Rhythm and Melodic Phrase in Little Birch Tree

Grade Levels: 6 - 8


  • Students will listen to and describe the variations of a theme in a classical selection.


  • Copies of "The Little Birch Tree" Recording of Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony
  • Audio playback equipment


  1. Have students sing "The Little Birch Tree." Call attention to the relative simplicity of the rhythm and melodic phrase.
  2. Ask students to notice when they sing the song again what kind of mood it seems to convey. Have the students join you in singing the song again while you accompany them on the keyboard. Discuss the mood of the piece with the students.
  3. Have the student(s) accompany on flute or recorder while the class sings the song again. Discuss how the addition of the flute affects the mood of the song.
  4. Inform the students the Peter Illych Tchaikovsky was a 19th-century Russian composer who sometimes included folk music in his compositions. Explain that he used "The Little Birch Tree" as the theme in his Second Symphony and created variations on the theme.
  5. Have students listen to the recording of Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony and raise their hands each time they hear the theme occur.
  6. Have students listen again and write a brief description in musical terms on the changes in the theme, including mood, tempo, instrumentation, etc. After listening, discuss the students' answers.

This lesson plan is found in the MENC Publication Strategies for Teaching Middle-Level General Music. This publication is available for purchase at 1-800-828-0229 or online at www.menc.org.

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