With my 3rd and 4th graders, I decided to do a listening activity to Gustav Holst's The Planets. I love this work because each movement is so different from the others. I have 60 minutes with my students, so I was able to have them listen to the whole work during one class period. There was very little talking involved in the activity, so the students were challenged to actively listen to each movement and record what they heard.
When the students came in, they saw that I had placed large sheets of Post-It paper around the room, each with the name of a planet: Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. We talked about the planets and looked at a poster of our solar system. I explained that we would be listening to music that represented each planet and writing down what we heard: instruments, images that come to mind, the mood of the piece, etc. Once we had recorded this on the paper, the students would move to show how each planet's movement was different (eg. Mars: show big/loud, Mercury: show soft/small). I also reminded them that we were now in "space," so they could not run around the room- they had to show what it would be like to move with no gravity!
At the end, I asked students to describe their favorite planet and why, using some of the words/instrument names that they had written on the posters.
This activity was a lot of fun and the students were exposed to a lot of different emotions, instruments, and images in one 60-minute period. They also had a TON to write about what they were hearing- they couldn't get to the paper fast enough! You could, of course, break this up into a longer unit, but I thought it was good for the students to have a picture of the whole solar system.
I also put up a display of the planets in our hallway (this time in order of the way they look in the solar system) with a description of the activity, so that parents can see what we have done to prepare for our Stargazing Night!