Stretching Your Song Literature

Happy Wednesday everyone!  This is Amy from Music a la Abbott.  I hope that you're having a WONDERFUL fall!

I'm finding myself in a little uncharted water this year.  You see, in my district we have a rotational specials schedule.  I have been fortunate for the past 13 years to have a 3 day rotation.  This means I see my students every third day.  When I opened my current school, 4 years ago, all classes were on that rotation, with the exception of 1st grade which had four rounds and was at a 4-day rotation.  While not ideal, I've been able to get most of my concepts into my 4-day rotation classes. Last year we had FIVE 2nd grade classes.  I was able to talk my teammates into spliting one of the classes into fourths so we could stay on a 4-day rotation.  This year?  Not so lucky, both my 1st and 3rd grade classes are on a 5-day rotation.  UGH!  And everyone else is now on a 4 day rotation.  Double UGH! So, essentially my kids get music once a week.  I know many of you have dealt with this or are living this too.

So, this has made me really challenge my song choices to teach different concepts.  There are certain songs that are gems that are very specific to a concept or grade level, for example "See Saw".

This is the ideal first grade song, perfect for teaching ta ti-ti and so-mi.

What I'm finding I really need to look at are songs that I can bring back in later years to teach another concept that is too hard for the current grade level that they are in.  The folks in my level 2 Kodály class at CSU last summer learned that I call this "double dipping".

Let me give a few examples:

Miss, Miss:

Looking at this song, rhythmically it's great for first grade because it's just ta ti-ti and rest.
Melodically, if we look at just the first two measures it's only so-mi, so again, GREAT for first grade. When we look at the third and fourth measures melodically there is do, re, mi & so.   For this reason, I'm going to use it in first grade to read the entire song rhythmically (no solfége) and then isolate the first two measures to practice so-mi in a new song.  Then in second grade I can bring it back again when we learn re in one of two ways: as a mystery song in the practice stage or as a preparation song.  But when I bring it back in second grade I'm elimating a step that is sometimes time consuming: teaching new song literature.  Furthermore, this is a great choice to bring back because it has a game that is always a "hit" and a favorite with my students.  The more memorable of a game the better the chance that the students will remember it.  You can find the game direction on my blog by clicking here.

Let's look at another example, "Land of the Silver Birch"

While this song doesn't have a game the kids (or at least mine) LOVE it.  It's great for low la and ti-tika, which I teach in 3rd grade.  And I love that the ending, which can also be used as a vocal ostinato (or an ostinato on an instrument) uses both low la and ti-tika.  Then I bring it back in 4th grade for syncopa.  I know some people teach syncopa earlier, in second grade.  Which, if that is the case, it would still work for multiple grade levels.  This is also great in 3rd grade to use with The Canoe Song, as a partner song.

And, for me, the Canoe song is another one that I bring back in 4th grade.  I use it in 3rd grade for low la (first two measures) and low sol (last two measures) but then it's so great for syncopa because of how that rhythmic element happens the first two beats of every measure.

Let's look at one more example: Cross Town

This I use in 4th grade when we look at anacrusis, especially ones that last longer than one beat.  Then I bring it back in 5th grade when we learn ti.  The game is super easy: concentric circles, facing a partner.  When you sing "Cross town" you cross your arms on your chest on the word "cross" then pat your legs on the word "town".  After that it's basically patty-cack with clap own hands-clap right hands with partner-clap own hands-clap left hands with partner.  Now, once your students have that you add stepping to the left everytime you sing "Cross Town". Also, make up additional verses that rhythm with numbers. ..  so the second time it would be "when Billy was two, he learned to tie his shoe," etc. until the number "ten" when you sing "cross town, when Billy was ten, he did it all again. Hey, olley, olley, hey olley, olley, half past ten, the end!"  (the end= sol,-do)

So this is a little way that I'm looking at my song literature: what can I bring back the following year to teach the next year's concept so that I save class time not teaching all new song literature. I would like to say, however, that I think it's important to have a balance of recycled/stretched song literature and new song choices.  Students love the new songs! :)

Have a great week!


  1. I always called these: POWER songs! I LOVED using songs that gave me a lot of 'bang for my buck!'. I think it also is good for the students. Those songs become a part of their repertoire because they use them for several different concepts. GREAT blog!!! Thank you!!!

  2. Great post! You have really thought out well how to maximize your limited time with students! I can't imagine a five day rotation!

  3. Wonderful post! I was hoping to soon write about my school's rotational schedule, so I will have to include a link to this post. Thoughtful points about how to stretch when you don't have tons of time to teach new songs. Thank you!!


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