If you’re following a curriculum similar to the ones I outline here, you’ll likely teach the melodic element, do after students are done singing, playing, moving, reading, writing, and creating with sol, mi, and la.
This collection of songs is great for working with do, but I’ve highlighted some other educational and creative uses you could find with them as well.
All the songs in this post are available as a PDF download - just click below!
Bells in the Steeple:
Bells in the Steeple is a simple song made up of only three pitches. However, in those three pitches there is so much you can do. For our purposes, we’ll be looking at the song through a melodic lens, but there are lots of other creative possibilities for the song outside of melody:
Meter: The opening line highlights triple meter with the melody, the rhythm, and the text, making it a great option for teaching 3/4.
Expression: Students can also work with expressive elements by considering what kinds of holidays they can celebrate. For example, how might Halloween bells be different than Valentine’s Day bells?
Partwork: It’s also especially satisfying to sing in a round and listen to the pitches interact with each other.
When I started using Rocky Mountain in my teaching I fell in love almost instantly. And that makes sense the more I think about the elements in the song:
Rhythm and Older Beginners: The rhythm is simple - very similar to that of Lucy Locket, and One Two Three Four. However, the melody uses the full pentatone. This makes it a great option for older beginners since students can focus on the simple rhythm collection while singing a more sophisticated melody.
Functional Harmony: The melody to the song also suggests functional harmony. This is rare for lower elementary repertoire since the typical toneset students consciously work with isn’t diatonic. To me, that makes the song feel like a breath of fresh air!
Melody: In addition to working on do, you can pull the song back out for re when the time comes.
Sorida is a Shona song from Zimbabwea. I learned about this song from Let Your Voice be Heard, one of my favorite classroom song resources.
I’ve never met a Judith Cook Tucker resource I didn’t like, and this one is no exception. I love her consistency in honoring the social relationships, belief systems, and daily practices that make up a song’s cultural home. The authors, Adzenyah, Tucker, and Dumisani also include valuable information on the background of the song and the role of music within this specific cultural framework.
If your students have ever generalized clapping games by calling them “patty-cake,” this hand clapping game will have them instantly engaged and challenged.
To give a context for the song, you can look through the materials at the Smithsonian Folkways website and play additional music from Zimbabwean music practices.
I See the Moon:
This is another song with a simple rhythmic and tone set that has endless creative possibilities.
Rhythmic Building Blocks: I suggest working with the classroom teacher to see if there are any earth and space concepts you can collaborate on. These elements can become rhythmic building blocks, such as “moon” (ta rest), “shooting stars” (ta-di ta), “planets” (ta ta), “twinkle twinkle” (ta-di ta-di).
Partwork: I See the Moon can also be paired with Star Light Star Bright as a partner song. If you combine the partner song with some student-created ostinati, you have a perfect informance or performance piece!
I don’t always use popular music (“popular” here used as vernacular music after the 1900’s) with concepts I teach. When I do, it’s in the practice phase and I make sure students are familiar with the song by including it in our warm up routine or other activity.
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
You can hear the “sol-do” pattern in the refrain, “neither neither, either either”. This is true for Fitzgerald’s version in the second half. Armstrong makes a different decision in his verses. Students can compare and contrast the two artists’ use of sol and do in that section.
Students can sing a good portion of the chorus on solfege while showing hand signs: “Then I saw her face. Now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind.” Students can also guess the song by reading the melody on the board.
This could double as a transition activity: Coming from a song like Rocky Mountain, the teacher could change one beat at a time to turn the song into Believer.
These songs will serve as a platform for active musicing in later lessons.
I love the different creative directions you can take these songs - from movement to harmony to partwork, they are all grounded in age-appropriate musicianship opportunities.
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