name chant

Lesson: Back to School Name Chant

Back to School Name Chant

Congratulations to Steve Johnson, Jr. of State Street School in Westerly, RI.  Steve’s Back to School Name Chant was selected as the 2017 winner of Teaching With Orff’s lesson contest. We believe this lesson is a great way for you and your students to begin the new year!**

Grade level: 2-4

Objective: Students will experience the steady beat through chanting a rhyme and playing percussion instruments.

Core Arts Standards: Pr4.2; Pr4.3; Pr5.1; Pr6.1


1. Invite S (students) to pat their legs and match steady beat demonstrated by T (teacher)

2. T recites the following chant with the beat à S echo T phrase by phrase, and then together.

3. Ask for S volunteer to speak their name with the beat. The class echoes the given name. (Ideally, the name will fit into 2 beats, though any length will work)

Student   (Class echo)

4. Perform the chant, followed by S speaking their names in turn, with the class echoing each name. (Maintain the steady beat throughout, allowing for pauses between S speakers, if necessary)  After every 5 or so names, repeat the chant (or let students decide a form).

*Improve! – How did the class do copying the T’s steady beat?  How well did you speak your name to the beat?  Did it fit?  Was it too fast or too slow?  How can you improve your own performance?

5. T recites chant, clapping this time, the rhythm of the words. S echo.

  • compare this clapped rhythm to the patted steady beat
  • display several rhythm patterns on the board.  Which pattern matches the clapped rhythm?  Which pattern matches the steady beat?

     Rhythm examples to display

6. Transfer the steady beat to a prepared barred instrument with F and C bars (played together). Transfer the chant rhythm to a non-pitched percussion instrument (woodblocks, frame drum, etc).

7. Perform the chant and steady beat, now with added percussion. S speak their names and the class echoes. As before, return to the chant after decided number of names.  Alternate students playing instruments on the steady beat and chant rhythm.

*Improve your performance!  (see above questions)

8. Choose S volunteer to speak their name to the steady beat. Transfer the rhythm of the name to a chosen instrument (non-pitched percussion, or even prepared F pentatonic barred instrument, with S choosing any pitches that fit the rhythm). As the S speaks their name, they play the corresponding rhythm on the chosen instrument.  The class can echo with added body percussion.

9. Perform the chant and steady beat (with instruments) and the name echoes (also with instruments). You could set it up with x students playing instruments and when finished, hand their instruments off to the next group during the chant).


Extensions – notate the rhythm of selected names.  Most names will fit into one of the following beat groupings (1-6 syllables).  Challenge the students to find the pattern that matches their name!

*If you opted for S names to be played on pentatonic barred instruments, use this as an opportunity to improvise.  Instead of saying and playing their own name, play something else (another name for starters), trying to keep with the steady beat.  This can be repeated with various formats involving multiple players and various rhythmic parameters.

Click here for a downloadable version of this lesson.

**Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry in our recent Back to School Lesson contest. We loved reading all of your wonderful ideas, and hope to share more of them in the months ahead. 

Wishing each of you a wonderful year of music making with your students!

All our best,

Your friends at Teaching With Orff

Steve Johnson, Jr.

Steve has been teaching elementary school general music for more than 10 years! He earned a B.S. in music education from Rhode Island College and a M.M. Ed from the University of Rhode Island. In addition to his relentless passion for teaching music, writing curriculum and classroom improvisation, he is an avid performer and composer. Steve is the bass player for famed RI big band, The Nightlife Orchestra, as well as a regular sideman with many jazz and rock groups. He composes progressive jazz fusion music for his quartet, Baba Yaga, as well as many children’s songs for his classroom.

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  1. Tom on August 18, 2017 at 1:17 am

    Super kool chant Steve!

  2. Amy on August 18, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Love this! Thank you!

  3. Eileen on August 19, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Very nice. Thank you for sharing. I will definitely use it.

  4. Jeremy on August 19, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    A great back to school activity to do with my younger grades! Thanks!

  5. Susana Gonzalez on August 29, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    My students loved it!

  6. Susana Gonzalez on August 30, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    My students loved it

  7. Emily on September 18, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Well designed. Lots of room for creativity within a layered structure.
    We all loved it.

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