First Grade - Music - Lesson 10 - Songs


Learn to sing two American songs.

Learn to sing a traditional French song, and try to sing it as a round or canon.


Texts to three songs, below

Background for Teacher

Words to this hymn were written by a woman named Katherine Bates (189-1929) in the summer of 1892 as she stood gazing out at the "sea-like expanse of fertile country" visible from the top of Pike's Peak, where she had climbed with a group of teachers from Colorado Springs. Individual phrases have been several times revised, according to the Hymnal 1982 Companion "to make it more responsive to contemporary attitudes of justice."

In 1912 the words were put together with a tune written by Samuel Ward (1848-1903) that had originally been written about the same time as the words. The tune appears first with different words and the title"O mother dear, Jerusalem." It wasn't until the time of World War I that the words and the tune wedded together as we know them became really popular.


It is unlikely that the children can learn all of the verses. Before teaching the song--probably just the first verse--go over the words, which many of the children will already know by

heart. They will need help to grasp the visual pictures, such as the colors and images in "amber waves of grain," "purple mountain majesties," and "fruited plain." You might read them the words to the other two verses and discuss the meaning of the ideas presented, in general terms.

America the Beautiful

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain;

For purple mountain majesties,

Above the fruited plain.

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood,

From sea to shining sea.

Oh, beautiful for heroes proved,

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved

and mercy more than life!

America! America!

God men thine every flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.


First Grade - Music - Lesson 10 - Songs

Oh, beautiful for patriot dream

that sees beyond the years

thine alabaster cities gleam,

undimmed by human tears!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

and crown thy good with brotherhood,

From sea to shining sea.

Frere Jacques

The children can have fun pronouncing the French and echoing it back to you as you teach these words. The speech rhythms, in both French and in English are so perfectly suited to the melody, they will help the children memorize even the French with no trouble.

If there is time, this is a wonderful song for introducing the form of round, or canon, which always gives the illusion of harmonizing. At first, try it with just two parts, so that the second group begins the song when the first group reaches the word, "Sonnez..." If they find it easy, let them divide up more and more until a new group begins at each line.

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, Are you sleeping, Are you sleeping,

Dormez vous? Dormez vous? Brother John? Brother John?

Sonnez les matines: Morning bells are ringing:

Sonnez les matines: Morning bells are ringing:

Din, Don, Din, Din, Don, Din. Ding, Dong, Ding, din, Don, Ding.

When the Saints Go Marching In


The origins of stories and songs of African Americans in this country are hard to pin down, since they were so long a part of oral tradition--held, transmitted, and changed through people's memories. The African American writer, William J. Faulkner wrote a touching retelling from this tradition called "How the Slaves Helped Each other," Which includes the burial of a beloved slave. Faulkner says of the burial, "After the coffin was lowered into the grave, the slave preacher said words of comfort over the body--something like this: 'Sister dicey, since God in His mercy has taken your soul from earth to heaven and out of your misery, I commit your body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, where it will rest in peace. But on that Great Getting up Morning, when the trumpet of god shall sound to wake up all the dead, we will meet you in the skies and join the hosts of saints who will go marching in. Yes, we want to be in that number, Sister Dicey, when the saints go marching in.'"

Faulkner's book is too difficult for first Graders, but some of the short pieces, apparently told to Faulkner by a former slave named Simon Brown who worked on his mother's farm, could be read aloud to the children for the wonderful flavor of the speech and its rhythms. It is called The Days When the Animals Talked: Black American Folktale and How They Came to Be, illustrated with black and white illustrations by Troy Howell and published by Follett in Chicago in 1977.


First Grade - Music - Lesson 10 - Songs

As you teach this song to the children, explain to them that at the turn of the century--as they will see when they learn about the history of jazz in the next few lessons--New Orleans was the most famous city for music in all the United States. The custom had grown up among the African Americans in New Orleans to have a marching band to play through the streets on the way to and from the cemetery when someone in the community was buried. They will hear by the rhythmic drive in this song how good it would be for a band to sing the song as they marched.

It is sufficient to teach the children the chorus, which will probably be easy for them, while you sing the verses in between. As soon as they know the words and melody for the Chorus, have them sing it in the traditional way with a call and response for "Oh when the saints (oh when the saints) go marching in (go marching in) etc. and eventually adding clapping in rhythm on the response as well as the words.

Verse 1

I am just a lonely trav'ler,

Thru this big wide world of sin;

Want to join that grand procession,





1. Lord, I want to be in that number,


Verse 2

All my folks have gone before me,

All my friends and all my kin;

But I'll meet with them up yonder,





2. I will meet them all up in heaven,


Verse 3

Come and join me in my journey,

'Cause it's time that we begin;

And we'll be there for that judgment,




First Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Origins of Jazz


Hear about the historical beginnings of jazz.

Hear about life and music of Scott Joplin.

Listen to music of Scott Joplin.

Hear about life and music of Louis Armstrong.

Listen to music of Louis Armstrong.


Recording of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer or Maple Leaf Rag

Recording of Louis Armstrong's St. Louis Blues, Potato Head Blues, or Basin St. Blues

Suggested Recordings

Scott Joplin Greatest Hits. RCA Victor #60842. Maple Leaf Rag 2:25; The Entertainer 4:27.

Since 1973, when Joplin's ragtime piece The Entertainer was used as the theme music for Oscar-winning film The Sting, Joplin's music has gained a much wider popularity, and many recordings are now available. The one recommended above is inexpensive ($9.98) and has both Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer. If you use a different recording, just make sure it is ragtime piano only, rather than an orchestration or other arrangement for several instruments.

Louis Armstrong Greatest Hits. RCA Victor #68486. St. Louis Blues 2:39; Basin St. Blues 3:25.

For Armstrong, there are dozens of available recordings. Again, I am recommending one that is inexpensive ($9.98). Be aware that many of Armstrong's recordings do not necessarily have music he has composed, but is just performing. You'll want the children to hear both, and have them hear some scat singing as part of his performance.

Now that more musicians have taken an interest in the history of jazz, there are wonderful archival recordings of nearly all of the people central to the development of jazz released by organizations such as the Library of Congress and many of them available at public libraries.

Suggested Books

Isadora, Rachel. Ben's Trumpet. New York: Scholastic, 1979.

Good for reading aloud and sharing these wonderful black and white illustrations. The story, very sensitively told, is about an African American boy whose hero-worship for a trumpet player in a jazz club causes him to be teased by other children but ultimately results in what we would all wish for Ben.

Iverson, Genie. Louis Armstrong. New York: Crowell, 1976.

A good first biography of this world-famous jazz singer and musician. Good for reading aloud to the children and very straight forward about Satchmo's arrest and enforced period of training in a Waif's Home in Louisiana as a youth.



First Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Origins of Jazz

McKissack, Patricia and Fredrick. Louis Armstrong: Jazz Musician. Hillside, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1991. (Part of Great African Americans Series)

Straightforward telling of the highlights of Armstrong's development as a musician. The illustrations are in the form of black and white photographs, and the story can be read aloud to first graders.

Medearis, Angela Shelf. Treemonisha: From the Opera by Scott Joplin. NY: Henry Holt, 1995.

A retelling, Act by Act of the opera Scott Joplin spent years and years writing. It was a failure when it opened in Harlem in 1915, but revivals which began in the mid 1970s have been highly successful. Treemonisha is a wonderful fictional African American heroine who lived during the years shortly after the emancipation of slaves. She works and stands for the idea that education is the most important means of uplifting African Americans. Water color and colored pencil illustrations by Michael Bryant are very powerful. If you are considering playing any of the music from the opera for the children, it would be best to read this aloud first.

Mitchell, Barbara. Raggin': A Story about Scott Joplin. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1987.

Biography with black and white pencil drawings as illustrations by Hetty Mitchell. Portions can be read to children, but more appropriate for 4th grade and up.

Monceaux, Morgan. Jazz: My Music, My People. New York: Knopf, 1994.

This is a good reference book, packed with important information for the teacher, rather than for the children, with a brief foreword about the legend of Buddy Bolden by Wynton Marsalis. The illustrations are cartoon-style portraits of important African American performers and composers; they were done with pastel, paint, and markers--with lots of handwritten text included as part of each one. For some of the musicians, Monceaux has created interesting collages as well that try to capture the essence of the person.

Preston, Katherine. Scott Joplin: Composer. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988

Well-researched biography, most complete for teacher background. Excellent black and white illustrations from the period and good introduction by Coretta Scott King. Definitely too difficult to read to the children.

Schroeder, Alan. Carolina Shout! New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.

Beautiful illustrations by Bernie Fuchs are truly exceptional works of art. They started out as oil paintings, and the reproductions still show brush strokes and the texture of the canvas they were painted on. The story revolves around the oral tradition of the shouts of vendors that could be heard in Charleston, South Carolina before World War II and are now entirely lost to our musical scene. In a larger sense, it is all about music, and it is a good story for reading aloud.

Background for Teacher

The children will begin in this lesson to learn about the development of jazz as a form of music uniquely American in its origin and early development. The combination by African Americans--first in New Orleans, then in Chicago and Kansas City--of African polyrhythms and melodic patterns with typically European rhythms of marching bands and harmonic structure, resulted in what came to be called jazz.


First Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Origins of Jazz

We will try to give the children a sense of what the music of these jazz pioneers sounded like by having them listen to some pieces by Scott Joplin and Louis Armstrong in this lesson, then go on next month to a few more jazz musicians whose music and performance styles were influential and decisive in the history of jazz. It becomes an important part of Black History

Month, even though it is hard to do justice to a subject so large and complex.


Tell the children that they will be learning about the early days of jazz music in the United States, which is where it all started, in the African American community. Ask: Can anyone give me a definition of jazz? After you have listened to their ideas about what jazz is, you might tell them what Genie Iverson says about jazz in her biography of Louis Armstrong, "Jazz was African drum rhythms, French and Spanish dance melodies, church music and work songs from the days of slavery, all mixed together."

Tell them that the first person whose music they will listen to today was born just after the Civil War, in 1868 and died in 1917. His music is not really jazz, but we think of him as an African American pioneer in composing a new kind of music that people had not heard before.

Play Joplin's Entertainer and/or Maple Leaf Rag. Ask the children what instrument they heard playing the piece. (piano) Tell them that around the turn of the century, when Joplin was a young man, there were no records, and when people wanted to dance or sing, they needed a piano to do so, so pianos were very very popular. Many people had pianos in their homes, and there were pianos in bars, dance halls, and even restaurants. That's why Joplin wrote his music for the piano.

Say: I'm going to play the piece again for you, and as I do, I want you to tap a regular beat that you hear in the piece. Just play a steady beat with your hand or a pencil.

When the children have listened to the piece again and tried to keep a steady beat to it, ask: What did you notice about trying to find a steady beat in Scott Joplin's music? (Accept any answer that indicates a sense of syncopated rhythm, either between the two hands of the piano or in the upper, melodic part itself.) Ask: Does anyone know what people called this kind of music that Scott Joplin made famous? (ragtime) If no one knows, tell them the answer and that the name came from the fact that the rhythm is ragged.

Tell the children a little bit about Joplin's life, using the information from either of the two books suggested above. They should know about his family's strong musicality, his mother's valiant efforts to find a piano her son could play, about the opera that Joplin spent so many years writing, and about the sad and difficult ending to his life.

If any of the children have seen the film The Sting, remind them that all of the music for that film was ragtime music written by Scott Joplin. If the children seem particularly interested in Joplin and his music, try to find and read the Treemonisha retelling, suggested above.

Play one or two of the pieces by Louis Armstrong. Ask: Do you think what you just heard was jazz? (yes) What instrument do you think Louie Armstrong plays? (cornet, trumpet) What do you think about his voice? What does it sound like? (growly, hoarse, playful, happy)

If at all possible, read one of the biographies suggested above. It is important that the children know what the city of New Orleans was like as he grew up, what it was like for Armstrong to be arrested and placed in what they called the Waif's Home, and how he developed a special kind of singing with no real words, that came to be known by the term scat singing.


First Grade - Music - Lesson 11 - Origins of Jazz

Before playing the Armstrong tunes again, say: Let's try an experiment with rhythm. Remember how you discovered by tapping along with the music, that the rhythm in the Scott Joplin pieces was ragged, or ragtime and bouncy? This time, I want to experiment with the kind of rhythm we call syncopation, and we can hear it in all kinds of jazz.

We're going to try an experiment that will help you to hear one of the things that happened when African rhythms that had been kept alive by slaves and then freed African Americans combined with the traditional marching music that people in Europe and the United States had been marching to for a long time.

Who remembers the song Yankee Doodle that we learned? (see Lesson 8) You'll remember it was a song that the British soldiers sang to make fun of the way the American colonial troops looked; after the American Revolution it became a song that American soldiers sang proudly. When we learned the song, we practiced a little drum beat on Fath'r and I went, Fath'r and I went, rat a tat tat tat, rat a tat tat tat. Let's sing it and march together.

After marching and singing, say: We could sing it again and march and count that perfectly regular, marching beat. Let's try it this way: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.

Now, everybody stop singing, but keep marching and counting, with claps on those marching beats: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and, 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Now you're going to see what happens with syncopation in jazz. Everybody keep marching and counting and clapping, but now I want you to clap like this: 1 and 2 3 and and 4 and, 1 and 2 3 and and 4 and.

After everyone can do this, tell them to stop counting out loud and just march and clap. Ask: Can you feel how different that is, what a great surprise there is when you make that kind of rhythm? It feels more like dancing than marching, doesn't it? That's part of jazz!

If time permits, you might have them go back and forth between the regular clapping and the syncopated clapping on your signal. Establish one rhythm, then call out, "Change" in a loud voice, and so on, alternating so that it becomes very clear how much more interesting it is to have hands and feet doing two different things.