GCSE A-Level Key Stage 3

Children’s Corner

If you are like me then you are always looking for pieces of music that help to contribute to a number of different areas of a course. The new Edexcel Specs focus heavily on Wider Listening but also in general on how music can be used to represent certain things – the unfamiliar listening element. I am really enjoying looking at a wide range of pieces with my students and I find that they are keen to seek out pieces of music that help them with their studies.

So I thought I would share with you how I have used, and will be using, “Children’s Corner” by Debussy.

It is a great piece of music because not only is it by Debussy and therefore a great link to the Set Work in the Edexcel Anthology, but it is also a great example of an almost programmatic or descriptive music that can also be linked to GCSE studies and composition skills. So if you haven’t listened to it already then here a link to help you out:

Edexcel A-Level Question 5

Question 5 in the Edexcel A-Level requires students to listen to a piece of “Unfamiliar” music and then answer a question. My feeling is that our best approach is to use this as an opportunity to introduce some wider listening. I thought I would therefore start with Children’s Corner in respect of the Question 5 and therefore provide them with a great example of Wider Listening in terms of Debussy. Whilst Debussy is used in the fusions section of the anthology, I think it is good to have another example of a work by the same composer and also I reckon you could easily link this to how music can be used to create moods, paints pictures and tell stories. And if all else fails then it is a great piece to get them used to Question 5.

It strikes me that question 5 is all about them starting to quickly and efficiently identify features in a piece of music that fit with the question they are being asked. So for Children’s Corner you could give them the following question:

The composer intended this music to be used as part of a suite which helps to depict memories of childhood

Discuss how the composer met this intention, giving musical reasons for your answer. Relate your discussion to other relevant works. These may include set works, wider listening or other music.

Now obviously in the exam they will only have one extract of music, but I think for a whole lesson it is great to give them the whole quite of 6 pieces and let them explore them, research them and then come up with some ideas around each of the 6 movements:


  • Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum
  • Jimbo’s Lullaby
  • Serenade for the Doll
  • The Snow is Dancing
  • The Little Shepherd
  • Golliwogg’s Cakewalk


In my lesson I allowed students a chance to focus on one of them but I played them extracts from each at first to get them firing off answers and generating ideas of how to approach this piece of music. In the exam they are going to be under pressure to get ideas down quickly and so we looked at how they need to quickly identify features that they felt were linked to childhood and then focus on those.

We had a great discussion and it was actually amazing how many features they quickly identified. One student mentioned elephants when they heard “Jimbo’s Lullaby” and another quickly identified the concept of an oriental doll. I encouraged my students to go with their instincts and also explained that it was about how they justified their points. If they are able to show how an intention was met and then give a musical reason then they were on to a winner and would score well.

So I thought I would share this with you and hope that it might help. Take any piece really and then generate a question 5 style question and go from there. But try and choose a piece that links to the anthology because now my students have a good Wider Listening Example for the exam. Time is precious in lessons and so do encourage students to do this at home. They need to listen to a piece, discover the composer original intentions and then work out how they were met.

And the wikipedia page is quite helpful:


Further Uses

  • Use for GCSE where students need inspiration for a composition.
  • Link to any piece that uses solo piano and show how piano writing has changed over the years – this is from the early 20th century
  • A great Wider Listening Example that is likely to stick in their heads.
  • Could be used for a listening test or a way in to studying features in a piece of music – this could be at any level, KS3-5.