Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Dressing the Blues

Dorothy Sheldon


Dressed for Blues Day, fifth grade students improvise a Blues melody choosing from these notes, G,Bb,B,D,or E, using xylophones and/or block flutes.


The student improvises `musical answers` (e.g., rhythmic variations and melodic embellishments) in the same style to given rhythmic and melodic phrases.


-[Oh, Won’t You Sit Down]-Spiritual
-Need a piano and piano accompaniment found in "Oh, Won't You Sit Down" in the text [Silver Burdett Making Music, Grade 3], page 24.
-Need a variety of instruments: Drums, xylophone, recorders (block flutes)


1. Set up xylophones with only these bars in this order: G,A,Bb,B,D,E.
2. Prepare block flutes for everyone. (I have a class set, and student helpers clean these after each class.)
3. Make copies of checklist for each student.
4. Use class grade book for teacher checklist.


This is a three-session lesson. Each class will provide time for improvisation in at least one of the following areas: speech, body percussion, singing, playing instruments, and movement.

Session 1

1. Begin the class with poem about the musical style called “Blues.” Explain the term, [ostinato], a repeated pattern, rhythmic or melodic.
(I made up one based loosely on the song "Kye Kye Kule," or you could make up your own.)

Cool, Cool Dude, (echo)
We can sing the Blues. ()
We can play the Blues. ()
We are looking cool! ()

Ostinato Blues, (echo)
Repeat those funky Blues. ()
Ostinato Blues, ()
Repeat those funky Blues. ()

Cool, Cool Dude, (echo)
Call out the Blues. ()
Echo the Blues. ()
We are looking cool! ()

2. Students work in groups of three to improvise their own verse and share with the class. As students work, check off the names of successful students so that those having a problem can model after the successful students. Successful students help students who need further instruction.

3. Students may choose block flute or xylophone instruments to (improvise) play their verse on that instrument. Instruments should be set up with these notes: G,A,Bb,B,D, and E. All the students should be able to play the fingering for G,A,Bb,B,D,and E on the block flute. Teacher uses role to check off names as students play their phrase.

Session 2

1. Begin the class with the spiritual “Oh, Won’t You Sit Down.” Explain that the first phrase is “Oh, won’t you sit down” and that the second phrase is "Lord, I can’t sit down.” Teach ostinato pattern “won’t you sit down” (G,F#, E, D).

2. Assign xylophones or recorders to students. Students work in partners to improvise their own ostinato. (Students use words chosen from the song. Example: "Sit down, sit down.") Students use speech and choice of notes from G, F#, E, or D.

3. Assessment takes place as students work in partners to improvise their own ostinato. Students play their improvised pattern for each other. Teacher uses role book and writes yes or no as one calls and the other responds.

Session 3

1. Begin the class with teacher/student call and response. Assign xylophones and recorders to students. Divide students in half. Half the class plays recorders, and the other half plays the xylophones. Call and response is teacher modeling a rhythm and/or melody pattern. Students respond by echoing teacher. Example: Teacher plays xylophones and/or recorder: Bb, Bb, B, G G G. Teacher continues the call and response. Students switch instruments for continued practice.

2. Students choose a partner, and then one partner improvises pattern (calls), and the other plays the pattern (responds). Each takes turns being first to improvise.

3. Assessment takes place during this partner improvising time. Teacher has checklist. Students have a checklist for peer evaluation. Instruct the students to put their names in the correct box. The student playing is the instrumentalist, and the other will evaluate. (See Associated Files.)


Teacher/Student Checklist:
Session 1: Assessment
Students make up verses.
Students use xylophones to repeat the rhythm of the words in their verses.

Session 2: Assessment
Students write definition of ostinato.
Students choose words from "Oh, Won't You Sit Down."
Students play their ostinato individually.

Session 3: Assessment
Students play two phrases.
Students use Bb to B one time in each phrase.
Students use 3 different notes or more in each phrase.
Students use rhythm pattern of own choice.
Key: 2 out of 3 is a +/accomplished
-/not accomplished
Students who have difficulty with this assignment will receive more instruction and will be given other opportunities to achieve their goal.


Additional Blues Tunes:
[The "C" Jam Blues] by Duke Ellington(CD:Duke Ellington Jazz Archives, Masterpieces 2)
[Good Morning Blues-Traditional Silver Burdett Making Music, Grade 5].Scott Foresman, 2002, page 218
[Joe Turner Blues-Traditional Silver Burdett Making Music, Grade 4]. Scott Foresman, 2002, page 54

Web Links

Site for music lesson plans for all grade levels.
American Music Education Initiative

Attached Files

Dressing the Blues Student/Teacher Checklist.     File Extension: pdf

Instruction-Lesson Plan Checklist.     File Extension: pdf

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