Singing Ideas for Grades K-4

Grade Levels: K - 4

Students sing in groups concentrating on the expressive performance of a lullaby or familiar song.


Standard 1b


Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music: Students sing expressively, with appropriate dynamics, phrasing, and interpretation.

At the beginning of a class, students sing a lullaby that is familiar to them, "All the Pretty Little Horses"; the teacher tapes the singing. He asks the students to describe a lullaby: What kind of song rocks a baby to sleep? He sings "All the Pretty Little Horses" again, loudly and at a quick tempo, and asks students to "find what's changed." Using their answers, he lists "dynamics" and "tempo" as headings on the board. For older children, he may list specific terms beneath them (e.g., "fortissimo" under dynamics). He provides additional intentionally contrasting examples, including singing the song with changes in phrasing. Students identify and describe his "different ways," and he adds the word "phrasing" to the headings on the board.

In cooperative groups of four or five, students practice their own versions of "All the Pretty Little Horses" with attention to dynamics, tempo, and phrasing. The teacher encourages them to use the information they have about lullabies to develop their own interpretations. After five minutes, the small groups perform for the class. At the end of each performance, their fellow students describe something they liked about the performance, using musical terms.

Students then make similar decisions for a class performance of "All the Pretty Little Horses." They list class decisions about dynamics, tempo, and phrasing – or write them into the music – and then perform the song. The teacher makes a second tape recording. To check for understanding, the teacher plays both class recordings of "All the Pretty Little Horses" and asks the students to write in their music journals about the differences between their performances at the beginning and end of the class. As they finish, the students share with each other what they have learned about expressive singing.

The instructional activity is successful when:

  • The students identify ways in which a performance of a song can be made more expressive
  • The students apply what they know about expressive singing to the performance of a song
  • The students identify differences in their own interpretations of a song at different times

Excerpted from Teaching Examples: Ideas for Music Educators.

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Provided in partnership with NAfME

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