Rote Song Lesson Plans


“Sylvester the Snake”

I.                   Music Concept: Melody

II.                Instructional Objective: Students will be able to sing the song accurately and with expression.

III.             Students’ Prior Knowledge: Range – D to d’ ; Largest intervals – Perfect fourth and octave

IV.              Materials – piano, imaginations

V.                 Teaching procedure

1.      Opening – “Today we are going to learn a song about a special snake who likes to sing just like all of you!”

2.      Get starting pitch from piano (D) and sing through the song once.

3.      “This time, listen for the name of the snake, and the two different sounds that he makes in this song.” (Sylvester, “La” and “Sss”) … Sing through the song a second time.

4.      “Who remembers the snake’s name?” (children respond) “And the sounds?” (children respond) “Very good!”

5.      “Now this time, give me a beat by hitting your left knee once and your right knee twice” (show them and MIRROR) “Now, when you hit your left knee, make the hissing sound that Sylvester makes at the end of them song” “Can you all try that?” (do the first one with them and have them continue, then sing the song over their accompaniment) “Great job class, you all sound just like snakes!”

6.      “Now, repeat after me” (Sing first phrase and have them repeat – make sure to gesture for them to begin) Continue with the rest of the phrases… “Now let’s put it all together!”

7.      “Everybody stand up!  Let’s all pretend to put on our shower caps and sing the song like we’re singing in the shower – loud and with lots of expression!”

Play accompaniment and have children sing the whole song.

8.      “Great job class!  Now you all have a new song to sing in the shower!”

(Approx. 7 minutes)



 “Dinner Music”

I.                   Musical Concepts:

-         A musical whole may be made up of same, varied or contrasting segments.

-         The way musical elements are combined into a whole reflects the origin of the music.

II.                Instructional Objectives:

-         Students will be able to identify the call and response segments of the song by signaling when each part occurs with body percussion.

-          Students will be able to understand work songs and their uses by adding appropriate motions to the music and performing both simultaneously.

-         Students will be able to apply their knowledge of call and response form to a poem by identifying the ‘call’ and the ‘response’ parts of it by pointing to them.

III.             Students’ Prior Knowledge: Range – e’ to a’; Interval – perfect fourth

IV.              National/State Standards:

-         Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music / 9.1

-         Understanding music in relation to history and culture / 9.2

V.                 Materials, Board and Space Preparation: Desks cleared away to perform song, poster of poem “MMMMMM MMMMMMM,” assorted rhythm instruments (students’ choice), piano


VI.              Teaching Procedures

Introduction: “Today we are going to learn a song from Africa!”

1.      Teach song by rote (10 minutes)

a.      First listening – “Listen closely, and be able to tell me what the people in the song are getting ready for” (dinner)

b.      Second listening – “This time, be able to tell me the words of the part that repeats” (“Ya, ya, we do”)

c.       Third listening – “Now pat your thighs with me to keep a steady beat but clap for the repeated parts”

d.      Echo Singing – “Now, repeat after me!” Break into two measure phrases and have them repeat.  Also, have them repeat two phrases at a time.  Make sure to use good eye contact, gesture to begin, and starting pitches.  Have them put the whole song together and repeat echo singing with any phrases they have trouble remembering. 

e.      “Great job!  Now, I’d like to tell you a little bit about the song we just learned…”

2.      Context and splitting parts (7 minutes)

a.      “This song is an African work song.  Why do you think the Africans might have used a song like this when they were working? (It made the work go faster)  This kind of song is also called ‘call and response’ because there are two different parts – A part that is always different and a part that is the same.  Do you remember which part of the song was the same? (“Ya, ya, we do”) So, do you think that part was the call or the response? (Response)  Good job!”

b.      “I am going to split you into two groups – call and response – but first, let’s practice.  I will be the call and you all can be the response. (Sing song once through with children singing the response) Great job!” (Split class into two equal groups and assign call and response parts)  Have the children sing through song once, and then switch parts and sing it again.

c.       “That sounded great! Let’s put some movement to it…”

3.      Adding movement (5 minutes)

a.      When I say go, please clear the desks out of the way so we can move around… GO!  Now, everyone make a circle, standing quietly when you get there.”

b.      “Now, what movement should we put to the first call of the song?” (“First we go to pick from our garden”) Let the children respond, and make up their own move – something related to picking foods from a garden.  Go through the rest of the calls and have them make up movements for them (with guidance)… “Next we carry jugs of water” (Pretend to carry a jug of water), “Then we mash the yellow corn” (Mashing corn motion), “and cook all day from early morn” (Cooking movements) “Now we eat, let’s gather round together” (Hold hands in the circle)

c.       “Since the call is always the same, let’s think of a move that we can do when it appears in the song!” (Head nods on ‘ya,ya’ and clap on ‘do’) 

d.      “Let’s put it all together now!” Have children perform the moves while singing and repeat if necessary.

e.      “Now before we decide how to perform the song for parent’s night, we’re going to read a poem that is also about food, and I want you to tell me how it is similar to the song we just learned!”

4.      Poem – “MMMMMM MMMMMMM” (5 minutes)

a.      Display poster, read poem for the class with a lot of expression.

b.      “How is this poem like the song we just learned?” (It uses call and response)

c.       “Who can come up here and point to which part the response is?” (student points to “mmm mmm”) “And the call?” (points to verses) “Good!”

d.      “Now I will read the calls and you can provide the response.  Remember to use a lot of expression when you say your ‘mmmm’s’ because that’s what makes this poem so tasty!  I will read the first response with you since it comes at the beginning.” (Read through poem once this way)

e.      “Now what movement can you add to your response? (Touch your tummy?) Good!  Let’s try it!” (Read the poem again with movements)

f.        “Great job!  Now with that expression in mind, let’s put some more movement to our dinner song so that we can perform it for parents’ night!”

5.      Adding final movements and performing “Dinner Music” (3 minutes)

a.      When I say ‘GO,’ everyone get in a circle and sit down criss-cross applesauce quietly until I give more directions… GO!”

b.      Choose three students to get instruments by asking the class for a description of the three calls in the song. (Those who get it right can pick an instrument) Have the three students go to the front table (carefully) and select a rhythm instrument (from attached list) to keep the beat on for the rest of the class during the performance of the song.

c.       “Those of you who have instruments, please sit in the middle of the circle and hold your instruments still until I tell you to play them.”

d.      “The rest of the class will walk around in a circle to the left (look at hands – which one makes an ‘L’?) while singing the song and performing the movements that we put to it earlier.  When we get to the response, we will stop and do our movements standing still.  After the response we will continue walking in a circle in the opposite direction.” 

e.      Do one run-through with simple piano accompaniment (without rhythm instruments)

f.        “Let’s have our rhythm section play a steady beat for us this time!” (Have the three students with instruments begin playing a steady beat and then gesture for the students to begin their performance of the song)  “Great job!  Now, if you have an instrument give it to someone in the circle.”

g.      Perform song again with different students playing instruments.

Conclusion: “Great job today, class!  We will be performing that song for our parents’ night next week and I will be picking names at random for who will be able to play the instruments in the middle of the circle.  Next class, we will learn more about songs from other countries that have other uses!”

VII.           Assessment of students: 

-         Test the students’ ability to recognize repeating parts of a song by having them perform different types of body percussion for the calls and responses.

-         Observe students’ understanding of the call and response form by having them point to the different parts in a poem.

-         Informally observe that the students understand the way that their movements relate to the form of the song.


List of Possible Rhythm Instruments













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