I’ll never forget the first time one of my classes sang in a round. Not only was I impressed with them, but they were impressed with themselves. I could tell by the looks on their faces, that they’d experienced the joy and wonder that is singing in harmony with others.
If you’re looking for a round to do with older classes, The Coffee Canon is a great choice. I learned this song in my own high school general music class, before my love affair with coffee even started. I suspect that many of my former classmates would remember it as well, particularly since it may have been one of the few times they were exposed to authentic folk songs.


After you’ve sang the song for the class, encourage a discussion of the lyrics. Split students into pairs and ask them to discuss what the words can mean. Remind them that there are no wrong answers, you simply want to hear their thoughts. Divide the pairs into groups, so that each group has a different line of text to focus on. Then, gather back together and have each pair share their thoughts. This is a good time to remind students the importance of listening thoughtfully to the ideas of their peers.

Since you are working toward having the students sing in a round, it’s important that they have a solid sense of the beat, so that when it’s time to split up, they’ll be able t hold their own. One easy way to get students to practice the steady beat without boring them, is pulling out rhythm instruments and giving them plenty of opportunities to play their favorite. This might mean creating different stations using hand drums, claves, djembes, castanets, and so on. Then, have students play the steady beat while you sing, and give them the chance to switch stations each time you repeat the song. As they grow more comfortable with the melody, encourage them to begin singing along. You might even consider telling them to keep a beat with found sounds, such as a pencil on a music stand or taking off their shoes and slapping them together. Beware of the chaos that might ensue with this one!

I would encourage you to split this lesson into several different class times. The melody can be tricky, and it’s best to give them plenty of practice singing in unison before attempting a round.When you think they’re ready for the round, split them into three groups and have each group stand in a circle facing the center. Give clear starting signals for each group and try your best to not sing along. If it all falls apart, this may be a clue that they haven’t practiced in unison enough, and you’ll need to move back a step so they can strengthen their foundation.

Once your students complete the round successfully, bask in the glow of their accomplishment and celebrate with them. One of my joys in teaching was watching students in awe of their own abilities after singing in a round. It was always an amazing experience for them, and one to be shared with their teacher!


Click on the image above to download and print these lesson ideas for easy reference. I’ve been receiving more e-mails from all of you lately, to ask about resources as well as to share your successes in the classroom. I absolutely love reading your messages, so please keep them coming! Also, let me know what you think of today’s lesson ideas in the comments below!

4 Responses

  1. Oh you know I love this song! Kids think it's so funny because so many of their parents, teachers, and other adults walk around with coffee cups all day, and I can affirm that I am just as addicted as the rest of them! 😉 #fermatafridays

    1. So true! If I had a student come up to my desk or standing close by and spot my cup of coffee, they would usually ask if they could have it lol.

  2. I learned this song back in grade school in the 1960s. My sister and I have loved it and have been singing it for 50 years. I had the opportunity to teach a song to a group of young Mormon kids a few years back and felt this was the perfect song…not only is it a great song for kids, but Mormons don't drink coffee! Seemed kind of natural!

    1. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I first learned this song in a general music class taught by my choir director. A large chunk of our class time consisted of learning folk songs. Little did I know then, how closely our teaching methods aligned. I'm so glad he exposed us to those little gems. They're fantastic!