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In my elementary music classroom, we love to sing songs and learn about music from all around the world. In this blog post, I’m sharing 5 folk songs from Japan that you can use in elementary music.
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Se Se Se
This is a super fun rock, paper, scissors song that I use with my upper grades. It involves movement and rock, paper, scissors.
The traditional version goes:
- Students face partners and hold hands while being in a circle. On “se se se” they pulse their hands up and down.
- “yoi yoi yoi” students cross hands and pulse
- On “ocha laka” tap your hand, then partner’s hands
- Then pick rock, paper, or scissors
Here’s a video to help you see it better:
Now, I found this song during COVID, so touching hands was not an option. Instead, we did it like this:
- “se se se” Tap legs to beat
- “yoi yoi yoi” cross hands and tap legs to beat
- “ocha laka” tap legs, cross legs, tap legs, cross legs, jump
- Rock, paper, or scissors
If you win, you put your hands up.
If we tie, we put hands straight out.
If you lose, then you do a little bow.
This is a fun grasshopper song for younger students– K through 2.
Everyone walks in a circle while you sing, except for on student who is the grasshopper. The grasshopper hops the opposite way around the outside of the circle.
At the end of the song, everyone freeze. Whoever the grasshopper is closest to becomes a grasshopper and hops behind the original one. By the end, everyone is a grasshopper.
This is a fun song is from the Japanese Star Festival, which takes place on July 7th. During the festival, children write wishes on papers and tie them to bamboo (which would be a really fun activity to do in class!)
We do an Orff arrangement along with this one where we practice different ostinati.
Kaeru uta ga
A Japanese frog song is perfect for the littles! This Japanese folk song has some hand motions, which I learned from the Youtube video below.
- Line 1: Make fists, then spread fingers out on beat
- Line 2: Hold hand to each ear one at a time on beat
- Line 3: Hands and feet in, then out on beat
- Line 4: Walking with arms pumping to beat, then claps on the last 3 “gwa!”
You can also do this in a round, which means that you can spread it across different grade levels! That means you can use it for multiple music lessons for spring.
Lastly, of course I had to mention Sakura. This is one of the most well known Japanese folk songs for elementary music, and there are many things that you can do along with it.
The song is all about cherry blossoms, which makes it perfect for Spring. I like to use it to practice half notes with my third graders, and adding Orff instruments to it.
There are five Japanese folk songs for elementary music to get you started. What are some of your favorites? I’d love to add more to my repertoire. Let me know by sending me a DM on Instagram @beccamusicroom. I can’t wait to hear from you!