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Maps and Melodies of Europe

Produced by Bert Christensen, Western Elementary, 1997

The following lesson plans reflect several ways to integrate the geography and music of Europe into the curriculum of my elementary classroom. I have drawn from the information that Nicholas Entrikin provided on European geography and Leon Ferder provided on European music. I have also included ideas from Pamela Elder and Mary Ann Carr from their book Worldways.


The elementary school curriculum provides little instruction and few resources in geography and music, especially of Europe. The following activities will enhance a cross-curricular overview of countries that involves the students in an interesting way.


The students will gain a greater knowledge and comprehension of Europe through the use of participatory activities that involve their visual, auditory, and tactile senses.


  • Session 1 - European Country Identification
  • Session 2 - European Musical Themes
  • Session 3 - European National Anthems
  • Session 4 - European Union Map
  • Session 5 - European Country Facts


  • Maps of Europe
  • large bulletin board
  • small desk
  • playground outline sizes
  • Recordings of representative pieces of European music


The students will compare and contrast the differences between European countries in music (melodies and themes) and geography (size and population).


First, the students will be orally assessed as a whole class. Second, the students will be individually assessed through written tests.

Session I: "Find it and spell it"

  • Objective: A spelling and locating game using the names of countries and capitals of Europe to improve the students' spelling skills and knowledge of European geography.
  • Procedure: A baseball diamond and a scoreboard are drawn on the chalkboard next to a large map of Europe. The class is divided into 2 teams. A coin toss determines first at bat. The teacher calls out a country or capital name. The player has to find it on the map and spell it correctly. If the student is correct, he or she goes to first base. If incorrect, he or she is out. The game continues as in baseball rules. The score for runs is kept on the scoreboard. The other students silently follow along with desk maps.
  • Materials: large map of Europe for the front wall of the classroom; small maps of Europe for each student at his/her desk.
  • Activity: The teacher and students can discuss several topics. Which countries and capitals were easier to find and spell and which were harder? Why are some countries easier to find than others?
  • Evaluation: The teacher can give the students a blank map of Europe. Without help from an atlas, they should write as many names of countries and capitals as they can remember from memory.

Session II: "Name that tune" (with credit to Leon Ferder)

  • Objective: The students will be able to identify the country that a theme or melody depicts.
  • Procedure: Many Russian composers used melodies typical of a certain country in their music. The students will listen to excerpts from some of the following pieces.
  • Materials: Recordings of the music of several Russian composers:
    • Ukraine: Mussorgsky, The Fair At Sorochinsk - Hopak
    • Poland: Tchaikovsky, Symphony #3 - "Polish"
    • Hungary: Glazunov, Raymonda -Act III: Hungarian dance
    • Czech: Balakirev, In Bohemia
    • Finland: Glazunov, Finnish Fantasy
    • Lithuania: Rimsky-Korsakov, Mlada - Lithuanian Dance
    • Germany: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker - Laendler
    • France: Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture
    • Italy: Rimsky-Korsakov, Sadko - Song of the Venetian Merchant
    • Spain: Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake - Spanish Dance
    • Serbia: Rimsky-Korsakov, Fantasy on Serbian Themes
    • Greece: Glazunov, Overture on Greek Themes
    • Turkey: Ippolitov-Ivanov, Turkish Sketches
  • Activity: The teacher can play excerpts from these representative pieces of music. While the students are listening, it would be helpful for them to look at large visuals on the board or screen: such as a map of the country, the name of the country, a picture of a major monument of the country, and a picture of the folk dress of the country.
  • Evaluation: The teacher can play these excerpts while having the students identify them as a whole class. The teacher can then have individual listening and identification tests.

Session III: "My Country Tis of Thee or God Save the Queen"

  • Objective: The students will be able to identify the national anthems of several European countries.
  • Procedure: The students will listen to the first verse of several European national anthems.
  • Materials: The teacher can play these excerpts from a commercial recording that has over 40 various national anthems. Also, a miniature electronic music box (shaped like a soccer ball) can be purchased which will play the first line of a national anthem when the flag on it is pushed.
  • Activity: The teacher or a student can select an anthem while the rest of the class listens. From the melody and/or the words the students can identify the song with a given country. The previous session's Russian pieces can be also compared and contrasted with this corresponding national anthem. Some basic words or linguistic characteristics of the various languages can be taught to help classify the country.
  • Evaluation: The teacher can first play these musical excerpts while having the students identify them as a whole class. The teacher can then have an individual listening and identification test.

Session IV: "How big is your country?"

  • Objective: The students will be able to judge the population and size of European countries through a tactile role-play.
  • Procedure: The teacher will draw the outline of the borders of all the European countries on the playground with colored chalk or paint. Their names can also be written inside each outline. According to a country's representation in the European Union's Council of Ministers, students will be assigned to stand in a given country.
  • Materials: This is a good project to involve other classes or grade levels since 90 students are needed.
  • Discussion: The students can name those countries (by saying or by standing up on the playground when called): -with the largest population -with the smallest population -with the largest area -with the smallest area -adjacent to a given country -on the ocean -land-locked -in the north -in the south -in the west -in the east.
  • Evaluation: In the classroom, the teacher can first have the students recall what they learned in a whole class discussion. Then the teacher can administer individual tests to gauge this knowledge.

Session V: "The ambassador's report"

  • Objective: The students, through research and presentations, will learn the basic facts of 20-30 different European countries: name, location, population, languages, common phrases, currency, capital, flag, leaders, traditional costumes, foods, landmarks, games, interesting facts.
  • Procedure: Using the following handout, the students will each be assigned a different European country to research. Using various sources (class books, library books, computer internet websites, and travel brochures), they will acquire the major information about their respective countries.
  • Materials: The students will be given stationary, envelopes, postage stamps, and blank chart paper to complete this activity.
  • Activity: The students will complete this handout. They will also write to their country's tourist office, consulate, or embassy. Using this information, they will write a short speech and design a poster for a class "show and tell" presentation. They will pretend that they are each ambassadors from their assigned country giving a presentation before other diplomats.
  • Evaluation: The students will listen to the other students' presentations and ask appropriate questions. The teacher can lead a class discussion about these countries. The teacher can also give a written test to measure this knowledge.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies