Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Composer's Blueprint

Tisa Craig
Polk County Schools


Students recognize AB and ABA form in music and distinguish between these two forms. Students also learn the meaning of tempo and how to perform accents in written music.


The student knows how to analyze simple songs in regard to rhythm, melodic movement, and basic forms (e.g., ABA, verse, and refrain).


-CD player
-Music Connection* Grade 3 student books
-Music Connection* Grade 3 CDs 1, 3, and 5
-White board
-AB and ABA Form Answer Sheet, one per student (See Associated File)

*Note: Music Connection is the state-adopted text for Florida. If this series is not available, choose songs from the lists included in this lesson. (See Preparations, step #5)


1. Place CDs in CD player.
2. Write a large A in a circle and a large B in a square on the board.
3. Sharpen pencils.
4. Download and copy the AB and ABA Form Answer Sheet for each student. (See Associated File)
5. If Music Connection is not available, gather recordings or plan to play on the piano songs from the following lists.
AB Form: “Jingle Bells,” “Old Dan Tucker,” “Polly Wolly Doodle,” “Oh Susanna,” “Yankee Doodle”
ABA Form: Beethoven's “Minuet In G,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “All Night, All Day,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Never Smile At A Crocodile”


1. Seat students before a chalk or white board where a large A in a circle and a large B in a square are already written.

2. Tell students there are five elements of music. Ask students if they can tell about those five big parts of music.

3. As students suggest the five elements--rhythm, melody, harmony, tone color, and form, write them on the board and discuss each one.

4. Tell students that today we will be focusing on form.

5. Next, ask if anyone's family has had a house built for them.

6. Ask: Did your parents say to the builder, “build us a house” and voila! the perfect house to suit your family was built? (No, of course not.)

7. What was needed? (Students will no doubt mention money, but try to get them to think more in terms of size of family, size of house, number of bedrooms/bath, one story or two, formal living room/family room or both, dining room/eat-in kitchen, etc.)

8. So, a plan was needed. The builder usually draws a plan on large white sheets of paper with blue ink. Can anyone tell us what that drawing is called? (A blueprint)

9. Well, composers need a plan before they even begin composing music and that plan is called “form.”

10. Distribute student books and ask students to turn to page 12 and sing along as best they can.

11. After singing “Stodola Pumpa,” ask students what happened in this song. (It got fast!) Ask students what speed in music is called. (Tempo)

12. Point to the A in a circle and B in a square written on the board. Ask if anyone saw these markings in the music notation for this song. (Yes, the verse section is marked with the letter A and the refrain with the letter B.)

13. Tell students this song has two sections, therefore the form for this piece is AB. How could they have known “Stodola Pumpa” was AB form without even having the music to see? (One part is slow and the other is fast.)

14. Next, direct students to sing “It's A Small World” on page 16. Ask what the form of this song is. (AB) How do they know? (It has a verse section and a refrain.)

15. Ask students to turn to page 20 and please stand. Ask students to visually analyze the music before hearing it and decide the form. (AB) Next, point out the accents under the notes for the words “down, down” and “brown, brown.” In math, what does > mean? (greater than) An accent on a note means to bring that note out - make it stronger. Direct students to stamp their foot on the accents while singing “Boil Them Cabbage Down.”

16. Give the analogy that in the imaginary house we talked about earlier there are going to be rooms that everyone uses; we would label them A for ALL. But bedrooms are personal and belong to individual people, not the whole family and everyone who enters the house; therefore, we would label them B for BEDROOM.

17. Now, ask students to turn to page 80 in their books and sing along.

18. What do they discover about this piece? (It begins and ends with Section A.)

19. Tell students music that begins and ends with the same section is ABA form. Remember our imaginary house? When we go home in the afternoon, we go in through the front door, the garage, or the kitchen to a part of the house used by everyone (section A). When it's bedtime, we go to section B of our imaginary house. In the morning, we go back to section A to leave for school.

20. Have students sing the songs on pages 82 and 154.

21. Students should be able to determine the form for each as being ABA.

22. Review AB and ABA form, tempo, and accents.

23. Ask students to close their books. Pass out the AB and ABA Form Answer Sheets. (See Associated File)

24. Direct students to write their first and last name on the name line, then place their papers inside their books and place their pencils on the book.

25. Tell students that for numbers 1-4, they will listen to songs and after hearing each song will decide if the form is AB, in which case they would circle the group of two houses or ABA and they would circle the group of three houses. Encourage them to listen to the entire piece before marking their answers. (Again, you may use selections from the text if you have it, or choose some songs from the list and play them on the piano or a recording.)

26. Once students have completed the form section, they may answer questions 5 and 6, then put their papers in a place specified by you, their pencils back in the container, and books back on the shelf.


Students are assessed on their ability to accurately distinguish between AB and ABA form in music played on an instrument or a recording. The songs played for the first four questions on the assessment are selected by the instructor and should include both AB and ABA forms.

Attached Files

A sheet used for assessment.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.