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New Choral Teacher Elementary- grades 3-5th - Rep Suggestions?

I am a new music teacher and I have a choir that consists of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade boys and girls. The previous choir teacher retired and was burnt out, so the kids  are really behind in music knowledge.  None of the grade levels (not just choir)  had ever done canons and had no knowledge of any musical lingo, dynamics etc. So I have my work cut out for me, not just for my choir.  The songs that I thought might be fun to sing are; Chili Caliente, the Papaya Song, This Land is Your Land and Hearts Around the World.  I am really trying to educate them as we go but would love some other song suggestions, and some tips to teach 2 part singing.  Naturally, we are struggling and I want to make sure that I am not pushing them too hard.  I want them to feel successful! I trest them like muscians, and pepper lingo as appropriate!  So any advice, thoughts, suggestions would be great- I want to be sure that I am sharing the love of the music and any tips would be helpful!
Thank you!
Music Teacher- Las Vegas, NV
on February 11, 2016 3:43am
Molly, I believe the approach you are currently taking is the right one. Are the students responding positively to you? You are teaching my very favorite age group - I find that students this age are generally willing to try just about anything and like to please their teachers. I would strive for a beautiful tone most of all - not only in choir, but more importantly, in general music class. This will then carry into your choir setting. 
For repertoire suggestions, please go to the Ohio Choral Directors Association website and look for the repertoire lists for elementary school choir. 
Good luck and enjoy this fun age group!
Suzanne Walters
on February 11, 2016 4:46am
I use partner songs with my elementary choruses (even the primary grades).  If you do a search at Hal Leonard, JW Pepper, or Stantons, you can find both octavos and music books available both them.  I also teach the do-re-mi scale and then do it in two parts.  If you have some more advance singers (2-4) that can help support, I've found that my chorus can do that scale in a two-part round easily.  My advanced show choir (grades 4-8) regularly do that scale in three parts as part of their warm up.  It's easy to learn and helps develop auditory acuity.
on February 11, 2016 8:07am
Hi Molly,
Please take a look at my website for easy-to-learn patriotic and inspirational songs that have been performed hundreds of times across America. I furnish the sheet music and instrumental tracks free of charge to schools.
Best wishes,
Hank Fellows
on February 12, 2016 3:41am
HI Molly
The choir is lucky to have you!  I have a piece that I arranged for a similar situation of young, unexperienced singers - it's a Nova Scotian folksong ("A Kangaroo sat on an oak") and allows students to work with singing vs. speaking, Dorian mode, and an easy 2 part arrangement.  It's published by Pavane ( and might be a helpful piece for your young singers.
There are also some great collections of canons that you could use to play with in rehearsal to get students singing in parts.  One of the collections I personally use a lot is the King's Singers Book of Rounds, Canons and Partsongs 
Good Luck!
Emily John
on February 12, 2016 3:50am
Hi Molly,
Many choir teachers with children of this age have used my song I Am The Earth as a good introduction to 2 part singing. Because the words are written from the children's perspective they seem to really enjoy it too. Here are one teacher's comments that you may find useful.
"As an elementary general music teacher here in the States, I just wanted to express to you my gratitude and congratulations on writing such a beautiful song! The melody in the verse begins at an elemental level and slowly rises to the chorus. One can imagine the sun itself rising on a new day. The use of different points of view between verses (verse 1- Earth, verse 2- Children) was a wonderful idea. Combining the two voices/points of view later on was brilliant. The song is extremely accessible for kids and in a range that complements their voices. The children love it! I encourage all music teachers to go to the link provided and purchase the package as I did!" Jim Frisque
You can hear a sample of the song on my SongLibrary website. A recording, backing track, sheet music and more resources are available to purchase and download immediately.
I wish you well as you obviously have the children's best interests at heart.
Glyn Lehmann
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