Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Digital Waterworks

Sharon Schubert


Students add digitally-produced, water sound effects to a song, using electronic keyboards.


The student knows how to compose short songs and instrumental pieces within specified guidelines and with a variety of traditional and nontraditional sound sources (e.g., voices, instruments, drum machine, paper tearing, foot tapping, and finger


-Digital keyboard with a water sound effect capability
-Computer with capability of playing music from the Internet
-CD or tape player (if using a music series)
-Student books (if using a music series)
-Paper and pencil for each student
-Digital Waterworks Rubric, one per student (See Associated File)
-Chart paper with lyrics to “The Water is Wide” (See Preparations)

If lesson is being taught in a keyboard lab:
-Student keyboards with water sound effect, and headphones
-Song from Internet (See Weblinks) saved on disk to send to student keyboards


1. Gather materials.
2. Bring up song on Website. (See Weblinks)
3. Set sound effects on digital keyboard to use for demonstration in procedure #1.
4. For keyboard lab only: Put song from Website on disk to be sent to student keyboards.
5. Write lyrics on chart paper or if using a series, locate the student text which contains the music and lyrics to “The Water is Wide” along with the corresponding CD or cassette player. (When writing the lyrics, change the word “will” to “can.”)
6. Set up a CD or tape player if needed.


Note: This lesson addresses the composition of instrumental sound effects only, from a nontraditional sound source (digitally produced sounds). It may be used in either a keyboard lab, or with a small group that has access to one keyboard.

1. Get students’ attention by playing various non-musical sounds from the keyboard and asking students to name familiar things they sound like. Explain that today they will use sounds from the digital keyboard to add sound effects to a song.

2. Play the song “The Water is Wide.” (See Weblinks) Note: If you have a music series with the lyrics and recorded music to this song, you may opt to use it instead.

3. Explain that the performer is singing an octave lower than we will.

4. Learn to sing the song, referring to the lyric chart as needed.

5. Demonstrate adding sound effects to the song with a rainstick. Briefly let students practice using the rainstick and telling where they think it would fit best in the song.

6. Demonstrate ocean sounds on a digital keyboard with crescendo and decrescendo, and ask students to identify the sound. If students give answers that are not water related, accept and explore these. Then ask them to think about the sound as an audience would hear it in the context of a song about water. What judgment would the audience be likely to make about the sound in this context?

7. Demonstrate method of playing keys in different octaves to create a gathering intensity of sound like waves building and crashing, then coming back down.

8. Let students practice creating a sound effect using crescendo and decrescendo, giving formative feedback as needed.

9. Play the song on the computer, and add the sound effect on the digital keyboard. Play the sound effect loudly throughout the whole song.
a. Ask students to analyze what they heard, and tell what would make it better.
b. Define and discuss balance between accompaniment sound effects and vocal/instrumentals.
c. Play song with sound effect again, with a good balance, but still playing sound effect throughout song. Have students compare the two performances, and tell why the second sounds better.
d. Ask: Do we need the sound effect throughout, or could we make the song more interesting by putting it only at selected places?
e. Ask students for ideas about the most effective places to play the sound effect (i.e., at interludes, with certain words).

10. Give students the Digital Waterworks Rubric. (See Associated File) Instruct students to refer to the rubric to select where in the song to put the sound effect and adjust the balance. Explain that the rubric will be used to assess their final performance. (Note: This rubric assumes students have been taught the meaning of the word aesthetic.)

11. Ask students to listen to the song again, jotting down ideas about where they would put the sound effect.

12. Adding sound effect to song:
Keyboard lab: Have students put on headphones. From disk at your keyboard, send song out three times to student keyboards, leaving a minute in between each time for students to think about and jot down changes they want to make in the use of their sound effect (both placement and balance). Students should practice adding sound effect each time the song is played. Allow each student to choose his/her favorite way, and practice again twice. Using the rubric (See Associated File), assess each student while he/she performs.

Small group: Have each student come to the keyboard individually. Play the song twice for each student. Students add sound effect, experimenting with both placement of sound and balance. Give formative feedback as needed.

13. Have a concert! Let each student come to the keyboard and add the sound effect to the song in his/her own way. Using the rubric (See Associated File), assess each student. Give students opportunities to practice and perform until mastery is reached.


Note: This lesson does not address composing a song.
1. Formatively assess the student's ability to compose the sound effect using crescendo and decrescendo.
2. Formatively assess the student's ability to analyze sounds and make appropriate connections in order to improve the aesthetic quality of the song. Criteria: Good balance (accompanying sound effect is somewhat softer than vocal/instrumentals), and selected placement of sound effect to match words and mood of song.
3. Formatively assess each student's final performance using the Digital Waterworks Rubric in the associated file.


1. This lesson may be extended by letting students choose other digital sounds and songs to improve.
2. Modify for ESOL by bringing in as many real objects as possible to go with sound effects.
3. Allow extra practice time or a buddy for ESE students.

Web Links

The song “The Water is Wide” may be played from this site. Note: Type in “The Water is Wide” in the search section.
The Public’s Library and Digital Archive

Attached Files

This file contains the Digital Waterworks Rubric     File Extension: pdf

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