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Classroom Thunderstorm

Aim: How can we explore changing dynamics and tempo through creative composition?
Summary: Students create a class composition of a thunderstorm by exploring expressive qualities of crescendo/decrescendo and accelerando/ritardando.
Standards: US 2, 3, 4, 6, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3
Modality: performing, responding, creating
Materials: non-pitched percussion (optional), whiteboard or chart paper
Time Required: 15 minutes


  1. Brainstorm with students what happens during a rainstorm.
    • How does a rainstorm begin? What sounds do you hear? How does it change throughout? How does it end?
    • Use parallel musical terms when applicable for review (e.g., soft is piano, short separated sounds are staccato).
  2. Explain that today we will be creating our own one-minute thunderstorm in the classroom using our bodies. Have students sit and tap on their knees, non-pitched percussion, or found objects for the rain. Direct them to begin slowly and quietly.
  3. Conduct students to accelerando (speed up) and crescendo (get louder) towards the middle of the storm and ask a few to add stomps of thunder and lighting.
  4. Conduct students to ritardando (slow down) and decrescendo (get softer) with their lap-tapping rain until the last raindrops die out.
  5. Reflect with students on how their rainstorm progressed.
    • How did the volume or dynamics change? How did the speed or tempo change?
    • Introduce the terms crescendo and decrescendo for the changes in dynamics and accelerando and ritardando for the change in tempo.
  6. How did the thunder and lightning sounds stand out from the rain? Introduce the term accent for the isolated stomps of thunder.
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 4, still conducting and calling out the new terminology in your prompts for students to experience again.
  8. Optional: Have a student direct the rainstorm using the new terminology.

Going Deeper

Notate your rainstorm on the board using both informal drawings and traditional musical symbols (cresc., decresc., accel., rit., <) to show the development of the storm.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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