How to Teach Primary Songs with a Pocket Chart

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I inherited several pocket charts in my last classroom and didn’t know what to do with them for about 5 months.  For a while, I tried putting objectives in the pockets but it was easier just to write the them on the board.  Then, a PreK teacher was throwing out a semi-broken chart stand and the hoarder in me snatched it up.  I had to find a way to use this pocket chart.  I had been using beat charts with 1st and 2nd grade for a couple of years and decided to transfer each beat, to a pocket.  It turned out to be a very successful way to teach elements of a song!  Here’s what I did (after rigging up the stand with yarn and binder clips so that the chart would not fall off):

  •  Use a chart with at least a 4×4 grid of pockets and a title pocket on top.  My chart was 5×5.  

  •  Place the title of song at the top.  I’ll use “Lucy Locket” for this example, but any 4-measure song will work.  Fill in the square pockets with beat numbers.  Have individual students tap the beat with a pointer while the class sings or chants the lyrics.  If everyone has time for a turn, you can use this as an assessment grade.  My p-pal was also pleased that I was “incorporating literacy” by placing the lyrics in each pocket. 
  • Next, students should start tapping the rhythm of the song.  Place rhythm icons (pennies) over the beats and lyrics at this point.  

  • Once they are comfortable with the above steps, take all the icon cards out, and scramble them.  Pass out the cards to 16 students and see if they can assemble them in the correct spots. Avoid chaos at the beat chart, by passing the cards out slowly so there are only a few students working at a time.  Check the icon positions as a class.  If there is an error, call on a student to correct it.  I’ve had students who usually do not shine academically get a big confidence boost when they were able to correct problem spots. 
  • Repeat the previous step, with musical notation!  Scramble the quarter notes and eighth notes for your students to reassemble. You may also remove the icons beforehand to see if they can correlate the notes with the rhythm of the words.  If they are successful, you can remove the lyrics so that they only have the beat number cards as a clue.  

  • You can also repeat this process with pitch.  I use “S,” “M,” or “L” cards for  sol, mi, and la.  

In the end, you’ll have layers of cards in each pocket that represent different musical elements that make-up a song.   I like how students can see how rhythm is built on beat, and that the pitch is dependent on rhythm.

Use the extra pockets to store cards, and keep multiple song titles in the top pocket to flip through.  The beat numbers can always stay in place to be reused for various songs.  The rhythm and pitch cards were laminated and stored in the bottom row of pockets.  If students wanted to complete the entire song alone, I would sometimes store the cards for each row in the empty pockets on the end of each row.   I hope that makes sense!   Extra pockets = good.

Hello Music Teachers!

I'm Jane, and I'm here to help make teaching more fun and less stressful by sharing ideas for the general music classroom! I've taught general music since 2009 and now focus on early childhood music.



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  1. Carolyn Cantrell

    Love this! I also have a pocket chart that I've been wondering how to use and now I know!

  2. Jane SillyOMusic

    Haha, me too! I had a couple of them rolled up in the closet for the longest time, and then I started using it almost every day!

  3. Elizabeth Caldwell

    What an awesome idea! This has so many applications, and it's a perfect way to have visually built-in beat divisions for students to really grasp the concept.


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