Pr4.2.3 a, b & c with a heavy focus on a:

Understanding of the structure in music selected for performance.

4th Grade Music: MU:Pr4.2.4 a, b, & c with a heavy focus on b:

When analyzing selected music, read and perform using iconic and/or standard notation.

5th Grade Music: MU:Pr4.2.5 a, b and c with a heavy focus on c:

Explain how context (such as social, cultural, and historical) informs performances.

6th Grade Music: MU:Pr4.2.6 a, b, c with a focus on b:

As more music symbols are added to the written music.

3rd Grade Social Studies Standard II:

Students will understand cultural factors that shape of community,

3rd Grade Social Studies Standard III:

Students will understand the principles of civic responsibility in classroom, community, and country. These both work well as we study Beethoven and Germany’s influence upon classical music during this period. We also discuss how each individual has a responsibility to their part within the music to help create the piece as one whole.

4th Grade Math: Measurement and Data:

We compare measurement forms in other aspects and units to the concept of “measuring the values” of notes within music. This really helps them with understanding fractions.

5th Grade Reading Standard 5 & 6:

We draw on the structure of the symphony and compare it to the structure of a story. For instance, movements are chapters, notes are words and we look for the meaning in both the literature and the music examples. We discuss how music is a spoken and written language and we compare the uses for both music and literature within our culture. We also discuss how cultures can be in danger of disappearing without a way to write down or store their stories and music.

6th Grade Math: Ratios and Proportional Relationships:

This comes into play as students play all three movements together. Tempo has to be exact to layer triplets, eighth notes, quarter and whole notes on top of one another.

Teaching and Timeline



We listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Depending on the ages of the students I play different lengths but I make sure to include part of each of the four movements in the listening aspect. I have discovered that they really love the fourth movement and do great listening to the entirety.

We learn and discuss the symphony structure which Beethoven used to create this work. We touch on the use of the four movements and the overall direction of each movement. Although I do use the Italian terms for each movement I tend to keep it simple: Movement 1 (fast), Movement 2 (slow), Movement 3 (dance) and Movement 4 (grand finale). I make sure that I let them know that other composers might use more or less movements and might make other choices as to the direction each movement will take but we are going to pattern our symphony after Beethoven’s Fifth.

My students love stories so I spend a fair amount of time on Beethoven’s life. I also fold in other pieces throughout this period. I have discovered that even my little ones love Fur Elise.

Work Period

LESSON (This usually takes me two days):

I divide the students into three groups, making sure that each group has strong note readers. We discuss positive behaviors when working in a small group and the time they have to complete their assignment. Some groups elect a leader while others seem to mesh better if they all work equally. I let them decide. I frequently step into groups to make sure that everyone is being treated with respect and kindness. One of my main purposes in this plan is to give the students a chance to work in groups and figure out which behaviors are conducive to success.

Each group takes responsibility to learn one of the movements 1-3. Movement 1 (Allegro con brio) is fast and handled by the xylophones. Movement 2 (Andante con moto) is slow and handled by the base xylophone instruments and perhaps a drum or two. Movement 3 (Scherzo) is dancelike and I assign that one to my glockenspiels. I invite them to add in non-pitched percussion instruments as appropriate. This really helps bring in some of our students who might struggle otherwise and means they only have to worry about the rhythm. They are in three different areas and for the most part responsible for figuring out the piece on their own. I make myself very available to help work out problems or reinforce when things sound great. The tonality built into this work really helps the students know if they are heading in the right direction as they figure out their melodies.

When each of the movements (1-3) is ready we bring our instruments back to form one group again. Each group has a chance to show what they have learned and then we discuss the missing movement 4 (Allegro). They usually figure out pretty quickly that movement four will be all of them playing simultaneously as we have learned that typically Beethoven used elements from all three other movements for movement 4.

When we combine forces, it takes a bit of practice. No matter how much I stress tempo I find that each group develops their own unique tempo which will not work when we combine all three parts together. This actually works out really well as a teaching tool. They learn how important it is to stick to tempo and how each it is to practice and get used to playing to fast or playing uneven tempos throughout their section.



When we have the final element down we put everything together. I have them play each movement three times. I usually have to give prep beats before each new movement or assign one of the students in each section to handle this.

We always perform our final work. We are performing arts and the students have taught me the value of this aspect in spades this year. This year it has been to very small audiences. It might be just their classroom teacher, some of the students in our resource rooms from younger grades, or even the principal. One of the students will explain what they are doing and why. They teach their audience a bit about Beethoven, symphony structure and tempo. I have discovered that even with a small audience it legitimizes their work. They get just as nervous and excited with one audience member as with all of their parents in attendance.

I am including the music I wrote to use for this activity but it would be very easy for you to compose your own piece.

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