Scotland’s Burning is a great song for rounds, and rounds are a great introduction into harmony and form. It allows students to feel the concept and be immersed in it. Singing in a round is an impressive feat for students in elementary music. One that they, hopefully, will go home and try out with their parents and siblings!



Scotland’s Burning has several variations, though I’ve picked only one as my focus today. The song was first notated in 1580, but the rest of its origin story is unknown. I think it’s important to point out the age of this song to your students, as well as the mystery behind its creation. It’s over 400 years old, so it’s evidence of the lasting power of music. Plus, what kid doesn’t love a good mystery?
The traditional hand movements for the song are shown below. These are doubly powerful, as they’ll keep your kids actively engaged and also help keep them on track as they sing in a round.

My biggest tip for singing in round is: make absolutely sure that your students are able to sing the song independently (without you), accurately, and confidently before they try singing in a round. It helps to stretch the lesson out over the course of a few weeks. For example, you spend a few minutes the first week just teaching the melody. Then, you teach the hand movements the following week. And finally, you introduce singing in a round, with them as group one, and yourself as group two. Slowly, you’ll be able to split them into smaller groups as they gain experience singing in round.


This piece is great for recorder since the pitches are often the same notes students learn first; D, G, A, B, D’. Whether you start with BAG or not, it’s great practice and a sizable challenge for beginners. It’s also another great piece to add to a grade level performance.Below is a video that will help your students to see and hear how it should be played.



Of course, you could also choose to play this on Orff instruments (also in round) as shown in the video below.

I love that they’ve chosen to add a rainstick to keep the beat! As you’ve probably experienced, kids love to rush the beat, so it’s important that there’s a constant reminder. Plus, rainsticks are fun and easy to make yourself. Check out this video from PBS showing how to make your own rainstick. It won’t hold up forever, but it would work in a pinch.How do you introduce singing in rounds to your students? What songs do you love to use? Let me know in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

2 Responses

  1. True story: I first learned this song during my year living in Edinburgh as a 7-year-old. Except we learned it as "London's Burning". Was shocked the first time I heard someone sing it as "Scotland's Burning" years later!

    I love the instrumental suggestions here! Thanks as always for all of the lesson ideas 🙂

    1. Historically, it makes since that they would change the words due to the Great Fire. Though, it's crazy how many nursery rhythms and kid songs have a tragic bent to them! Thanks for commenting 🙂