Musical Passports: Building Musical Bridges

Grade Levels: Pre-K - 2

The activities in this section are effective in helping children:

  • alone, and with a group, become increasingly accurate in rhythm and pitch
  • carry out sequences of tasks
  • develop large and small motor coordination
  • experiment with a variety of instruments and other sound sources
  • identify same/different
  • improvise instrumental accompaniments to songs, recorded selections, stories, and poems
  • invent and use original graphic or symbolic systems to represent vocal and instrumental sounds and musical ideas
  • make decisions about ordering of elements
  • move in coordination with a group
  • play simple melodies and accompaniments on instruments
  • sing a variety of simple songs in various keys, meters, and genres
  • solve puzzles

"On the Bridge at Avignon"

This familiar French folk tune provides opportunities for inviting children to move to different ways "on the bridge." Children learn to attend to directions in the music (such as starting and stopping) as they make decisions about different movements. Some teachers substitute the name of their town or city for Avignon.

On the Bridge at Avignon notation


  1. Move in response to the music. (This can be done by you and by the children.)
  2. Invite children to substitute various developmentally appropriate motions for the entire group (such as walking, hopping, swaying, rocking, or clapping).
  3. Vary the tempo with this melody.

"Eency Weency Spider"

Children of all ages love this song. There are many musical lessons in this familiar activity, as children experience organization in phrases, physically respond to beat, and explore high and low.


  1. Sing the song with the children, leading them in the familiar motions associated with the lyrics.
  2. Create a puzzle strip of the song so that children can experience the phrases both aurally and physically.
  3. Provide children opportunities to explore the spider crawling up and down the water spout on a pitched percussion instrument.
  4. Lead the children in singing the song in Spanish: La arana chica tejio su telarana / vino la lluvia y se la llevo. / Salio el sol y seco la lluvia / Y la arana chica otra vez tejio.

"Grandma Moses"

This song involves vocal exploration through singing and speaking; sequencing two contrasting parts to the song, moving in response to the song text, and playing instruments as an extension of body movements. Children can also improvise, substituting their own or their friends’ names for "Grandma Moses."


  1. Begin by leading the children in the actions that go with the second part of the song: "hands up, shakety shake, shake."
  2. Invite children’s ideas about an instrument that we could shake; then add maracas or other simple shakers. (Follow motion up, down, around, and on the ground.)
  3. Introduce the first part of the song, the song/speech section, to the children.
  4. Explain, "Put your hands on your waist while we begin the first part of our song." This ensures that the children will use the instruments only in the "shakety shake" section; the motions will follow naturally.
  5. Sing the entire song with the motions and instruments.
  6. Ask the questions, "What did the doctor say to Grandma Moses?" "How did we use our voices?" [Singing and speaking] "What did we do first, second…?"
Gramma Moses Sheet Music

"Are You Sleeping"

This experience involves finding new ways to use this French folk tune. In addition to singing a familiar song, the children have a chance to identify same/different parts of a song, make musical decisions about the order, or song sequence; improvise on a familiar melody, and construct a new melody.

We also have the lyrics to "Frere Jaques" in six languages.


  1. Sing the song many times with the children so that they know it well.
  2. Duplicate the pictures below for the children, cut them out and place in a zip lock bag. Sing and demonstrate how the "pictures" follow the melody. (The children can also draw their own pictures for the phrases in the song.)
  3. Ask:
    • How many parts are there in the song? [Children may say eight to represent the number of pictures; or they may say four with repeated parts.]
    • Will you point to each part of the song as you sing?
    • Will you turn over the parts/motives that are the same so that we cannot see the picture? Then,
    • Will you sing that part in your head?
  4. After much practice, ask the children to select their own four pictures to turn over. Then, ask them to sing their "newly constructed" version of the song.
  5. Ask each child to position the pictures to invent his or her own order for the song, and sing that alone.
  6. Children can also sing the melody in a variety of languages. Here are the lyrics to "Frere Jaques" in six languages.
Are You Sleeping Song Puzzle

More Strategies for Music Education

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