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Study Guide | Theater

Carnival of the Animals

Enrichment Activities

Pre-show Activity 1: Musical Masters Exploration

Students will research and define musical vocabulary associated with the performance.

Teacher will introduce students to musical vocabulary associated with The Carnival of the Animals through a research activity.

Students will:

1. Utilize online research methods.

2. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as used in the text.

3. Listen and respond to different styles of classical music.

4. Utilize differentiated learning.

Musical Masters vocabulary lists, Internet access, printer


Musical Terms Musical Instruments Musicians
composer flute Saint-Saëns
conductor piccolo Mozart
prodigy clarinet Beethoven
perfect pitch piano Debussy
sonata glass harmonica Ravel
classical music xylophone Wagner
musical suite violin Offenbach
musical movement viola Berlioz
chamber music cello Liszt
composition double bass Schumann
opera glockenspiel Bach

The Musical Masters vocabulary lists above can be used in a variety of ways to familiarize students with musical terms, instruments, and musicians. Here is one suggested use:

1. Have students choose one item from each of the three lists and do the following:
Musical terms: Define the term.

Musical instruments: Find a picture of the instrument in a book or online and listen and be able to describe the quality of sound that instrument makes.

Musician: Find an image of the musician, research three facts about him, and listen to one work he composed.
2. Have a “Musical Masters Sharing Session” in which each student presents the information they gathered in the research activity.

3. Using three large pieces of poster paper or mural paper, compile all of the information the students have gathered from each list to create a class “Musical Masters” encyclopedia that can live in the classroom.

4. Use the musical links on the Context page of this guide to explore music from the show, and music that inspired the composer.

Have students expand their knowledge of one of their chosen terms by writing a short report on it.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.

Pre-show Activity 2: Guess Who Activity

In this activity students will gain deeper knowledge about the animals from The Carnival of the Animals.

Teachers will facilitate a class exploration of the animals in The Carnival of the Animals.

Students will:

1. Learn facts about the animals in The Carnival of the Animals.

2. Connect their understanding of these animals to the music in the show.

3. Use their bodies to explore being these animals.

MATERIALS Index cards, writing utensils, crayons, animal books/internet access, recording of Carnival of the Animals.

Animal List: hen, rooster, lion, donkey, turtle, elephant, kangaroo, fish, bird, swan


1. Provide students with index cards. Ask them to choose one of the animals in the list above and write it at the top of their index card. (Make sure they leave space under the name to draw a picture of their animal.)

2. Have students do simple research on their animal to answer the following questions:
• Where does your animal live?

• What does it eat?

• What color and shape is it?

• How does it protect itself?
3. After they have completed their research, have students draw a picture of their animal under the name and write the facts about it on the back of the card.

4. After all the cards are complete, they can be collected, mixed up, and then used for a guessing game in which students have to name the animal that goes with the description.

Have students do a brief presentation on their animals without looking at their index cards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Pre-show Activity 3: Underwater Exploration

Students will brainstorm what they know about the ocean and explore being sea creatures.

Teacher will lead a classroom exploration of the ocean that is visual, oral, and kinesthetic.

Students will:

1. Brainstorm characteristics of the ocean and the creatures that live in the ocean.

2. Use their bodies to explore being sea creatures.

paper, writing utensils, picture book about the sea and/or sea creatures.


1. Begin by asking students to answer: What is an ocean? Use a map or a globe to point out the oceans on earth.

2. List the following five categories on the board: See, Hear, Touch, Taste, and Smell. Ask students to think about the ocean and come up with words related to the ocean for each category. Students can come up and write their responses under each category heading.

3. Choose a picture book about the sea/sea creatures and read it as a class.

4. Make a list of all the sea creatures in the story.

5. Ask students how the sea creatures move, and how they would move their bodies if they were pretending to be one of these sea creatures.

6. Ask for volunteers to come to the front of the room and demonstrate.

7. Tell students to notice the way the performers in Circa use their bodies to transform into sea creatures.

After the performance, have students recall details about the scenes that took place under the sea, and have students demonstrate how the performers moved.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Post-Show Discussion Questions

What do you think of when you hear the word carnival?

What types of things do you see at a carnival?

What types of animals did you see in the performance?

Which were your favorite animals? Why? How did the performers use their bodies to become those animals?

What was your favorite part of the performance?

What did the element of music add to the performance?

How would you describe the music?

What did the video projections add to the performance?

Did you have a least favorite part of the performance? Why?

Were there any other aspects of the show that stood out to you? (ie. sets, lighting, costumes, music)?

What surprised you about the show?

Post-show Activity 1: Collaborative Creation

Students will work in collaborative groups to create movement sequences.

Teacher will oversee and facilitate students working in small collaborative groups to create movement sequences inspired by dance terms.

Students will:

1. Work with peers on a collaborative task.

2. Explore dance and movement terms kinesthetically.

3. Practice sequencing and building on acquired knowledge.

Index cards with movement/dance terms; large space, recording of The Carnival of the Animals

Write the following words on individual index cards:

Round Wide Narrow Twisted Symmetrical
Fast Slow High Low Asymmetrical
Shoulders Fingers Hands Head Bend
Twist Stretch Turn Rise Fall
Swing Rock Shake Suspend Hop
Run Leap Skip Roll Crawl
Large Small Sharp Smooth Flowing

The following movement activity can be done over multiple sessions.

1. Put students into small groups and have each group choose five cards at random.

2. Each group must create a movement sequence (8 to 16 counts) that integrates the five words on their cards.

3. Have each group present their sequence to the class.

4. Next, have each group collaboratively choose one word from another group to integrate into their sequence.

5. Have each group present their revised sequence to the class.

6. Have each group choose a number from 1 to 14. They will then be given the musical movement in The Carnival of the Animals that corresponds to their number to use in choreographing an original movement piece. They can add additional movements to their basic sequence, and/or repeat movements if they choose to.

7. Have each group present their final sequence to the class.

8. Discuss the challenges that each group faced, as well as the creative surprises that arose with each new word, and the challenges adding the music after the basic sequence had been created.

Ask students to recall examples from the performance in which they saw their movement/dance terms used or on display.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Post-show Activity 2: The Science of Fossils

Students will learn about fossils and explore how they can be evoked through music.

Students will:

1. Investigate fossils using traditional and interactive media strategies.

2. Connect what they learn about fossils to music from The Carnival of the Animals.

paper, writing utensils, a recording of Saint-Saëns “Fossils,” or access to play on YouTube.

The Carnival of the Animals: Fossils
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Class computer/internet access to view and interact with the following:

e-Learning for Kids

Additional Fossil Resource for Teachers

Part 1

1. Begin a class exploration of fossils with the following questions:
• What do you think a fossil is?

• Where can they be found?

• How might they be formed?
2. Use the interactive fossil game found here either as a class on a Smart board, or with students working in pairs or small groups at individual computers.

3. As students play the game, have them answer the following questions and complete the following tasks for each section:
Hall of Knowledge
• What is a fossil?

• What do you call the scientist who studies fossils?
Base Camp
• Choose three of the following tools and explain how and why paleontologists use them.

• Tools: notebook, hammer, shovel, chisel, soft bristle brush, magnifying glass, map & compass
Fossil Sites
• List the types of fossils you found in the:
— Desert

— Arctic

— Plains

— Mountains

Part 2

1. As a class, discuss how Saint-Saëns’ “Fossils” might sound.
• What types of instruments do you think he uses in the composition?

• What do you think the rhythm will be? Fast? Slow? Moderate?

• What images do you think inspired his writing?
2. Listen to the recording and ask student to try and identify what the primary instruments are.

3. Listen to a xylophone here and discuss why he might have chosen to use this unique instrument in the piece.

4. If possible, take a field trip to the music room or the band room to see and hear a xylophone.

Have students do research at home to bring in an image of a fossil that they feel goes with Saint-Saëns’ “Fossils.”

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Post-show Activity 3: Inspired Stories

Students will use the music from The Carnival of the Animals as the inspiration for original stories.

Teacher will lead a class exploration and writing activity related to The Carnival of the Animals using the book and/or video The Carnival of the Animals by John Lithgow.

Students will:

1. Reflect on Circa’s interpretation of Saint-Saëns’ music.

2. Reflect on another derivative work inspired by the music: John Lithgow’s book (or video of him reading his book).

3. Write original stories inspired by the music.

Discussion Questions from this guide; Carnival of the Animals picture book by John Lithgow] or YouTube access to video of him reading it, recording of Carnival of the Animals, paper, writing utensils.

John Lithgow: Carnival of the Animals
Video Loads Here (javascript rquired)


1. As a class, use the Discussion Questions to reflect on the performance.

2. Explain that Camille Saint-Saëns wrote the music in 1868, and more than 100 years later, Circa used it as the inspiration for its production.

3. Discuss why Circa might have been inspired by the music to create a show.

4. Explain that other artists have been inspired by Saint-Saëns’ music and have used it to write books, create illustrations, etc.

5. As a class, read the book The Carnival of the Animals by John Lithgow or watch the YouTube video of him reading it.

6. Discuss his version of the story and how it differs from Circa’s.

7. Have students choose one musical movement from The Carnival of the Animals as inspiration and write an original story.

Choose a few students to read their stories aloud, and allow the rest of the class to ask them questions about what inspired their creative writing choices.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.