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For some music teachers, harmony brings back memories of college theory classes. You listened endlessly to a piece of music, charted the harmony, and wrote out a detailed analysis. When we think of the concept of harmony in elementary music, we may be tempted to feel intimidated as we did back in college. However, harmony can be created in a variety of simple ways with elementary students, including partner songs.

Frére Jacques (Brother John) can be used alone as a round, or paired with Three Blind Mice as a partner song. Click the image to download a PDF with the notation for both.

MOVEMENT

I found this gem of a video a few years ago. It shows a fun movement activity that you can use to help teach this partner song.

THREE BLIND MICE MOVEMENT DIRECTIONS

  • Three blind mice, three blind mice
    • Students turn and march two steps counter-clockwise and hop. Then, they repeat this action in the other direction.
  • See how they run? See how they run?
    • Students use hand on forehead to pretend to look out over to the right, and then to the left.
  • They all ran after the farmer’s wife. She cut off their tails with a carving knife.
    • Students move forward four steps using a scissor motion in their hands. Then, they march backward to their spot doing the same motion.
  • Did you ever see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?
    • Students pretend to look out and over to the right again, then march in place for three beats and finish with a hop in place.

FRERE JACQUES MOVEMENT DIRECTIONS

  • Frére Jacques, Frére Jacques
    • Students extend arms out in front of them and march forward four beats, then backward four beats.
  • Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
    • Students place hands together on right side of face in sleeping motion, then do the same on the left side of their face.
  • Sonnez les matines. Sonnez les matines.
    • Students pretend to pull down a bell pull for four beats, then repeat.
  • Din, dan, don. Din, dan, don.
    • Students pat lap, clap, then snap, and rest for one beat; then repeat.

Keep in mind that any movement can be modified. You could even tap into the creativity of your students and have them create their own movements for each song.

SEQUENCING

To sequence a lesson involving partner songs, begin by teaching the songs separately and solidly.

  • Show students the movements and have them copy you, while you sing the song to them.
  • In the next class period, have students sing one or more phrases of the song as they move, while you sing the rest of the phrases. In the last few practices before class is over, have your students take over singing the entire song as they move.
  • Follow the same sequence for the other song.
  • Break students into two groups and have them practice their songs separately as a group.
  • Have both groups stand in a circle and try the partner song.

Allow time for plenty of repetition with each song. The stronger the students are with each individual song, the stronger they’ll be when they pair them together. If you notice students struggling to sing together, this is a good indication that they simply aren’t familiar enough with the individual songs. This would be a good time to go back and revisit them separately until students are more confident singing each song on their own.