A Lesson by Amy Vanderwall



4th grade students will be able to identify the Four Sacred Elements found in Native American culture, and will create a soundscape representing one of the Sacred Elements based on their prior knowledge of Native American music and the universal Elements of Music (pitch, dynamics, duration, tempo, melody, and texture).



This is the third lesson in a 4th grade Native American Music unit.  Students have already analyzed numerous Native American Music examples and styles and have learned about Native American history and culture in Social Studies class and through their Music lectures and discussions.  The overall Native American unit will fulfill the following MENC content standards:


2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
4. Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines
6. Listening to, analyzing, and describing music 

8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture



¨     Visual Art representing the Four Sacred Elements (see PowerPoint example)

¨     Music representing the Four Sacred Elements.  Suggested:  Mary Youngblood and Tito La Rosa, The Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor, 2001.  Songs:  Earth Spirit, Fire Spirit, Water Spirit and Wind Spirit

¨     ITunes software (to play the music)

¨     LCD projector (to project the PowerPoint)

¨     Teacher Korg GEC3 (to manage class)

¨     Student Headsets (to listen, respond, work with other students)

¨     Macintosh computers (2 students/computer)

¨     Creating Music software (for soundscape project)

¨     One, 45 minute class period



¨     Have the Four Sacred Elements image in PowerPoint projected on a screen (no words, just image).  Have the Four Sacred Elements music playing in the student headsets.  Note:  Connect the teacher Macintosh computer to the LCD projector and GEC3.  Have the image in PowerPoint projected on the screen.  Set the GEC3 to ³LECTURE² and play the music in iTunes.

¨     Meet students in the hall.

¨     Tell them that there is music playing in their headsets, and an image projected on the screen.

¨     As they walk in they should answer the following questions, ³What do you see?  What do you hear?²



¨     After students have listened and are settled, turn the music down.

¨     Ask, ³What do you see?  Call in with your reflections.²

¨     After students have responded, summarize what they have observed.

¨     Ask, ³What does this image represent? Call in with your ideas.²

¨     After students guess and/or respond with The Four Sacred Elements, add the PowerPoint title ³The Four Sacred Elements² and the words ³Water, Air, Earth, Fire².  Discuss haw the Four Sacred Elements are an important aspect of Native American culture.  The Sacred Elements provide all that humans needed to survive.

¨     Ask students ³What do you hear?  Call in with your reflections.²

¨     After students have responded, summarize what they have observed.

¨     Show students the iTunes music selection that shows that each of the songs was created to represent one of the Four Sacred Elements (use the LCD projector). Discuss how the Sacred Elements were revered for their gifts and celebrated through music, art, dance, costume, storytelling, poetry and other art forms.  Art forms were used to give thanks to the Sacred Elements, which sometimes took on human forms – such as those in the image projected.

¨     Ask students to take out a piece of paper.

¨     Ask students to write down the Four Sacred Elements.

¨     Ask students to select one of the Sacred Elements and write 5 descriptive words for that Element.

¨     Ask students to write 5 different sounds that relate to their chosen Element.  Remind them to think about the instruments that were a part of Native American music and materials that were available to Native Americans to create sound and music (Note:  Native American instruments and natural materials were discussed in earlier classes).

¨     Tell students that they will now be using the Creating Music software to create a soundscape for their chosen Element using their descriptive words and sounds  (Note:  students should already be familiar with this software and creating soundscapes in order to keep this lesson to 45 minutes).

¨     Tell students they will have the remainder of the class to work on this soundscape.  The next class will be used for each soundscape presentation. 

¨     Students will need to turn in their descriptive sheet at the end of class, which will be returned the next class.



¨     Collect the student written words.

¨     Check that all of the Four Elements are correctly identified.

¨     Review the 5 descriptive words and 5 sounds for appropriateness.  Make comments as necessary.



¨     At the end of class, ask students, ³What did we learn today?²

¨     Points that should be discussed include:  naming the 4 Sacred Elements, Music, Visual Art, and other art forms enabled Native Americans to recognize and honor the Four Sacred Elements, there are numerous Native American instruments and materials that can be used to compose a soundscape representing one of the Sacred Elements.



¨     Have student¹s draw/paint/sketch an image to go with their soundscape.  This can be done in Music class, or as a joint Art Class project.

¨     Have students perform their soundscape using keyboard/Midi music and/or real instruments.

¨     Have students compose, notate and compose a musical score (using Western musical notation) representing one (or all) of the Four Sacred Elements.  Students should use their soundscape as a guide.

¨     Have students write a poem and/or story about one of the Four Sacred Elements using their descriptive words, then compose a musical score or soundscape to perform with their written words.  Students should first receive a mini-lesson on Native American poetry and/or storytelling.  This could be done in Music class, or as a joint English/Social Studies class project.