Grades/Level: Lower Elementary (K–2), Upper Elementary (3–5)
Subjects: Visual Arts, History–Social Science, Music
Time Required: 3–5–Part Lesson
Five 30-minute class periods
Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff

Performing Arts in Art

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Lesson Overview

Students will discuss a page from a late-medieval choir book, including its function and how it was made. They will learn how music was notated in the Middle Ages and practice a simplified method of notating music. Working in teams, students will create a class choir book of songs of celebration.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• describe lines and shapes depicted in an illuminated manuscript page.
• discuss how and why choir books were made in the Middle Ages.
• compare music written in the Middle Ages to music today.
• notate the melody for a song using simple shapes.
• work in teams to create an illuminated page for a class choir book of songs of celebration.


• Reproduction of Initial R: The Resurrection by Antonio da Monza (one copy per student pair plus one image to project for class discussion)
• Background Information and Questions for Teaching about the manuscript page
• Reproduction of Decorated Initial P by Antonio da Monza (one copy for class discussion)
• CD of popular music appropriate for your classroom
• CD player
• Sheet music for a song that would be heard on a holiday
• Xylophone or keyboard (optional)
• Internet access
• Projector
• Information and activities in the "Understanding Formal Analysis" section on the Getty website (optional)
• Student Handout: "Writing Music"
Audio: Vocal ensemble performing music written on Initial R: The Resurrection in the "Multimedia" list on the Getty website
• Audio: Digital file or CD of "Jingle Bells," or a keyboard or virtual keyboard to play the melody (see the Birmingham Grid for Learning website)
• Butcher paper
• Precut shapes of circles and ovals made of foam or paper
• Student Handout: "Choir Book Template"
• 11 x 17 inch paper (one sheet per group of four students)
• Colored pencils
• Audio recording of medieval choir music, such as the CD Musica Vaticana: Music from the Vatican Manuscripts (1503-1534) by Pomerium (Glissando/Pure Classics, 1998), or excerpts of a vocal ensemble performing medieval music in the "Multimedia" list on the Getty website (optional)

Lesson Steps

Download the complete lesson by clicking on the "Download this lesson" icon above.

Glossary Terms:
Words in bold on these pages and in the lesson are defined in the glossary for this curriculum (see "Performing Arts in Art Contents" links above).

Initial R/da Monza
Initial R: The Resurrection, Antonio da Monza, late 1400s or early 1500s