Musical Change


Students will carefully make and record observations about different coin denominations. They will use their observations to work in groups and create a song about coins.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half Dollar
  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


  • Students will carefully make and record observations about different coin denominations.
  • They will use their observations to work in groups and create a song about coins.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Music


  • 2nd
  • 3rd

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 30-45 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups

Background Knowledge

Students should have basic knowledge of:

  • Circulating coins and their value
  • The traditional children's song "The Wheels on the Bus"

Terms and Concepts

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half Dollar
  • Dollar Coin
  • Coins
  • Value
  • Relief
  • Mint mark
  • Edge
  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Musical heritage


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Tennessee quarter reverse
  • 1 class map of the United States of America
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • 1 enlarged image of a cent (penny)
  • "Coin Parts" sheet
  • Student observation sheet
  • 1 overhead transparency of the observation sheet
  • Cents, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, dollar coins (1 coin per student)
  • Magnifying glass (1 per small group)
  • Copies of "The Coins in My Hands" verses
  • Dictionaries, thesauruses, and rhyming dictionaries (if available)


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Tennessee quarter reverse and both sides of the one cent coin.
  • Make an overhead transparency (or write on chart paper) "The Coins in My Hands" cent (penny) verse.
  • Gather several nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollar coins (to randomly distribute, 1 coin per student).
  • Make an overhead transparency of the student observation sheet.
  • Make copies of student observation sheet (1 per student).
  • Make copies of "Coin Parts" sheet (1 per student).
  • Cut out and enlarge verses 2 to 6 of "The Coins in My Hand" song (1 verse per small group)
  • Visit the glossary on the U.S. Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change™ Web site ( to familiarize self with coin terminology .


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state if available. Then introduce the Tennessee quarter reverse, using an overhead transparency or photocopy. On a class map, have a pair of students locate Tennessee.
  2. Direct the students to examine and discuss the design of the Tennessee quarter in small groups, and share what they see. On chart paper, list the comments of each group.
  3. Ask students why they think Tennessee put musical instruments on their quarter. Discuss the words "Musical Heritage." Build on their responses, but convey the idea that music and song writing are both important to that state.
  4. As a class, discuss common song topics (reflect on a song that all students are familiar with). Ideas discussed should include things that are important to the writer, that interest the writer, and that the writer knows about. Explain that, as a group and in teams, they will write a song about money.
  5. Use a real coin as well as an enlarged or overhead version to introduce both sides of the cent.
  6. Distribute a "Coin Parts" sheet and "Observation Sheet" to each student. Introduce the coin terms on the "Coin Parts" sheet and post the term definitions for reference.
  7. Use the observation sheet to guide the students in examining the physical characteristics and value of a cent.

Session 2 (and 3 if necessary)

  1. Introduce "The Coins in My Hand" song. On an overhead projector or chart paper, have students use the class observations to fill in the blanks in the cent (penny) verse.
    Note: Remember to respect and comply with our nation's copyright laws when you do this project, especially if you plan to use copyrighted editions, arrangements, or recordings.
  2. Distribute a different coin and an observation sheet to each student. Instruct the class to begin by observing their coin and filling in the blanks on the observation sheet.
  3. After an allotted time, divide students into five teams (students with the same coins should be grouped together). Distribute the appropriate "The Coins in My Hand" verse to each group. Instruct the groups to complete the verse about their coin to add to the song that was begun earlier. This verse should draw on the coin observations that the students will make. Provide students with these tips:
    • Pay attention to the rhythm used in the song that the class is writing.
    • Use dictionaries, thesauruses, and rhyming dictionaries if available.
  4. When finished, have each group sing their verse for the rest of the class!

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Allow students to present their observations through a variety of genres (drawings, raps, poems, etc.).
  • Review terms independently with students who require more guidance.
  • Draw corresponding pictures to accompany text listed on observation sheets.
  • Record the performance and place a typed copy of the completed song with the recording in the class listening center to practice reading skills.


  • Perform the entire song for other classes in the school. Prepare props, such as enlarged coins, to use when performing the song. Invite students to incorporate musical instruments into their performance.
  • Invite students to try to create their own song about a coin of their choice.


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.2 Writing
Grade(s): Grade 2
Cluster: Text Types and Purposes

  • W.2.1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • W.2.2. Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.
  • W.2.3. Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: L.2 Language
Grade(s): Grade 2
Cluster: Conventions of Standard English

  • L.2.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
    • Use collective nouns (e.g., group).
    • Form and use frequently occurring irregular plural nouns (e.g., feet, children, teeth, mice, fish).
    • Use reflexive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves)
    • Form and use the past tense of frequently occurring irregular verbs (e.g., sat, hid, told).
    • Use adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
    • Produce, expand, and rearrange complete simple and compound sentences (e.g., The boy watched the movie; The little boy watched the movie; The action movie was watched by the little boy).
  • L.2.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
    • Capitalize holidays, product names, and geographic names.
    • Use commas in greetings and closings of letters.
    • Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
    • Generalize learned spelling patterns when writing words (e.g., cage --> badge; boy --> boil).
    • Consult reference materials, including beginning dictionaries, as needed to check and correct spellings.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: SL.2 Speaking and Listening
Grade(s): Grade 2
Cluster: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

  • SL.2.4. Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audibly in coherent sentences.
  • SL.2.5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  • SL.2.6. Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. (See grade 2 Language standards 1 and 3 for specific expectations.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: W.2 Writing
Grade(s): Grade 2
Cluster: Production and Distribution of Writing

  • W.2.4. begins in grade 3.
  • W.2.5. With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.
  • W.2.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

National Standards

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students identify similarities and differences in the meanings of common terms (e.g., form, line, contrast) used in the various arts
  • Students identify ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in the school are interrelated with those of music (e.g., foreign languages: singing songs in various languages; language arts: using the expressive elements of music in interpretive readings; mathematics: mathematical basis of values of notes, rests, and time signatures; science: vibration of strings, drum heads, or air columns generating sounds used in music; geography: songs associated with various countries or regions)

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 4: Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students create and arrange music to accompany readings or dramatizations
  • Students create and arrange short songs and instrumental pieces within specified guidelines (e.g., a particular style, form, instrumentation, compositional technique)
  • Students use a variety of sound sources when composing

Discipline: Science
Domain: K-4 Content Standards
Cluster: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Personal health
  • Characteristics and changes in populations
  • Types of resources
  • Changes in environments
  • Science and technology in local challenges

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 1: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students sing independently, on pitch and in rhythm, with appropriate timbre, diction, and posture, and maintain a steady tempo
  • Students sing expressively, with appropriate dynamics, phrasing, and interpretation
  • Students sing from memory a varied repertoire of songs representing genres and styles from diverse cultures
  • Students sing ostinatos, partner songs, and rounds
  • Students sing in groups, blending vocal timbres, matching dynamic levels, and responding to the cues of a conductor

Discipline: Visual Arts and Music
Domain: K-4 Music
Cluster: Standard 9: Understanding music in relation to history and culture
Grade(s): Grades K–4

  • Students identify by genre or style aural examples of music from various historical periods and cultures
  • Students describe in simple terms how elements of music are used in music examples from various cultures of the world
  • Students identify various uses of music in their daily experiences and describe characteristics that make certain music suitable for each use
  • Students identify and describe roles of musicians (e.g., orchestra conductor, folksinger, church organist) in various music settings and cultures
  • Students demonstrate audience behavior appropriate for the context and style of music performed