Elementary School Music

Choral Music

Posted in Choral Music, Repertoire by P. Conrad on February 13, 2011

choral practice

The Choral Information Site offers a lot of useful material for directors and teachers.

The Internet Center for Choral Resources serves all choirs (adult, children, church).

The Choristers Guild serves primarily church choirs. Their catalog offers literacy materials and videos, including some on the master teacher Helen Kemp. Kemp’s video, Body, Mind, Spirit, Voice is sometimes hard to find.

At Musicanet, browse through 143,000 choral works available for download, for free.

Singers.com is a wonderful site primarily for a capella singing, and it offers a ton of print resources in its sections on “Teaching  Kids How to Sing.”

Young People’s Chorus of New York City


  • Teaching Kids to Sing by Ken Phillips (Wadsworth, 1996).

  • Teaching the Elementary School Chorus by Linda Swears (Parker, 1985).

  • Choral Music Experience by Doreen Rao, Vols 1-5, (Boosey & Hawkes, 1987).

  • Choral Music for Children. (MENC, 1990).

  • We Will Sing! (Boosey & Hawkes, 1994).


Books for Music Teachers

Posted in Books for Teachers, Where-ever by P. Conrad on February 13, 2011

The following lists are not at all complete. Most of the following titles are either song collections or texts written for teachers of music. In addition there are trade books that illustrate a traditional song.

Check the on-line catalogs of the NY Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library for availability of these books and others. Typical call numbers for Music Education begin with 372. or 780.

To purchase books, see the mail order companies listed at the bottom of the Purchasing for Schools page. In many cases, clean used copies of texts can be found at very low prices on-line by checking at amazon or another online bookseller.

Song Collections:

Bradford, Louise Larkins. Sing It Yourself: 220 Pentatonic American Folk Songs (Alfred Publ., 1978) ISBN: 0882840622.

Choksy, L. & Brummit, D. 120 Singing Games and Dances for Elementary Schools (Prentice-Hall, 1987) ISBN: 013635038001.

Locke, Eleanor G. Sail Away (Boosey & Hawkes, 1988).

Johnson, Richard. Folk Songs North America Sings (1984), dist. by Hal Leonard.

Jones, Bessie and Bess Lomax Hawes. Step it Down (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1987).

Rao, Doreen. We Will Sing (Boosey & Hawkes, 1993).

Kenney, Maureen. Circle Round the Zero (MMB, 1975) ISBN: 0918812089

Erdei, P. & Komlos, K. 150 American Folk Songs to Sing, Read, and Play (9th printing, (Boosey & Hawkes, 1989) ISBN: 0913932043.

Trinka, J. (1996). The Little Black Bull and Other Folk Songs, Singing Games, and Play Parties for Kids of All Ages, Vol. 4 (CD and book), Folk Music Works. ISBN: 1-888895-41-1.

_______. (1989). John, the Rabbit and Other Folk Songs, Singing Games, and Play Parties for Kids of All Ages, Vol. 3 (CD and book). Folk Music Works.

_______. (1988). Bought Me a Cat and Other Folk Songs, Singing Games and Play Parties for Kids of All Ages, Vol. 2 (CD and Book). Folk Music Works.

_______. (1987). My Little Rooster and Other Folk Songs, Singing Games, and Play Parties for Kids of All Ages, Vol. 1 (CD and Book). Folk Music Works. (ISBN for the 4-volume set is 1-888895-04-7.)

Some Books About Music Teaching:

Choksy, Lois. The Kodály Method I and II (3rd edition, Prentice-Hall,1999).

_______. Teaching Music Effectively in the Elementary School (Prentice Hall, 1991). ISBN 0138927049

Choksy, Lois, Robert M. Abramson, Avon E. Gillespie, and David Woods, Teaching Music in the Twentieth Century (Prentice Hall, 1986). An overview of Orff, Kodály, and Dalcroze.

Eisen, Ann. & Robertson, Lamar. An American Methodology. (Sneaky Snake Pub.,1996) by two Louisiana-based Kodály master teachers.

Forrai, K. Music in Preschool, 2nd edition, translated and adapted by Jean Sinor. (Brisbane: James Ferguson,1998). ISBN: 0958629706.

Frazee, Jane. Discovering Orff (Schott, 1987)

Houlahan, Michael. & Tacka, Phillip. Sound Thinking: Developing Musical Literacy, Vol. I and II. (Boosey and Hawkes, 1995) ISBN: 0913932531, a teacher’s guide for Kodály-based instruction.

Phillips, Ken. Teaching Kids to Sing (Wadsworth, 1996). ISBN 0028717953. Indispensable.

Rozmajzl, Michon, and Boyer, Rene C. Music Fundamentals, Methods, and Materials for the Elementary Classroom Teacher (with audio CD), 4th edition, Allyn & Bacon, 2005) ISBN: 0205449646.

Rozmajzl, Michon, and Castleberry, Rosalie. Rhythm and Melody Concepts: A Sequential Approach for Children (Pencil Point Press, 1995) ISBN: 1881641139.

Shehan-Campbell, Patricia, Carol Scott-Kassner. Music In Childhood, 2nd (Schirmer, 2001).

Steen, Arvida, Exploring Orff, (Schott, 1992)

Swears, Linda. Teaching the Elementary School Chorus (Parker Publ., 1985) ISBN 0138925143

Valerio, Wendy, H., Alison M. Reynolds, Beth M. Bolton, Cynthia C. Taggart, and Edwin E. Gordon. Music Play. (GIA Publications, 1998) Provides a basic understanding of Edwin Gordon’s ideas.

Weikart, Phyllis. Teaching Movement and Dance: A Sequential Approach to Rhythmic Understanding. (5th ed., High Scope, 2003) ISBN 1573791326

Wiggins, Jackie. Teaching for Musical Understanding. (McGraw-Hill, 2001).

Trade Books:

Basal Series (textbooks):
Major textbook publishers have their own graded textbook series for music education, and some teachers find these very useful. Each of the following series has a publisher’s website packed with learning materials, and teachers resources that anyone can access. Click on the title of any of the series listed below, to visit those sites.

Spotlight on Music (Macmillan, 2005).

Share the Music (Macmillan, 2003).

Making Music (Silver Burdett Ginn) SBG’s website is especially rich in resources and links of value for music teachers.

Trade Books for Teaching Music

Posted in Books for Teachers, Lesson Planning, Repertoire by P. Conrad on May 22, 2010

Trade Books for Teaching Music:  Click the link for a list of  illustrated books for use in the classroom.

The list provides only titles, authors’ or illustrators’ names, and ISBN numbers for research and shopping.

Most of the books are read-alouds (or sing-alouds) to present traditional folk songs with contextual illustrations.  The titles are listed in categories:

  1. Folk songs

  2. Read-alouds in which the subject has to do to music, or music-making — or where the non-music subject offers a good visual and narrative context for listening to recorded music.

  3. Illustrated biographies of composers or performers that are short and written for younger readers or listeners.

Many of the titles can be found in used editions on amazon.com. The information will be updated as often as possible. Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

“Blueprint 2.0”

Posted in NYC DOE Resources by P. Conrad on December 20, 2009

In the spring of 2008 the Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects published a revised second edition of its Blueprint for Teaching & Learning in the Arts for music.

There’s a link for teachers to download the document as a .pdf file from the DOE website, but hundreds of  printed copies were distributed to music teachers and principals when it was first published. A quick peek at the new Music Blueprint shows great improvements both in content and design. (Although the font sizes are still small, the new layout makes it much easier to use.)

The Blueprint is meant to guide the teaching of music across 14 years of early childhood and young adulthood, including college prep. It’s based on the idea that music cannot be taught in isolation from the rest of the curriculum, and that along with performance and aesthetic appreciation, teaching and learning of music must emphasize music’s role in our daily lives and communities, including the world of work. Nearly half the bulk of the new edition is comprised of material excerpted from another document that was distributed to music teachers several years ago, Music From the Inside Out: A Resource Guide for Music Teachers. This consists of extensive essays compiled by WNYC’s John Schaefer on music through history and around the world.There’s also a pretty extensive list of resources, including books and recordings as well as on-line materials.


Since the Blueprint is a forward-looking document, this second edition is still an early stage in in its development. And this is made pretty clear early on, on page 9, in the introduction: “The new plan. . . will, as it evolves, provide clear and rigorous forms of assessment based on the best practices offered in the field.” The phrase “as it evolves” suggests that there is more work to be done. There are examples of “Wraparounds” — templates for planning lessons based on a piece of musical repertoire so as to include all five of the Blueprint strand. These pages do refer to assessment. However, evaluating learning outcomes is not dealt with very directly in this document.

The Blueprint is not the place to find a critical look at the fundamental problem faced by anyone who wants to make broad improvements in the teaching and learning of music in New York City’s public schools: scheduling and staffing are entirely up to the principals in each school, and these decisions are based on fluctuating enrollment and class sizes. Many schools cannot guarantee every child will have weekly music instruction throughout each of his or her seven years in elementary school. In some schools, one out of the four kindergarten classes will simply do without music; sometimes the whole fourth grade will have two science classes per week — at the expense of one weekly period for music. In addition, some New York City students change schools several times during their elementary careers.

Under these circumstances, consistent achievement (and assessments) for second and fifth graders throughout a given school, or across the whole city will be wildly impractical and difficult to ensure. Since the Blueprint document isn’t the place to address this problem, readers are left alone with the question: “What will my students learn, and how will I know they are learning it?”

Draw Me a Bucket of Water (Frog in a Bucket)

Posted in Repertoire by P. Conrad on December 6, 2009

Here’s a nice little video on School Tube with students at a Knoxville, TN school demonstrating the game from Bessie Jones’ classic collection Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage.

I never saw it end with that counted-down “dismount.” Usually the dancers turn one direction in a “bunch” and then loosen up and hold hands in a open circle of four so they can really fly around in the opposite direction (and maybe fall on the floor).

Draw Me a Bucket of Water (Georgia Sea Islands singing game)

Draw Me a Bucket of Water
Draw me a bucket of water
For my lady’s daughter
We got none [one, two, three, four] in the bunch
We’re all [three, two, one] out the bunch
You go under, sister Sally.
Frog in the bucket and I can’t get him out
Frog in the bucket and I can’t get him out
Frog in the bucket and I can’t get him out.
Frog in the bucket and I can’t get him out.

Yo Quiero

Posted in Repertoire by P. Conrad on December 1, 2009

Yo Quiero music and lyrics by Leonardo Croatto

Yo quiero que a mi me quieran, yo quiero tener un nombre
Yo quiero que a mi me cuiden si me enfermo o estoy triste
Porque yo quiero crecer.
(I want everyone to love me; I want to have a name. I want to be taken care of, if I´m sick or if I´m sad, because I want to grow.)

Yo quiero saberlo todo, yo quiero que a mi me enseñen
Mi familia y mi maestra, a contar y a hacer las letras, y me quiero divertir!
(I want to know everything; I want them to teach me, my family and my teacher, to count and to spell, and I want to have fun!)

A jugar, a cantar, que me enseñen a ser libre y me digan la verdad.
A jugar, a cantar, que me escuchen cuando hablo y que no me hagan llorar.
(To play, to sing… let them teach me to be free, and tell me the truth. To play, to sing… let them listen when I talk, and not make me cry.)

Pero quiero que también todos los niños del mundo
tengan todo lo que quiero pues lo quiero compartir.
(But I also wish for all the kids of the world to have everything I wish for, ‘cause I also want to share it.)

A jugar, a cantar, que tengan todos los niños en el mundo su lugar
Vamos todos a cantar: pa’ que los niños del mundo tengan todos un lugar.
Vamos todos a ayudar todos los niños del mundo merecemos un lugar.
(To play, to sing… let all the kids in the world have their own place
Let´s all sing… for all the kids in the world to have a place.
Let´s all help all the kids in the world: we all deserve a place.)

(source information here)

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Early Childhood Songs and Rhymes

Posted in Repertoire by P. Conrad on November 18, 2009

To browse a collection of lyrics to many traditional standards for teaching music in early childhood, click on the “more…” tag, below.

Many thanks to the compiler, Walter Paul, who teaches music at P.S. 42 in Manhattan. He has provided brief a cappella MP3 files for melodies of any unfamiliar pieces, at      http://drop.io/songsandrhymeslevel1


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Teacher-directed staff development

Posted in Events, Prof. Development by P. Conrad on November 15, 2009

flip photo. . . at a meeting of elementary school music teachers, organized and hosted by Craig McGorry at P.S. 35 in the Bronx, on November 3, 2009.

16 people attended, some of them from schools as far away as Brooklyn.  Participants discussed and shared activities (body percussion, movement to music, xylophone work, singing rounds, rhythm notation games, etc.), including:
  • Body Percussion Rondo:  “Everyone learned it, then broke into four groups.  Each group spent about 10 minutes coming up with their own 4-measure ideas.  We then regrouped and combined the parts with the A-section from the original rondo.  The result is an activity that moves from learning a piece to composing other sections and finally performing them.”
Other material demonstrated on the videos includes:
  • Body Movement: to identify different sections from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (presented by Evan Alboum of P.S. 246, Bronx).
  • Macro-Beat Awareness: activity presented by Fay Watson of P.S. 75, Manhattan)
  • Two African-American handgames —Hambone and Juba (presented by David Haiman of P.S. 180, Manhattan).
  • Balafón: Orff arrangement for 2nd graders, from Walt Hampton’s Hot Marimba (presented by David Haiman) .
  • Kokoleoko: a Liberian folk song acappella arrangement
  • I Won’t Go to Macy’s Anymore: a schoolyard rhyme (presented by Walter Paul of P.S. 42, Manhattan)
  • John Kanaka: a Pacific Islands sea shanty with circle play
Mr. McGorry writes: “What made it work so well was that different voices contributed.  Also, we kept bringing it back to the practical:  how do you use this in a classroom?  What are the potential problems that you could encounter in doing this?  How do you avoid those problems?”

Children’s Songs and Games from Ecuador, Mexico, and Puerto Rico

Posted in Repertoire, Where-ever by P. Conrad on November 8, 2009

childrens songs and gamesHere’s a 1970 Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage CD (or download) that collects field recordings of children in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Ecuador playing and singing various games and songs. Some of the material will be familiar.

The music was collected and annotated by the late ethnomusicologist Henrietta Yurchenko, a “song-catcher,” scholar, and author of the biography Woody Guthrie: A Mighty Hard Road.

The Folkways collection costs $17 on CD or cassette but just $9 as a download. Click on the cover art for more information.

Rhymes, Chants, & Folk Songs from Mexico

Posted in Books for Teachers, Repertoire by P. Conrad on August 29, 2009

elpatiodemicasaEl Patio de Mi Casa: 41 Rhymes, Chants & Folk Songs from Mexico is a new collection published by GIA Publications. Gabriela Montoya-Stier has collected, translated, analyzed each piece with game directions, teaching suggestions and cultural background information.   An accompanying CD is available for an additional $15.

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