Class Composition Using So, La, and Mi

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day:
Class Composition Using So, La, and Mi

Suggested Grade Level:

Late First Grade, Early Second Grade


  • Students decipher eighth and quarter notes by ear
  • Students compose and notate melody using So, La, and Mi
  • Students play melody on Orff instruments from written notation


  • Orff instruments, as many as possible
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • Smartboard or whiteboard
  • Staff paper
  • Rhythmic manipulatives or whiteboard slates

xylosBackground Knowledge:

  • Knowledge of quarter notes and eighth notes
  • Practice dictating rhythms by ear
  • Knowledge of So, La, and Mi and how to notate it on the music staff


Day One:

  • Teacher (T) reads Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to students (S), inviting them to join in reading the refrain (“terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”) rhythmically

Day Two:

  • T reminds students of refrain from previous lesson
  • T breaks students into groups to decipher the rhythm using manipulatives (e.g. popsicle sticks) or small whiteboards
  • T and S discuss rhythm, display on Smartboard or class whiteboard
  • Read story again, replacing refrain with rhythm reading using ta and ti-ti and patting the rhythm with alternating hands

Day Three:

  • T and S review identifying/reading So, La, and Mi on the music staff
  • T and S review rhythm deciphered during last class
  • T and S jointly practice adding pitch to the rhythmic refrain on the Smartboard or whiteboard using So, La, and Mi in C
  • S lead in designing new melody for rhythmic refrain
  • S sing the melody as written
  • S notate melody on staff paper

Day Four:

  • T and S review the student-created melody from last class
  • T breaks students into groups and set instruments in C pentatonic
  • S practice playing student-created melody on Orff Instruments

Day Five:

  • S practice in small groups to review melody
  • T reads Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day aloud and S play refrain on instruments. S rotate within their group after each playing.
  • Optional extension or workaround for rooms with few instruments: student groups design and perform dramatic re-enactment of story events during the reading.

Shannon Pahl

Shannon Pahl is a music and movement educator for K-5 students in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Augustana College, and received both her Master of Music and Master of Library and Information Science from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has been published in the Orff Echo and has completed all levels of Orff Schulwerk certification.

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  1. Odie on June 10, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Excellent lesson!

  2. Nelle Bailey on June 12, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Thank you, looks fabulous!

  3. Kathy Disney on June 15, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Fantastic! Looking forward to giving it a try. Thanks, Shannon!

  4. Jeremy Hill on August 16, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Thanks for sharing a great lesson! Looking forward to using it with younger students this year.

  5. Jann Smith on January 24, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    Magical! Thank you! Someday, I hope to be able to learn how to teach little ones through the Orff method. For now, this gives me lots of ideas and inspiration!

  6. Catherine on January 24, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Great lesson, thank you for sharing!

  7. Sarah H Sapp on January 25, 2022 at 6:55 am

    Shannon, I know we could interpret the rhythm of that repeated phrase in a number of ways. How did you interpret it for this lesson?

    • Shannon on February 17, 2022 at 2:14 pm

      Ta-di ta, ta-di ta, ta, ta, ta-di ta, ta!

  8. Kim Schram on February 6, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Shannon, thanks for sharing this awesome lesson! Like Sarah Sapp, I am wondering if you could share the rhythmic notation you taught the kids for this lesson.


    • Shannon on February 17, 2022 at 2:14 pm

      Ta-di ta, ta-di ta, ta, ta, ta-di ta, ta!

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