*This post is part of a cooperative effort with the Music Ed Blogs Community on Facebook. Discover more amazing tools for teaching melody by visiting the page HERE.

We all know that teaching our young students how to keep a beat is the first fundamental of building their musicianship. But when it comes to teaching melodic lines it’s less clear where to start.

As you all know, in “The Sound of Music” we’re told that it starts with ‘Do-Re-Mi’….which is cute, but wrong. Just as students don’t in reality start with ‘A, B, C’ when learning to read, because it actually makes more sense to teach them with sight-words; words they already know because they’ve heard them thousands of times, and they can easily learn to recognize them.

Following that same concept, it makes more sense for us as music teachers to start students on the minor third, then Do-Mi-So; a far more commonly heard progression than Do-Re-Mi. Once students have a strong understanding of these first basic intervals then the rest of the Solfege scale can be put into place.

To help teach this fundamental skill to your students, I offer you this handful of fun songs that not only establish the strong understanding of the tonic triad, but can also be turned into games your students will want to play over and over again.


old mother witch song tonic triad

This game will keep your students playing all class if you let them. The formation is similar to ‘Duck Duck Goose’, with the class in a circle and one student in the middle playing the role of the witch. The class sings the first two lines together, then the witch takes on the phrase ‘Are you my children?’ in front of individual children until one says ‘No! You Mean Old Witch!’, then the witch chases the last child around the outside of the circle. The next witch is whichever student gets back to the open spot first.

Hey Hey Look at Me

This one is so fun and lets you be creative yourself and then pass the opportunity to lead the group onto your students. I use this one as a physical break after the students have been sitting for awhile, or even as a call to attention.

Bounce High Bounce Low

This one is meant to be a circle game with a large bouncing ball. Students sing together, but pass the ball from person to person on the second line. To emphasize the ‘high’ and ‘low’ you can have students catch the ball when it’s high in the air, or low to the floor. This one also helps emphasize maintaining a steady beat.

Coo Coo Who Are You

Coo Coo Who Are You is a great opportunity to assess which students are understanding and matching pitch and which aren’t. Call and response, baby!

Teaching the Tonic Triad

Frog in the Middle

This is another circle-run-catch game and a perfect example of the minor third sound then coming home to the tonic on the last three words. As a bonus, you can have the student who is ‘it’ jump around like a frog!

Bought Me a Cat Part 1

This is one of my favorite songs for establishing the tonic triad and also the descending Mi-Re-Do line. I teach this one by creating actions for this first refrain and then each subsequent verse. Here are the verses:

Bought Me a Cat Part 2

Just look at all the goodness you’re teaching in this song! You can do quarter note and eighth note rhythms, movement, pulse, plus the tonic triad! For the ultra-creative you can even come up with your own animal verses and actions.

You can also check out this fun video for ‘Bought Me a Cat’:


I hope these songs give you lots of fodder for teaching these basic intervals while having enormous fun with your students! ♫

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