The Best Songs for Teaching La

After students have discovered the singing voice, have differentiated between high and low, and have mastered sol and mi, it's time to introduce a new note: la.

Read:
>>> Songs to Teach Sol and Mi
>>> How to Prepare Sol and Mi
>>> How to Present Sol and Mi
>>> How to Practice Sol and Mi

La is an interesting melodic element to teach because it's used primarily in two different ways in most of our folksong literature:

sol mi la

and

sol la sol mi

Although these patterns use the note, la, they both approach the pitch differently. Students will sing each of these melodies naturally, but the way they think about them and become conscious of them may be different. 

Our students will have an easier time recognizing "a note higher than sol" when sol comes directly before the new note. The whole step between the two pitches highlights the higher of the two, and helps students differentiate between sol and la. When la is preceded by a pitch much lower (in this case, mi) students can get lost in the jump from the lower pitch to the higher. 

In other words, it’s easier for students to hear the step above sol to identify la, rather than a fourth above mi.


That said, here are my favorite songs for teaching la! 

Although both sol-mi-la and sol-la-sol-mi appear in a huge amount of folksong literature, I've chosen to share only my favorite sol-la-sol-mi songs. 

Enjoy!

 
WAMM Songs to Teach La_3-13 Songs for La.png
 

 
 

1. Apple Tree

There are two songs that every student in my school knows from Preschool to 3rd grade. One of those songs is Apple Tree. I use this song for so many musical concepts including

  • steady beat
  • rhythm vs beat
  • ta and ta-di
  • sol and mi
  • la
  • Do
  • Improvisation
  • partwork

The Game

The big beautiful bow that ties all these elements together is my students’ love for the apple tree game! I’ve written about the apple tree game here and here but in case you're not familiar with it, here it is!

To play the game, students sing and walk in a circle keeping the steady beat. Two students (the “apple tree”) hold their hands above heads, creating an arch for students to walk under. On the word "out" the apple tree quickly lowers its branches and traps an apple.

That caught student becomes a new apple tree with the teacher and the game continues - catching more apples, creating more trees, until there is only one apple left.



2. Bluebird

Bluebird is the second song that almost every student in my school knows. Again, the game that students love so much is the only reason I can continue to pull this song out year after year. Bluebird is a big hit in my classroom for:

  • steady beat
  • rhythm vs beat
  • ta and ta-di
  • Half note
  • sol and mi
  • La
  • Re
  • Do

The Game

There are lots of different ways out there to play this game, but here’s the version I use:

  • Children stand in a circle with hands joined and raised to form "windows."
  • Measures 1 - 4: One child “flaps wings” and weaves in and out the "windows"
  • Measure 5: The bird taps one child on the shoulder in a steady beat.
  • Measure 6: The bird taps a second child on the shoulder in a steady beat
  • Measure 7: The bird taps a third bird on the shoulder in a steady beat
  • All three chosen students get in line behind the head bluebird and the game begins again. Continue singing until all students are in the bluebird line.


3. Firefly

For something more lyrical that can emphasize beautiful, resonant singing, I turn to Firefly.

I had always sung this song in its english translation until I came across the Japanese version in this recording by Elizabeth Mitchell. If you haven't listened to her music before, please try it out! 

I can also use this song to teach:

  • Uneven phrase length
  • partwork 
  • Re
  • Do
  • Quarter rest

I like to sing this song in a round. We also use a simple bordun to accompany out singing.



4. On a Mountain

Like all the songs that end up on my favorite's list, my students LOVE On a Mountain. And how could you not - when you pair a jumping game with a singing game you have a smash hit!

One reason to love this song is that it can double for both sol la sol mi and sol mi la.

In addition to teaching la, I use this song for:

  • Ta - mi (or, “tim - ka”)
  • Fa
  • Re
  • Do

The Game:

This is a traditional jump rope song, and like many folk song games, I've seen it played a variety of ways. Here is the way I use it in my classroom:  

As everyone sings the first half of the song, two students swing the jump rope while one student jumps. At the lyrics, “jump in my ___” the child in the middle sings the name of a student. Everyone else echoes the next “jump out my ____” with the name of the child leaving the jump rope game. The new student called jumps in, the old student jumps out, and the game begins again.

 


Why these songs?

These songs make my list of favorites for several reasons: 

  • I love that I can layer concepts with them.
  • I love that they have an interesting game or musical activity that gets students engaged right away.
  • I love that they’re enjoyable to sing.
  • I mostly love how much my students love them!
 

More songs to teach La

There are lots more songs that use la out there.

As I teach, I try to collect the ones I enjoy and write them down. I've compiled that list here to share with you.

This Sheet Music Library is totally free and you can sign up for access below.

Happy teaching!

Songs to Teach Quarter Rest

Many music curriculums teach quarter rests in first grade. However, if you are relatively new to a school (as I am), your older students may be learning quarter rest along with your younger students. Today I’ve gathered some of my favorite songs for teaching quarter rest, and I’ve brought some that work for kindergarten through third grade.

These songs:

  • Are satisfying to sing
  • Have great accompanying dances or games
  • Can be used as a creative springboard to inspire student-created ostinati
  • Work for a variety of grades
  • Can be used later in your curriculum to highlight other rhythmic and melodic concepts

Let’s jump in!

 
 

Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow is an American folk song with an accompanying partner dance.

You'll probably love it as much as your students do!

How to Play the Game:

Create a single circle, with partners facing each other.
Measure 1 - Stamp three times (right, left, right)
Measure 2 - Shake finger at partner in steady beat
Measure 3 - Partners clasp hands and quickly trade places
Measure 4 - Stamp three times turning away from partner and facing neighbor (new partner)

I love watching students’ faces light up when they turn to see a new partner!

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Mi Re Do
  • La
  • Sol-Mi-Do
  • Ta, Ta-di

 


Bluebird

This is an African American folk song with a great game to go with it!

My students love playing this game, and I’ve used it successfully with first, second, and third grades.

 

How to play the game:

Formation: Children stand in a circle with hands joined and raised to form "windows."
Measures 1 - 4: One child “flaps wings” and weaves in and out the "windows"
Measure 5: The bird taps one child on the shoulder in a steady beat.
Measure 6: The bird taps a second child on the shoulder in a steady beat
Measure 7: The bird taps a third bird on the shoulder in a steady beat

All three chosen students get in line behind the head bluebird and the game begins again. Continue singing until all students are in the bluebird line.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Ta, ta-di
  • AB form
  • La
  • Half note
  • High do

Bell Horses

I’ve written about Bell Horses here, and how I use it to teach sol and mi. It’s also great for teaching quarter rest, and since my students are already familiar with it, all the better!

 

How I use this song:

I combine this song with the rhyme, My Little Pony. As we sing the song, Bell Horses, some students prance in open space around the room. To accompany us, a small group of students is chosen to play jingle bells in one corner. Another small group uses rhythm sticks to play the “nails” when we speak My Little Pony.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Partwork: some students move, some students play, some students speak the rhyme
  • Ta ta-di
  • Sol mi
  • La

 


Tinker Tailor

This is an elimination game from England, and one of my favorites for teaching quarter rest. I like it because the students are naturally listening for the "beat without a sound" as we play the game.

 

How to play the game:

Students pass a ball in a steady beat and sing the song. On the quarter rest, the student with the ball is out. In my class the out students go to the “orchestra” to play a steady beat while we play the game again.

Other reasons to love this song: 

  • Ta , ta-di
  • Sol, mi

....if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child’s play.
— Carl Orff

I love each of these songs for teaching quarter rest, not just because of the songs themselves, but because they remind me that the magic of teaching is in making our teaching concepts child’s play

Happy teaching!