How to Prepare La

Our songs have been picked out - now it’s time to prepare la! Here are some of my favorite ways to get this melodic element in students’ ears.

We’ll explore this new element through listening, singing, and moving!

How to Prepare La

1. Sing Known Songs and Play Games

The easiest way to prepare any element is by singing songs!

Any of the songs I used in this post work great, or you can find plenty more in the Folk Song Index.

Don't Rush This Step!

It might seem like this is a step to move through quickly - after all, aren’t we just singing and playing games? But this step of the process is crucial for students.

As we sing and play games, students are internalizing our target melodic element. They are becoming familiar with the material so they can have a true understanding of it later.

2. Discover a Note Higher Than Sol

After students have had experience with la through singing, it’s time to make them aware of a note higher than sol. You can follow a script like this:

Apple Tree We Are the Music Makers
  • Students sing Apple Tree

  • Students aurally decode the first four beats of the song (“apple tree, apple tree”) and sing on solfege (“sol sol mi, sol sol mi”)

  • Students sing the next four beats of the song (“will your apples fall on me”).

  • Teacher asks students how many beats we just sang (4)

  • T: “Which beat had the highest sound?” (beat 2)

  • T: “Was that sol, or a pitch higher than sol?” (higher than sol)

  • Tell the class that we’ll call that new high note, “high”.

  • Sing those four beats again with “high” for the mystery pitch

But Don't Stop There! 

Repeat this activity using several different songs from this post, or some of your own favorite songs!

I also love to go back to games like Apple Tree or Bluebird and have students replace the word on la by singing “high” instead.

3. Create a Visual Representation of What You Hear:

After you’ve sung and played several different songs, and discovered “high” in several different songs, students may be ready to create a visual representation of what they hear.

Start Away From the Staff

A great place to start with notation is actually away from the board, using hand signs.

  • Ask students to figure out the sol, mi, and “high” to the first eight beats of apple tree. (The first four beats should be easy, especially if they have used this song before to explore sol and mi.)

  • In the next four beats, they’ll discover the new note, “high”. At this point you can introduce a hand sign for high.

I always have my students use body solfege at this age, and then switch to the traditional curwin hand signs later (around 3rd or 4th grade).


From Hand Signs to the Staff:

We start with hand signs because we always want students to connect what they see visually to what they feel and hear kinesthetically and aurally. Once they’re comfortable signing known material, we can transfer it to the staff.

Students “guide” the teacher write the melody on the staff using their knowledge of sol and mi. When they get to the new note, “high”, I simply use a question mark, since students don’t know the real name of the element yet.

Lindsay Jervis

Lindsay Jervis

By the way, if you're not familiar with "Solfa Street" you should check it out. It's a great way to help students visualize the steps and skips of the solfege sequence. Lindsay Jervis has a great product on Teachers Pay Teachers - you can take a look here.  


With the first eight beats of Apple Tree done, students can go on to write down portions of their other favorite la songs in another lesson.

These teaching strategies are perfect for any teacher looking for a step-by-step sequence of how to train young musicians in this melodic element.

I love that they are rooted in moving, singing, listening, and thinking, and I love that the process calls on our students to be curious about what they hear. We have the best job in the world.

Happy teaching!

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.

>>> 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


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. 


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 Folk Song Index is totally free so click through to find more songs for teaching la!

Happy teaching!