A great way to engage kids in music is to use songs that they already know and love. Pop music provides some great hits that can help you create fun and engaging music lessons that children of all ages – but especially upper primary, will want to learn and play.
Here are 5 great pop songs and how you can create a music lesson around each one:
- Yellow by Coldplay is an excellent song for teaching the I, IV, V chord progression, while developing students’ performance skills. Rather than have students perform the entire work, just focus on a single verse.
Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
And they were all yellow.
- Happy by Pharrell Williams is a catchy, popular song that can be used to develop students’ understanding of melody/pitch. As teachers, we tend to describe major harmony as “happy” and minor as “sad”, however, in Happy we experience the sensation of a “happy” major sound, over a minor harmonic progression (F minor).
- Ho Hey by The Lumineers is an excellent song for teaching students about rests (rhythm/duration), texture (solo and accompaniment) and form/structure. Teaching students the first verse and chorus of the song will create a satisfying arrangement that is developmentally appropriate for most everyday primary music classrooms. For example, students learning the vocal melody heard in the song from 37″ to 1″05′, then divide into two even groups, the second of which, sings the vocal accompaniment “Ho! Hey!”.
- Somebody That I Used to know (feat. Kimbra) by Gotye is a fun song for teaching students “off beat” in music, which are accents on beats 2 and 4 in common time. Students can sing the first verse of the song, while clapping the “off beat” in time to the music.
- Don’t Stop Believing by Journey is an engaging work for students that demonstrates the “call and response” technique in music and provides a simple vocal accompaniment that students can performance with confidence (i.e. da, da, da, da). You can either follow the male, then female call and response parts, by dividing your class into boys and girls. Alternatively, you can disregard students’ gender and instead divide the class evenly between melody and accompaniment, or select students based on their birth dates. For example, students born in January to June can sing the melody over the accompaniment performed by the remaining students (i.e. July to December). Don’t forget to switch roles between groups, to allow students to experience both roles within the performance.
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