Skip Navigation

East European Folklore, Music and Folktales

Produced by Patricia M. Wilson, Birmingham High School, 1997


Within a period of five to eight days, students of second year of Spanish as a foreign language at Birmingham High School, will be exposed to folklore, music, folk tales and culture of parts of Eastern and Middle Eastern Russia. Teacher will make use of global maps, music from Latin America, folklore music also used in some countries of Latin America, Folk tales, and the class' book: " Entre Nosotros" by Valette-Valette. The purpose of this lesson is to provide students with a broader perspective in regards to the similarities and differences that exist in both cultures.


a) By the end of this lesson, students should be able to identify several musical instruments such as: The balalaika, accordeon, gourd rattles, flute, drums, in Spanish.

b) By the end of this lesson, students should be able establish some differences and similarities that exist in Russian culture, Latin America and our own culture.

c) By the end of this lesson, students should be able to identify some literary pieces of music product of the "Powerful Five":

  • Ukraine : Tchaikovsky's Symphony #2, "Little Russian"
  • Poland: Glinka's "Mazurka"
  • Hungary: Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", Glazunov's " Hungarian Dance."
  • Czech Republic: Rimsky-Korsakov: "Redowa"
  • Lithuania: Rimsky-Korsakov's "Lithuanian Dance".
  • Italy: Borodin's "Tantarella"
  • Spain: Ro,slu-Korskov's "Capriccio Espagnol"
  • Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake"
  • Glinka's "Jota Aragonesa"

d) Students should also be able to locate on map, or a globe, some Russian Republics.

e) Students will be familiar with the music and history behind folklore music of "The Frog Princess".

f) Students will become familiar with the literary work of Tolstoy's "Ana Karenina" and "Matryonna's House" by Alexander Solzhenitzyn.

g) Another objective is to add to already existing knowledge of students' geography.

h) If possible, teacher will invite students' parents, or relatives, native to these republics, in order to give this lesson in culture a deeper meaning and to promote cultural awareness pertaining to Europe.


Day 1:

Setting the stage: Teacher will have on display several maps of Europe, several musical instruments: A balalaika, an accordeon, several flutes, a large sea horn (used by Indians in Hawaii, and coastal cities of Latin America, Peruvian Indians), and drums, "La Jota Aragonesa" by Glinka, will be playing.

Teacher will start the lesson by asking students about their nationality; or who is coming from Ukraine, Russia or France, or whose parents come from Latin America, to come to the maps and point out the state or republic where they or their parents have come from. Students will also be asked to teach to the class "hello" and "good-bye", in their native language, if they know the language. Teacher will ask how holidays and birthdays are celebrated in these countries and about the music that is used, as well as the instruments played on such occasions. The rest of the students will be allowed to ask questions from those students who are foreign to the United States. Next, Teacher will teach the name in Spanish for each of the musical instruments as well as some of the history of music from Russia and Latin America. Next, Teacher will play "Swan Lake" and assign classwork: They will write down the thoughts, images or history that they think is transmitted by this music.

Day 2:

Teacher will continue the lesson on culture, by asking students to recall what was done in class last time. Teacher will play music from the "Powerful Five" The Swan Lake" by Tchaikovsky and share with the class, some of the messages, thoughts or images that were conveyed by music on to the students. Teacher will have students listen to the narration of "Swan Lake" in Spanish and write down the plot (in English). Teacher will hand students the ditto: "Matryonna's House" and assign it for reading for the next day.

Day 3:

Teacher will discuss "Matryonna's House" with students and the message that it carries. Teacher will compare this story with the economic status of some people in Latin America, and explain how Matryonna's attitude and personality are shaped by the events of the time. Teacher will assign as homework, the first 5 pages of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina".

Day 4:

Teacher will announce an oral presentation due in several days. The test will be on research done in groups of two to three people; students will research one of the "Powerful Five", their music, one of the Russian Republics, and present to the class three aspects of this state: An aspect dealing with its culture, its presidents, or its economic status. Students will be allowed to do this oral presentation in English and use index cards. However, extensive looking at the cards will lower their grade. Students will be graded as a group; they will be required to draw out, poster size, the flag of the republic that they will be discussing in class. If it is a musician they choose to present, then they will draw out the flag of one of the republics for which the music was composed. Students will read in class the sequence of "Anna Karenina" along with the Teacher, who will help explain the aspects of this time regarding the culture, the images and symbolism in the novel.

Day 5:

Teacher will ask questions about the reading of "Anna Karenina". Students will be allowed some time to discuss it. Next, Teacher will pass out the ditto: "The Frog Princess" and read it in class. Students will view a video playing folklore music of Latin America and Teacher will explain the message conveyed by the colors: Students will first listen to "El Toro Mambo", and try to discern the musical instruments. Next, Teacher will play "Las Mananitas" and explain the story told in the song. Teacher will also include the history of the Mayans and the Aztecs and how the fabric and color of dress made the distinction in status as well as identified one person's role in society; for this activity, teacher will use " Los Aztecas y Los Mayas" published by Editorial Novaro, in Mexico. Teacher will discuss some of the musical instruments made by the Indians. This will include the gourd rattles, flutes, drums. On this day, students will see in class some Latin American Folklore, and asked to write down some of dancing steps that they can name. Teacher will also provide help as students watch the video.

Day 6:

Students will see in class the video of "The Frog Princess" and ask to write down the stepping patterns that they find similar to Latin American Folklore. Teacher will explain the sequence of the video. Teacher will remind students of the oral test on Monday. If time allows, Teacher will discuss the reading of "Anna Karenina" otherwise, this reading will have to be postponed until after the oral presentations, which are due next period.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies