Franz Schubert: Erlkonig

Class: Grade 8                                                 Date: TBD

Topic: Social Issue: Bullying                            Subject: Music

Lesson Plan50 Minutes
Content: This 50-minute music lesson introduces students to the Romantic Era composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Students will learn a few basic facts about Schubert and be introduced to his lied “Erlkonig” (Erlking). We will discuss the issues of bullying after viewing Schubert’s lied. Student choose a poem and find or create music to go with the poem (this is a lied). They may share their lied at the end of class but is not mandatory. Finish class with 1 minute of straight writing from questions that arose.
Outcomes and Indicators:
CP8.9 Compose sound compositions in response to social issues (e.g., poverty, racism, homophobia, sustainability, gangs). a. Examine the intentions, development, and interpretations of own and others’ music expressions in relation to social issues (e.g., antiwar songs, music with environmental messages, hip hop songs that promote positive life choices). b. Create and perform own music compositions, improvisations, or song lyrics in response to a social issue of importance to students. e. Explore and expand upon a musical idea to achieve more depth of meaning and expression.
CH8.4 Examine and respond to the work of artists who incorporate more than one art form in their work (e.g., combining poetry and music). a. Examine and discuss various interdisciplinary arts expressions (i.e., using two or more disciplines in the work). b. Collaborate with others to create interdisciplinary work that addresses issues of social justice and/or other topics of interest to youth (e.g., relationships, body image, racism, sustainability).
Assessment: Ask students to come up with a question that will indicate they have understood one of the key points – and then use their question for further discussion. Further discussion looks like this: Quickwrite: Students are given a question and they must write whatever comes to mind for a full minute without stopping. When done, several may be asked to share insights that emerged in the process of writing.
Prerequisite Learning: What an Erlking is: German legend: a sinister supernatural elf who dwells in the forest; anyone who is touched by him dies. What a Lied (Lieders is plural) is: German song that uses a solo voice with piano accompaniment. An understanding of what social issues are: an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives What a bully is: one that seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable). Students need to know how to access music from any source of their choosing such as radio, iTunes, YouTube, etc.
Lesson Preparation: Equipment/Materials TV screen/ monitor, audio, computer, internet, YouTube video. Photocopied words of Erlking for each student, as attached to this lesson plan. Bring poetry books and/ or have students access poems using the internet; laptops/ tablets for students that do not want to use existing poems. Laptops/ tablets for students to source a music composition. Or they may use their own handheld electronic device. Advanced Preparation Photocopy of Erlking words for each student. Access to a world map: whether that be a map on the classroom wall or pulling one up on the internet. Variety of books of poems relating to social issues
Set: (3 min) Are there bully’s in our day, the year 2020? Were there bully’s in the 1800’s? Today we are learning about a man named Franz Schubert who was born in 1797 in Vienna, Austria. He is a famous music composer who wrote over 600 Lieders. The poem Erlkonig (translates to Erlking in English), written by Goethe, had a huge impact on Schubert so he composed music for the poem and it came to be known as a lied.

Development: (40 min) The story of this poem is this: On a windswept night, a father rides urgently with his ailing son. The boy sees the Erlking, a menacing elf who tries again and again to lure the frightened child away from his father’s protective grasp. The boy becomes increasingly frightened and agitated despite his father’s attempts to calm and reassure him. Father and son continue their journey with great haste. As they arrive at the courtyard, the father looks down to find his son dead in his arms, the Erlking apparently successful in his attempts to lure the child away. Watch YouTube video (5:18). Teach students a little bit about Schubert: Lived in poverty: his works were popular but he did not receive enough money to support himself. He dated but love was not rewarded to him in return. He died at age 31 (1828) having struggled with many health problems. Played the viola in his family’s string quartet. Could sing beautifully; admitted as a boy soprano into Stadtkonvikt. Was a school teacher but quit because he didn’t like it. He idolized Beethoven (they lived in the same city but only ever met once) & he requested to be buried next to Beethoven (their graves are still side by side now, although the graves have been moved to Vienna’s most famous cemetery) Reflecting on Schubert’s life experiences, why do you think he felt compelled to compose music for such a tragic poem, Erlking? Was the young son in the poem bullied? By who? What did he try to do about it? Why couldn’t his father see the “bully”/ Erlking? I want you to think about a social issue that is important to you. Examples: poverty, racism, homophobia, sustainability, bullying, gangs. Find or write your own poem that relates to your chosen social issue. Compose a sound composition that your poem could be sung to. You may make up your own notation (real or invented) or you may use another artist’s sound composition. Mid way through introduce the students to ways to achieve more depth of meaning and expression in their composition through the use of dynamics (loud: forte; soft: pianissimo) or tempo (speed: fast/ slow).

Closure: (5-7 min) Students can volunteer to share their created lied with the class. Call upon one or two students for the questions they had throughout the lesson. Have students free write for one minute straight without stopping and hand in to teacher.        
Classroom Management Strategies Encourage class participation; students can raise their hands.   Point on a world map where Austria is in comparison to where we are in America.   Invite students to think of a question throughout our lesson. Follow up on this at the end of class. Have a student volunteer read the story. Hand out prepared lyrics so students can follow along while watching the YouTube video of Erlking. Only turn ONE set of lights off to keep students awake and engaged. Encourage class participation but if the students are timid or resisting full class participation, use Think/Pair/Share: (3 minutes maximum) Pairs of students are able to discuss responses to this question together and then one of them shares their thoughts. This encourages interaction and engagement and offers some additional time for thinking.   Display poetry books brought into class.   It is important the students understand they do not HAVE to share their composition in front of the whole class unless they WANT to. {Explore and expand upon a musical idea to achieve more depth of meaning and expression}. If no one volunteers, teacher shares theirs.   A lied is sung! Students are NOT required to sing theirs! They may read their poem along with their chosen music. If students are stumped for a question, choose from a few of these for a lead: Was Schubert bullied so he felt drawn to this poem? Why didn’t Schubert’s girlfriends love him in return?Can I help a bullied victim? How?


  1. Students may choose multiple social issues to be reflected into one lied. Example: Bullying and poverty (2 issues) for one poem and one song = 1 lied.
  2. For the technology advanced students: have them choose a song from a movie and import it to Audacity, removing the visuals. (Audacity is a free open source on line program that is easy enough for a 13-14-year-old to figure out).

Adaptive Dimension:

  1. Choose key words related to their social issue rather than a whole poem.
  2. Prepare “cut poetry” (taking words and phrases, seemingly at random, from existing pieces of writing and reassembling them to create a new piece) on the social issue.

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