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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-MUS0204
Submitted by: Susan Haugland
Email: shaugland@beethoven.com
School/University/Affiliation: Byron CUSD #226

December 13, 2000

Grade Level: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Arts/Music

Description: This lesson plan describes teaching ideas to accompany the book, Three Weeks in Vienna. Students will learn about Ludwig van Beethoven and the premiere of his Ninth Symphony.


  • To provide students with an understanding of Beethoven’s music, dilemmas, and personality.
  • To provide students with further understanding of the time period in which Beethoven lived.
  • Objectives:

  • Students will be able to identify specific details regarding four major areas of the story (setting, characters, problems, solutions).
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the sequence of events leading up to and including the premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the fundamental symphonic form and how Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony follows or deviates from that form.
  • Materials:

    Before students begin reading the book, give them copies of the vocabulary lists. Students can refer to the lists as they read, defining words as they appear during the story. Defining terms according to their usage in the context of the story will assist students with comprehension. The timeline hand-out can also be given out prior to reading the story. The timeline can help students keep track of events as they occur throughout the book.

    As students read the story, they should take notes about the following: setting (season, year, place); characters (soloists, composer, musicians, biographer, others); problems (location, music, disability, other); and solutions (location, music, disability, other). Students can display this information on the Fact Finding handout (see Materials).

    After students complete the book, have a class discussion about the music (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony). Discuss symphonic form and how this piece follows or varies from that form.

    [ Author’s Note: There are four movements in almost all symphonies, including Beethoven’s Ninth. A movement is a large section which is almost like an entire piece in itself. The orchestra usually pauses at the end of each movement. The audience is not supposed to applaud until the end of the entire symphony, but they often do…poor education. Each movement has its own form, similar to different types of literature forms. Almost all first movements are in sonata-allegro form, which goes something like this: introduction, exposition of the main and secondary themes, development of these themes, recapitulation of the themes in more original form, and a coda (ending). Succeeding movements may be in any form at the discretion of the composer. Until Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, however, the second movement was traditionally the slow movement, and he surprised his audience with a loud, fast movement.]

    Have students choose a section of the music to chart, using their own symbols to identify themes and recurring passages. For a sample of how a student might illustrate the first (sonata-allegro) movement, please visit this URL: http://www.geocities.com/susancsals/sampleformchart.html . Students may also illustrate one of the other three movements by choosing symbols for the themes and altering the symbols as they are varied and repeated within the piece. In this way, students will be required to listen intensely to the movement they have chosen. They may also obtain a score of the piece to help them follow the music more closely. 

    Lesson Extensions:
    Students can create a timeline detailing events in Beethoven’s life. Other topics that students may want to research include the following: discover why Beethoven was considered a revolutionary as a composer, survey public knowledge of Beethoven’s music, discuss the differences that may have occurred had Beethoven lived in our lifetime, compare and contrast the music of Beethoven with that of another composer, and compare and contrast Beethoven’s First Symphony with his last.

    Assessment: Collect students’ vocabulary and timeline worksheets to check for accuracy. Charts should be assessed on the ease of following the form as it has been depicted by the students. 

    Useful Internet Resource:
    * Three Weeks in Vienna – A Singer’s Account of the Premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
    Contains online versions of the worksheets used in this lesson.