Celebrating Halloween by Exploring a “Danse Macabre”

Frequently for holidays we’ll celebrate by posting an evocative picture for students to explore. Today we are using evocative music: Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. Below is a page of the manuscript in Saint-Saëns’ hand.

Draft of Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns, 1 Nov. 1877. From the Moldenhauer Archives at the Library of Congress.

Sound recordings of the piece can be found on the National Jukebox. One is a two part piano duet by Guy Maier and Lee Pattison. The second is by Vessella’s Italian Band.

Cemetery. Carol Highsmith

Ask your students to listen to the music and use the primary source analysis tool (printable tool version and question sets) to encourage deep listening and analysis. Ask your students to listen to the music and to write down how they feel as they listen to the music. Is it telling a story? Where does the story take place? In the version by Vessella’s Italian Band, which instruments are used to portray a specific mood or theme? Students can draw a picture or create a poem or dance to go along with the music. For more inspiration, they might examine an evocative picture, such as this photograph of a cemetery.

The Teacher’s Guide: Analyzing Sound Recordings will provide additional prompts that can help students dig deeper.

Have a wonderful Halloween and let us know what your students discover with this activity.




Exploring Different Perspectives on World War I Through Different Responses to the Armistice

In the October 2017 issue of Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies, our & “Sources and Strategies” article features two manuscript documents from individuals with very different responses to the armistice that ended the major fighting of World War I.

An Ode to Autumn by a Writer in the Spring of Her Career

Helen Keller had been eagerly writing since she had first gained the ability to do so several years before. Although an illness in her infancy had left her unable to see or hear, an inventive teacher, Annie Sullivan, introduced her to language, and soon she was reading and writing using braille and the assistance of interpreters.