Opening Songs

Hello! This is Tanya LeJeune. I hope everyone is keeping warm. It’s cold here in Colorado!

For my first blog post here at Kodály Corner I’m going to focus on what I refer to as opening songs.

Before they walk into the music room, most students have been sitting in the classroom at their desk and working independently. In music they have to work musically as a group and independently. Students need to change gears.

Opening songs set the stage for music and provide a warm-up for the voice and the brain. Additionally, the structure and predictability that an opening song provides is helpful in keeping students focused for the class time.

The song we sing may or may not be connected to the specific concepts that grade level is working on. An opening song is not the focus of the lesson and should not take up more than a few minutes. Most of the opening songs I use are also canons and give us the opportunity to practice part work. I keep my opening songs for 1 – 2 months. As students become more confident singing their opening song we add complexity with canons, ostinati, and instruments.

Here are a few opening songs I’m using this month.

4th Grade

I Love the Mountains

The 4th graders are preparing for their Colorado concert and this familiar song will be included. For concerts and performances I like to have an audience participation piece to end the performance. Sometimes the audience participation piece is a simple line dance audience members can do from their seats, (last year the students taught their families the South African dance Pata Pata,) and sometimes I choose a well known song. This might be the audience participation song for the Colorado concert. (or I may use This Land is Your Land, I’m still deciding.)

I Love the Mountains is a good song to inspire the students  to create accompanying movements. We'll sing and move in canon for the concert, possibly adding the audience as a 4th part.

3rd Grade

To Stop the Train

Here’s a fun and melodically challenging song to sing. I'm preparing low sol in 3rd grade and later we'll extract the last two note, "five pounds!" (We won't be decoding the rest of the melody!) 

The movements are as follows:
To stop: hands out in “stop” position
The train: slide hands together in a circular motion
In cases of emergency: hands up “flashing lights”moving fingers out and in on the beat
Pull on the chain: both hands up and pull down
Penalty for improper use: waggfinger
Five pounds: show 5 fingers on “five” and then flatten hand down as if to receive payment

This song also provides great audition (inner hearing) practice. I'll have students audiate and perform the motions of sections until they are inner-hearing the entire song.

2nd Grade

Are You Sleeping?

The 2nd graders are practicing half note. Are You Sleeping is a perfect opening song for them. They sing the lyrics and then sing the rhythm syllables. I hand out hand chimes to four students to add the “ding, ding, dongs,” at the end of the song, (we sing it in F major with the hand chimes playing F C, F    F C, F.)

During the next class period we’ll turn the “ding, ding, dongs” into an ostinato with half of the class singing with the hand chimes. I have a ostinato song that is sung to the tune of Are You Sleeping that I’ll use as well. (It’s one of those songs I’ve known forever and I have no idea where I first heard it, definitely BK!)

Soon they'll learn the Are You Sleeping? lyrics in french and we'll create a class arrangement using ABA form.

1st Grade

The 1st graders love moving and grooving to That's a Mighty Pretty Motion! 
Due to the cold and snow, it's looking like we'll have an "inside recess" day everyday this week. You can bet we'll be very active in the music room!

Stay warm and continue singing, playing, and learning!


  1. I'd love to know what your kids do during the "Mighty Pretty Motion" piece? Do you have the kids do a movement and the class copy them?

  2. When they first come in the room they copy my motion, then I ask for a volunteer to show us a motion and we sing and copy that student's motion. After copying 2 or 3 volunteers we all do our own. (I just added a video: this was the last time through.)


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