Here are some ideas on how I teach partner songs in elementary music class. The two songs are, “Michael Finnigan” and “This Old Man”. I have had great success using these songs in my classroom and thought you might like to know how I teach them.
Partner songs are a great opportunity to acquaint your students with singing in harmony. And they help them develop their singing skills, learning to follow a conductor, learning melody and performance skills.
HOW TO TEACH PARTNER SONGS IN ELEMENTARY MUSIC CLASS
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First, I’ll either sing the song or play a recording and have them pat the steady beat. We may move to the beat too, like marching.
After they’ve felt the beat, I’ll teach them the rhythm of the lyrics.
When we’re singing a partner song or choral song, I tap the rhythms, but don’t necessarily show them.
It depends on my learning goals and if we need to spend the time on this song learning to read the rhythmic notation.
I like my students to listen to the melody without words.
Then I will have them sing on “ooo”.
I may echo sing or have them sing along with the piano or recording.
Next, I’ll have them sing with the words.
By the time we get to this step, they know the song pretty good.
We can then sing through the song a couple of times, so they are confident.
DYNAMICS AND EXPRESSION
Then I’ll go through the song and talk about the dynamics and expression points.
I practice these with them and then we’ll sing through the entire song.
A fun exercise is to sing the song at various tempos. The students can even stand up and move their feet too as they sing slow and then increase to super fast. This is a fun way to help them learn the words.
I use these steps for each of the partner songs.
When it’s time to put the songs together I take it nice and slow.
I record the songs ahead of time so that students can sing with the recording. That way I can walk around and help as needed.
The first time that we are singing two songs together, I’ll have the students sing on “ooo” and sing along with the recording.
Then we switch parts- but the students only sing on “ooo”.
This step really helps everyone to hear the two songs together.
It’s also helpful for them to hear how their song works with the other song.
I may do this a couple of times -at least until most of them can sing it on “ooo” without me.
SING PARTNER SONGS WITH TEACHER
I use the same basic plan as we implement the lyrics.
I think it’s important to have the lyrics either printed or projected for everyone to see.
I prefer to not have too much movement going on during this activity. I want the students to focus on singing together, singing dynamics, expression and memorize the lyrics.
SING PARTNER SONGS WITH CLASS
I’ll have the entire class sing one of the songs and I’ll sing the other, or use a recording.
Then we’ll switch.
If students have trouble doing this, then we step back and reinforce skills on “ooo” or we might practice the rhythms of the words.
I’ll also go over when students begin to sing, what words are on the down beat, what words rhythm, what words are sung together.
I also like to give emphasis to the beginning of the song and the end of the song.
I always tell my students that if you start strong and end strong, even if you mess up a bit in the middle- it’s ok!
PERFORM THE SONG
Once they can sing the partner songs, it’s time to divide the class in half and have each half sing one of the songs.
If students are struggling, go back to singing on “ooo” the first time.
Or, have only one group sing the words and the other group sing “ooo”.
Review rhythms, lyrics and dynamics as needed.
PART 2 MOVEMENT FOR PARTNER SONGS
There are some fun ways to add in movement to these two songs.
Try a FOUR BEAT ACTION PATTERN for “This Old Man”.
And, DRAMATIZE THE LYRICS “Michael Finnigan”.
Another activity to try is for;
GROUP A SINGS AND MOVES UP AND DOWN “Michael Finnigan”
GROUP B MARCHES IN A CIRCLE “This Old Man”.
On the words “Knick Knack paddy whack give a dog a bone, this old man came rolling home”. Try stopping on that part, and patting knees, toss the bone, roll hands.
Have your students make 2 circle. The inside circle is going to sing and move to “Michael Finnigan”. Have them bend down and up on the beat as they sing.
The outside circle will sing and move to “This Old Man”.
PART 3 ACTIVITIES FOR PARTNER SONGS
After students know the songs, why not have some more fun with them? You could teach them how to play the notes of the melody, bass and then have some students also play a drum on the beat and rhythm sticks or shakers for the rhythm of the lyrics or create an ostinato.
GROUP A: BEAT
GROUP B: RHYTHM
SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES
Finally, turn your students loose and let them create their own dramatizations of the story songs.
They will love creating actions and performing for each other.
If you choose to do these activities, then you’ll be able to then set up some stations for students to work in to review and assess their abilities in smaller groups.
Here’s some ideas for stations. I would recommend printing a sign with the directions and also the materials needed for each activity. You can print the lyrics from the presentation to use at the singing stations.
- 1 SING “This Old Man”
- 2 SING “Michael Finnigan”
- 3 PLAY A DRUM AND SING ONE SONG (This could be 2 different stations- one for each song)
- 4 PLAY THE RHYTHM OF THE WORDS AND SING ONE SONG (This could be 2 different stations- one for each song)
- 5 SING SONGS TOGETHER
- 6 SING AND PLAY A BODY PERCUSSION PATTERN “This Old Man”
- 7 SING AND PLAY A BODY PERCUSSION PATTERN “Michael Finnigan”
- 8 SING AND DRAMATIZE THE STORY
CONNECT WITH LITERACY SKILLS
Many music teachers love to read a book that connects the theme with the music lesson.
I found this book (amazon affiliate link)
There Once Was a Man Named Michael Finnegan
by Mary Ann Hoberman (Author), Nadine Bernard Westcott (Illustrator)
And this book
This Old Man (Classic Books With Holes) by Pam Adams (Author)
I know that reading books to your students will help them remember the lesson and also help them make learning connections for reading and music.
MOVEMENT PROPS FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY
If you want to go all out and go “green” for St. Patrick’s Day, then you’ll like this set of green scarves. You could use them in a concert.
Try having the students waves the scarves in a specific patterns as they sing.
This Old Man: Move the scarf in a 4 beat pattern down-left-right-up (the 4 beat conducting pattern).
Michael Finnigan: On Beats 1 and 3 bouncing left then right.
You may want to check out this blog post on movement activity ideas for St. Patrick’s Day
I’m hoping that you got some fun ideas on how to teach partner songs in the elementary music classroom.