DaDa, Bach and Halloween (a fun activity to try)

Halloween is an interesting season in the education world.  At the elementary level, it’s a major holiday.  However, I remember feeling a sense of void in those ghoulish ways when I taught middle school.  But, I also remember going wild in high school as a senior with costumes and minor pranks.  Regardless, there’s the sugar rush that lasts all week long…

I’ve been conducting this one particular activity with my students for Halloween for the past several years and it always seems to go over well.  It combines the music of J.S. Bach and the poetic form of Da Da.

First, we listen to the music of Bach.  I choose his Toccata and Fugue in d minor which, of course, brings up images of Halloween.  In fact, it is one of those pieces that may never gain it’s own identity for the music itself.  It has been branded as “scary music” for generations.  Alas, it’s the perfect seasonal piece to share.  I do so for the days prior to Halloween, allowing my students to actively listen to the piece (usually just the toccata for time’s sake).  During these listening times, we listen for instrumentation, tempo and pitch changes, dynamics and visualizations.

If you only have your students for a class period, consider listening to and discussing the toccata a couple of times before introducing the following activity.

On the day of Halloween, we listen again but this time, the students write down words or phrases that come to mind as they listen.  Each word is then written down separately on a piece paper and then cut out individually.  (You can create and print out a simple blank table for students to fill in and cut out.)

At this point, you can pause and discuss the words students have written.  You can have them work with the words by putting them in piles according to parts of speech or create prepositional phrases.  This is when you can integrate a little literacy work into this activity.

From this pile of words, students can take a small handful (about 14 or so) and begin to arrange the words into a DADA poem.  They can omit some words or add a word in here or there where needed.

DADA poetry was first written by artists and poets in Paris France.  They clipped words from newspapers, scrambled them and then arranged them in lines to form nonsense poems.   Here, the students form this type of poetry from words they thought of while listening to the Toccata and Fugue in d minor.  It becomes an abstract poem of the music.

To publish the poem, students must glue the words onto a piece of construction paper and then they can decorate their poem as well.  They may also choose to rewrite the words they have used.  Here is a side by side comparison of the DADA poetry done both ways.

I always make sure the students’ final works include a tag “Inspired by Toccata and Fugue in d minor by J.S. Bach.  In the past, I had students write this themselves, but recently I have made the option to use a ready-made (by me) printed label.

Students love this activity and using DADA poetry is a great way to take the intimidation of poetry out of the picture.  All the while you are listening and learning about a great piece of music.

I hope you get the opportunity to use this activity.  If so, please let us know how it goes.  Maybe you can even share a poem or two!

Happy DADA-ing!


Independent Project Series - Poetry Project
Independent Project Series - Poetry Project
In this independent project, students will create and study poetry for a period of time. This project is differentiated through work level and reading level and is great for Poetry Month (April) or any time of the year. Use this for individual students or your entire class. Included are teacher instructions for implementation of both appreciation and creation of poetry, explanation of easy, yet creative poetic forms to introduce to your students, reproducibles and engaging activities for students, a rubric for assessment, plus live links to other resources. Part of the Independent Project Series for grades 3-12 (14 pages)
Price: $3.95

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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