Grade 1, Music Literacy Lesson #1

For this lessons I like to have the students sitting on the floor right in front of me.

Our first music literacy lesson is about the meaning and use of the word “phrase” in music. I begin by drawing 3 pictures on the board. (Sally Go ‘Round the Sun)

I explain that each picture represents one phrase, or idea, and that when we put the phrases together, they will make a song. I ask how many phrases they think will be in the song on the board. They can find out by counting the pictures. (3)

Next question: “What do you think the first phrase is about?” Answer: “The sun.” I sing the phrase for them while pointing to the picture. (Sally go ’round the sun….. ss s s. ls rest). The students echo back.

Pointing to the next picture: “What do you think the next phrase is about?” Answer: “The moon .” My smart little kids can usually sing the next phrase with me, since the only difference is the word “moon.” (Sally go ’round the moon…. ss s s. ls rest).

Identifying the 3rd picture is interesting. Sometimes they’ll get it right away, but we have a lot of fun with “Good guess, but it’s not a rocket… house….hat….castle.” When we finally get to “chimney” I explain that a chimney top keeps rain, snow, leaves and squirrels out of the chimney, while still letting the smoke escape. “The last phrase is a little different and a little longer, so listen carefully…don’t sing yet.” (Sally go ’round the chimney top every afternoon….ss s s. ls md m. mr. rd).

The next step is to add movement. I have the students stand up and turn around to the right while singing the first phrase, then freeze. Next I have them turn around to the left while singing the second phrase, and freeze. Finally we turn back to the right while singing the third phrase, which takes a little longer, because the phrase is a little longer. Call this to their attention. Next I ask them to sing and turn, but to stop, freeze and change directions without my help. (Assessment…I can easily see who knows where the phrases end. First graders will probably be better at this than kindergartners.) Finally, we use all 3 phrases to put the song together, turning right, left and right as we sing each phrase without stopping. See kids? A whole song! Ta da!

All of this takes less than 5 minutes, so I continue on to a song with 4 phrases of unequal length: “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”.

This is sung to the tune of “This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes”. All I ask the kids to do is listen as I sing each phrase while going over the loops with my finger. I ask them not to sing, even if they know it, because I’m going to have to run from one phrase to the next because of the spaces in between. (For some reason they get a big kick out of watching my to little leg-fingers run from the end of one phrase to the beginning of the next. Kids are so easy to please.) :0) I’ve never run across a bunch that couldn’t sing this immediately with me, so I have them sing each phrase while making the loops in the air, left to right, and walking their fingers back to the left for the beginning of the next phrase. The last step is to sing through the song without stopping at the end of each phrase, which means that they have to put roller skates on their leg-fingers and quickly skate back to the left for the beginning of each phrase. Another complete song! Ta da!

The last song for the day is “Michael Finnegan.”

The 4 pictures represent the 4 phrases of the song, and each one tells something about the character.
1. His name. “There was an old man named Michael Finnegan.”
2. “What has happened to Michael in picture 2?” “He grew whiskers on his chinnegan.”
3. “What do you think has happened in picture 3? (Surprisingly, they’re usually able to figure it out…”He shaved them off, but they grew in again.”
4. “Does he look happy in picture 4?” Nope. “Poor Old Michael Finnegan, begin again.”

They echo each phrase as I sing it to them, then we put the phrases together and sing the song, first slowly, then a little faster then faster and fasterandfaster. (they get a charge out of singing fast…SO easy to make things fun for them.)

Next we read the book “There Once Was a Man Named Michael Finnegan” by Mary Ann Hoverman, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott.
ISBN 0-316-36301-4
(Actually, they sing the first page, and I sing the rest of the book to them. Make a big deal out of hiding the picture of Michael shaving in his underwear. They love it.) This book also offers a great opportunity to introduce the violin. (It’s all about how bad his violin playing is, and how he finally finds a friend who likes it, because he’s Michael’s friend.) After we finish the book I bring out my violin and show them the strings, explain that stringed instruments have their own family, the tuning pegs and how they work, how a violin is held, the bow, with an explanation of what it is made of and why they should never touch the horse hair. (Oil from the fingers will prevent it from working properly.) I play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for them. (They sang and read it last week, and besides, it’s about the only thing I can recognizably play. I tell them I only play a little better than Michael.)

Hope this is helpful. Stay tuned for 2nd grade’s first week review of steady beat, quarter notes, eighth notes, and quarter rests. :0)


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wynne Huddleston
    Jul 13, 2011 @ 16:40:56

    Great lessons!


  2. Trackback: Grade 1, Music Literacy Lesson #2. « Tuesday Music
  3. cmgillis
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 10:57:15

    How many whiteboards are in your room? Or do you write all of this while the kids are there watching? If so, how do you avoid ‘loosing them’?


  4. Jane
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 09:09:57

    I only have one whiteboard in my room. I try to have as much as possible already on the board, but when I have to write as we go I usually sing the please as I’m drawing, and have them sing it back to me. I wrote the words on the board for the benefit of the blog readers…l don’t usually bother with that.


  5. Trackback: Here We Go Again « Tuesday Music
  6. caveman diet Breakfast Ideas
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 16:05:37

    With havin so much written content do you ever run into
    any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My website has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but
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    • Jane
      Feb 10, 2014 @ 17:02:06

      Actually, I haven’t seen any of my stuff anywhere else, accept that which was reblogged, which I really don’t mind. At the bottom of my posts, I have my name, the date, and the words “all rights reserved”. To what degree that is respected, I’m not really sure, but because it’s there, if I ever decided to take action against a plagiarist, I could.


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