Goal: Students will be able to create a piece of music to underscore different theatrical moments.

  • task


Contributed by Janet Onyenucheya


Students will be able to create a piece of music to underscore different theatrical moments.


  • Student volunteer reads a narration out-loud
  • Second, students should be asked what emotions they felt when listening to the opening narration and ask what “underscoring” means
  • Explain that the two main components of music (Tempo and Dynamics)
  •  We will use these ideas to create music that matches the mood of the narration.
  • Clap a slow 4 beat measure and ask students:
    • What mood does this tempo (speed) evoke?
  • Demonstrate a fast 4 beat measure and ask the class to clap it back and again ask students:
    • What mood does this tempo evoke?
    • What dynamics (how loud or soft) would best fit this mood?
  • Teaching Artists now have students think back to the opening narration and ask:
    • What tempo would you use to underscore this story?
    • What dynamics would you use to underscore this story?
  • Also encourage some text analysis by getting students to think about which part of the narration is louder or softer than another part and scribe this on the posted narration.
  • Students choose underscoring for different parts of the narration.
  • Teacher reads the narration while the Teaching Artist and the students do their underscoring choices.
  • Reflection – Students can reflect on how they made specific musical choices, using tempo and dynamics, to underscore a narration. What emotions are they trying to convey? How do they want the listener to feel as a result of their musical choices? 

Transition into Activity

Play the recorded version of a popular and/or recognizable underscore. Students are given 2 mins to get into their seated rug spots. Set a timer and play the recorded underscore. The music will gradually fade-out at the end of the 2 minute timer. 

Transition out of Activity

Ask students to establish a steady tempo/beat using their feet (stomping in place – left, right, left, right, etc.). Now, walk back to your seat using the established tempo/beat as a guide for the movement of your body back to your desk. 

Classroom Arrangement

Audience/Rug Spots

Supports/Adaptive Materials/Tools

  • TA’s provide a printed or digital copy of the narration displayed in large-font for all to see.
  • Alongside verbal analysis of the text, students are given the opportunity to create a pose or gesture that represents their emotional response to the narration.
  • Students who are sensitive to sound (recorded music, claps, stomp’s, etc.) are welcome to use noise reducing devices (ex: headphones)
  • Students can also draw their responses to the questions posed below: “what mood does this tempo evoke?”, “what dynamics would best fit this mood”? 
  • TA’s will provide a visual timer for transitions and activities that require a set amount of time.

Role of the Teachers and Paraprofessionals

  • Can participate as the “scribe” during the underscore activity
  • Model music-based demonstrations alongside the TA (clapping tempos, using sounds to explore dynamics) 
  • Support decision making by adding tempo and/or dynamic markings to the text.

Remote Adaptation

TA can share their screen and use google doc for “live” scribing of the underscore; prepare the document in advance so you can easily scribe on it.

Art forms



7-10 mins