Vocabulary Songs

Grade Level:

4th Grade

Pedagogical Objective:

Students will gain deep understanding of specific content oriented vocabulary taken from the assigned reading by using the words in songs of their own adaptation.

Artistic Output:

Students will gain musical and rhythmic skills as they listen, sing, adapt, and use songs to foster learning.

Lesson Overview:

Using the story “Salt” from the Open Court Reader, students will learn and apply vocabulary words as they also learn music skills to adapt songs using those words.


Length of Lesson:

This lesson is the first of two lesson dealing specifically with the story, “Salt”. It is also the first lesson of a ten unit exploration of music and vocabulary.


Open Court Reader, “Salt”

CD Player, keyboard

For the journaling section, provide a series of CDs of different types of music designed to promote relaxation:

• J S Bach Brandenburg Concertos

• Music of Steven Halpern, Ph. D, music specifically designed to equalize the energy of the brain, and to promote relaxation

• Pat Metheny, a beloved contemporary jazz artist

• Various Latin Jazz artists, including Poncho Sanchez and Alina Morr

Artists’ Note:

Learning music is a very specific skill, akin to athletics in that it requires numerous repetitions of a movement in order to retain/master it. Students have to learn to deal with a new way of learning. They had to pay attention, be engaged, and participate in-group singing. In order to engage them in a “warm up”, we had a “fun song’ that we used to begin the class, to set the tone, get them engaged, and warm up their voices. We then began the formal lesson with a time for them to retell the story that they were studying. THEN the vocabulary songs were introduced, one by one, and the students learned to sing them. The purpose of this was to help them to memorize these words, to 2 increase their understanding of the story, to foster group interaction, as well as increase their musical and rhythmic intelligence. The students came to thrive on this routine and would object if there was any variance from the routine. I also stopped about half-way through the class for a period of stretching, which energized them, and gave them a little break, making it easier for them to sit back down and finish the session.


Instructional Objectives:

•Warm-up: Singing the Dream Song

• Ask the students to recap/retell the story.

• Introduce the vocabulary words one a time and introduce the corresponding song

• Five minutes stretching exercise.

• Continue teaching/singing songs

• Recapitulation and journaling to music

• Supplies: Journals

Instructional Plan:

Warm Up

Start with students writing a simple statement of a dream. This can be “sleep dream” or an “achievement dream.” Using ‘”THE DREAM SONG,” or similar song in which students can interject their dream statement, pick and use five dreams as students warm up their voices, their minds, and their creativity. (Use the rest of the dreams on ensuing days, until everyone’s dream has been included in the song.)

Introductory Activity

Review the story “Salt”. Ask/Prompt students to tell what they remember of the story, encourage participation. Prompt when they forget important points.

Developmental Activity

Introduce one at a time the words and their definitions to be learned.

• Uncharted;

• merchandise;

• port;

• native;

• procession

Introduce Songs

Using well known songs, ask students to group sing the original songs.

Guided Practice

After the group sing, stop for a 5 minute stretching exercise. Work each vocabulary word into the

well known song. Include definitions of the words as much as possible. Work each word/definition/and song separately.


Using 3 the melody of “Row your boat” “Go, go, go to port, there we’ll dock our ships, and we’ll stop to see the town, as our boat stays safe.”

Reflective Practice

Recapitulation: Have students break into small groups to sing a specific vocabulary song for the whole group. Discuss any changes or difficulties encountered by the groups. End the sessions that with students journaling about the day’s session while they listen to the music described above. The ritual/routine of having the music playing while they were having quiet time with their journal to write and reflect was something they came to expect, and to enjoy.




  • Students are able to verbally identify the narrative elements of the chosen story.

  • Student songwriting conveys detailed information about the vocabulary content


  • Students enthusiastically join the group singing

  • Student songs are detailed and focused to convey specific information

  • Student songs responds to specifics in the shared writing exercise


  • Student writing appropriate definitions to be used within the songs

  • Students offer specific suggestions to improve songs


Content Standard (s)

English Language Arts: Speaking

S.3.4.c – Vary speech according to purpose, audience and subject matter.

S.4.3.a  – Participate actively in cooperative group activities and projects.

S.4.3.b  – Participate actively in content area discussions with peers and teachers.

S.7.3.a  – Prepare and deliver short presentations on ideas, images and topics obtained from various common sources.

English Language Arts: Listening

L.2.4.b  – Respond to messages by asking questions, challenging statements or offering examples that affirm the message.

L.4.3.b  – Use knowledge of language and develop content area vocabulary to support comprehension of the speaker’s message

English Language Arts: Writing

W.3.3.a.  – Select words from an expanded personal vocabulary to accurately communicate ideas clearly and concisely across the curriculum.

W.4.3.d.  – Organize ideas in writing to ensure coherence, logical progression, and support for ideas.

W.6.3.a  – Write responses to selected literature that exhibit understanding of the text, using detailed sentences and transitions.

W.8.3.a  – Write in a voice and style appropriate to audience and purpose

Elementary Music – Performing

1. Sing and play independently, on pitch and in rhythm, with appropriate timbre, diction, posture, and tempo.

2. Sing and play in groups, blending timbres, matching dynamic levels, and respondingto the cues of a conductor.

Elementary Music- Creating

3. Improvise simple rhythmic variations and simple melodic embellishments on familiar melodies.

4. Create and arrange short songs and instrumental pieces within specified guidelines.



1. Link songs together to support the narrative of the story and create a “mini musical”

2. Develop a series of images which support the content of the songs and the stories