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Folk Song “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” Music Lesson Ideas

One of my favorite folk songs to sing and an interactive as well as fun lesson is; “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad”.   So keep reading to get folk song “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” music lesson ideas.

READ THIS FIRST:  I’ve just recently learned that this song is now on the “banned” list for music educators. Whereas I support the philosophy of removing songs and music that are not appropriate for children and send the wrong message about race, rights, and religion, I’ve decided to keep this blog post and the Free Resource available.  My rationale is that the strategies and teaching ideas can be applied to other songs.  In the future, I’ll update this post to include those ideas. As always, you can choose to not read this post or download the material. I mean no offense, and created this material prior to the ban.


Sing in a group.

Perform rhythms on classroom instruments.

Improvise rhythmic ostinato for each section.

Listen to identify FORM (Form: Sections in a song)

Creating: Improvise an Ostinato for each section of the song.

Sing using varied dynamics (loud/soft, fast/slow)

You’ll want to keep reading to get this LESSON FREEBIE!

Free Music Lesson "I've Been Working on the Railroad"











Try some of these ideas when you use this lesson in your music class.

Use the sing a long video to learn the song.

Have students tap the rhythms of the words.

Divide class into 4 groups. Have each group sing one section of the song.


Use dynamics to express the mood in each section of the song.

Have students experiment with different dynamics in each section of the song.

Encourage some of the students to conduct the song, changing dynamics to see if the students can really follow them.

If you’re looking for a music lesson on Dynamics and Expression, you’ll like “Peace Like a River”.

"Peace Like a River" Music Lesson on Phrasing and Dynamics with Hand Actions





Check out the Video Lesson “Peace Like a River”

And-Get the ideas in the post on teaching DYNAMICS and PHRASING “I’ve Got Peace Like a River”.



I’ve been working on the railroad  All the all the live long day

I’ve been working on the railroad  Just to pass the time away.

Can’t you hear the whistle blowing,  Rise up so early in the morn;

Can’t you hear the captain shouting,  “Dinah, blow your horn!”


Dinah, won’t you blow,

Dinah, won’t you blow,

Dinah, won’t you blow your horn? (repeat)


Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah.

Someone’s in the kitchen I know.

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah  strummin’ on the old banjo!


Singin’ fee, fie, fiddly-i-o   Fee, fie, fiddly-i-o-o-o-o   Fee, fie, fiddly-i-o

Strummin’ on the old banjo.


Have students begin with body percussion movements.

Brainstorm ideas as you discuss train sounds.

  • Trains move fast and slow.
  • Train sounds close by and train sounds far away.

Encourage them to add speech to their rhythms.

How many times do they need to repeat the pattern for their section?

Here’s an idea:

Choo Choo  Choo Choo /  Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
Ta     Ta       Ta     Ta     /         ti-ti      ti-ti       Ta    Ta

Divide the class into groups and have each group take a turn play their Ostinato as the other groups sing.


As you can see there are so many ways you can use this song as a music lesson.

Each idea can be extended into a complete music lesson unit.

Or, you can use some of the ideas to support music lessons with the same learning goal.

“I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad”  YouTube Video Link

Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to the Sing Play Create YouTube Channel


SUBSCRIBE to the SING PLAY CREATE FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY to get this Lesson as well as access to over 50 more resources.

I’m hoping that this post and the Freebie will help you teach Ostinato and Form in your music lessons.

Sandra from Sing Play Create





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Folk Song music lesson "I've Been Working on the Railroad"


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. michelle baker

    love your stuff and the freebies:)

    1. Sandra

      You are very welcome! Thank you:)

Comments are closed.

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