Enriching the Elementary Classroom with Folk Song and Movement

by   |     |   pcasarow@bju.edu   |  
BJA elementary class learning music

The elementary classroom can be greatly enriched when music and movement become a part of the school day. Singing traditional folk songs and adding games or movements that correspond to the text is a simple way to add life and variety to your curriculum.

Music and movement are natural childlike expressions that children enjoy and eagerly anticipate. And you can find many songs that easily integrate with other academic subjects. Simple instructional songs can be used to aid in transitions during the day. A timely song and movement can quell restlessness and provide a refreshing change of pace. Songs with actions facilitate the development of gross motor skills for the primary grades. Songs that help children learn or drill lists can be pleasurable rather than dreaded. For example, the fifty states have been set to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw.” There are songs that teach the books of the Bible, the periodic table of elements and multiplication facts. Scripture set to music provides a lifetime musical memory.

Folk songs can enrich thematic units. “Sweet Betsy from Pike” tells the story of a couple crossing the country in pursuit of the California Gold Rush of the 19th century. Civil War songs not only share information about that trying time in our country but also communicate the heart-wrenching anguish of the circumstances. Negro spirituals contain code language for fellow slaves and sing of the deliverance they knew would eventually come, be it in this life or the next.

Folk songs from other countries and cultures can raise your students’ awareness of the sights and sounds of places around the world. You can find songs from the country of one of the missionaries your class supports. Singing the music of that culture gives your students a look into the lives of the people your missionary is trying to reach with the Gospel.

The internet is a quick and easy way to find material. There are also many good published resources like 120 Singing Games and Dances by Choksy and Brummitt and the Folksongs, Singing Games, and Play-Parties books by Jill Trinka.

Enriching your classroom with music and movement will prove to be one of the most delightful times of the day. Your students will develop positive attitudes about school and learning when they are enjoying the instruction and activities in your classroom. Kids can LEARN and have FUN too!


Dr. Pattye Casarow is the head of BJU’s department of music education.