Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Creating an Original Opera
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

What’s opera? Most people, including children, think opera is about actors in strange costumes singing in foreign languages about stories we don’t understand. But opera is much more…the stories express many of the same desires, angers, and hopes experienced in our own lives. In this lesson, students will use the GREAT PERFORMANCES and other Web sites to learn about opera’s dramatic and musical elements, and discover the similarities and differences between opera stories and students' own lives. All the exploration will culminate in the creation and performance of an original one-act opera, written, scored, and performed by students.

Grade Level:
Grades 4-6

Time Allotment:
9-10 class periods over approximately 4 weeks

Subject Matter:
  • Music
  • Language Arts
  • Technology/Computer Literacy

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Research the lyrical and dramatic structure of opera through Internet sources and audio examples.
  • Cooperatively discuss similar and different elements of opera stories vs. their own lives.
  • Create a one-act opera based on their own life experiences that has both singing and “spoken” (recitative) parts, and simple original accompaniment using classroom percussion instruments.


Language Arts

MCREL Standard 1 from Level 2
Uses a variety of strategies to plan research (e.g., identifies possible topic by brainstorming, listing questions, using idea webs; organizes prior knowledge about a topic; develops a course of action; determines how to locate necessary information)

MCREL Standard 4 from Level 2
Gathers and uses information for research purposes (from a variety of sources including several forms of electronic media like the Internet and CD-roms)


MCREL Standard 3 from Level 2
Improvises short songs and instrumental pieces using a variety of sound sources, including traditional sounds (e.g., voices, instruments), nontraditional sounds (e.g., paper tearing, pencil tapping), body sounds (e.g., hands clapping, fingers snapping), and sounds produced by electronic means (e.g., personal computers and basic MIDI devices such as keyboards, sequencers, synthesizers, and drum machines)

MCREL Standard 4 from Level 3
Knows criteria that affect the quality (e.g., use of elements to create unity, variety, tension/release, balance) and effectiveness (e.g., expressive impact) of music performances and compositions

This lesson was developed by Jaana Narsipur.