Four White Horses in the Elementary Music Classroom

I first learned Four White Horses in my high school general music class. That class was a requirement at the time and was probably one of the major sources of exposure to folk music for my classmates. Though we didn’t learn the clapping game, it’s fantastic for practicing beat and syncopation. Check out these other songs I’ve written about that are great for teaching syncopation.

four white horses notation

You can read the clapping game directions here. However, it’s much easier to just watch the video below. You’ll see groups of four playing the game.


The need for a steady tempo is obvious, and your students will be quick to slow down when necessary as they’re practicing. This might be a good time to discuss the importance of slow and methodical practice. You can ask leading questions, such as:

  • Why did it help to start slowly?
  • When were you able to speed up?
  • How might you use the same process in the future?


Once they’ve mastered the original clapping game, they can move on to creating their own four-beat clapping pattern. This is their chance to use all those body percussion movements they have stored up in their memory banks. Plus, it’s an easy way to incorporate the creating strand from the Core Music Standards.

4 Responses

  1. This is one of those classic song/games that I used to include as a standard and lost track of over the years- I think it's time to bring it back! Putting it in my 6th grade lessons this week 😉 #fermatafridays

  2. My kids love this song. They were singing it in class so much that the teacher called me to "thank me" for teaching it to them and they sang it over my voice mail!