K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


LEARN NC is no longer supported by the UNC School of Education and has been permanently archived. On February 1st, 2018, you will only be able to access these resources through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We recommend that you print or download resources you may need before February 1st, 2018, after which, you will have to follow these instructions in order to access those resources.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Women in flight: Using music to study American women pioneers in flight: As North Carolina's 97-98 Christa McAuliffe Teaching Fellow, I designed this plan to musically enhance the 5th grade social studies of American heroes, focusing on women pioneers in flight. It is intended to utilize singing and rhythmic activities to compare and contrast the lives of Amelia Earhart and Christa McAuliffe. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to successfully complete a solo trans-Atlantic flight and tragically disappeared while attempting to fly around the world in 1937. Christa McAuliffe was selected for NASA's Teacher-in-Space program and tragically died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. I traditionally use this plan close to the January 28 anniversary of the shuttle disaster.
  • Musical mountain: Students will learn to hear the differences between low, middle, and high pitches. They will be able to visualize these differences by looking at the low, middle, and high points of a mountain.
  • A Ram Sam Sam: A Moroccan tune with a twist: Students will enjoy singing, playing rhythm instuments, reading notations, and performing a Moroccan tune in two different musical styles on student keyboards.

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2008. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad.”
  • learn quarter notes, quarter rests, and repeat signs.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

40 minutes


  • Overheads or chart with the lyrics to “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad.” Each verse needs to be identified (i.e. written on different pages, different colors, etc.).
  • Overhead projector with an extra clean overhead or chalk/white board.
  • Chalk, white board pens, or overhead pens.
  • Instrument for each child: sandblocks, and cymbals or other appropriate for train sounds.

Technology resources

  • Overhead Projector
  • CD/Tape Player
  • Recording of “I’ve been working on the railroad”


  1. Explain to the children that they will be learning an old song that has been passed down through many generations. (If you know the history of the song, perhaps you could give it in brief. The song was, at one time, two different songs combined in a medley.)
  2. Display the first verse. Teach the verse using the “line out” method (the teacher sings the each phrase with the students repeating the phrase.)
  3. Sing the first verse together with the recording.
  4. Follow steps 2 & 3 with the second and third verses.
  5. Sing the entire song together directing the children when to sing each verse.
  6. Ask the children to give you three sounds a train makes. Most of the children name chug, or choo, toot, and clang or ding.
  7. Write “chug, chug, chug, chug” on the clean overhead or chalk/white board. Have the students say the four sounds with you.
  8. Draw repeat signs on both sides of the chugs explaining that this means to repeat.
  9. Have the children say the chugs again, this time with repeats.
  10. Above the chugs, draw quarter notes explaining that this is what the rhythm looks like when written down.
  11. Underneath the chugs, draw the repeat signs (leave room for four beats.) Draw a quarter rest on the first beat. Identify that this is a rest and we are to be silent on that beat. Write “toot, toot” on the next two beats and another quarter rest on the last beat.
  12. Say the rhythm for the children. Have them say it with you making sure to observe the rests.
  13. Write two more repeat sings under the “toot, toot” line. Again, make sure to leave room for 4 beats. Draw quarter notes above “toot, toot” reviewing with the children what the notes are for.
  14. Write “Clang” on the first two beats. On the last two beats, draw quarter rests. Review with the children what they are. Draw quarter notes above “clang, clang” reviewing with the children what the notes are for.
  15. Say the rhythm with the children.
  16. Play the recording of the song. Have the children to say the “Chug, Chug” line with the first verse, the “Toot, Toot” line with the second, and the “Clang, Clang” line with the third. It is important that the teacher point at the written rhythm to keep the children’s focus it.
  17. Pass out the instruments. Demonstrate how the sandblocks represent the Chug, the cymbals represent the clang. Use your vocal instrument to represent the toots.
  18. Play the recording. First verse - Chug: Sandblocks; Second verse - Toot: voice; Third Verse - Clang: cymbals. Verbally prepare the children before each verse. Again, the instructor needs to point at the written rhythm to help the children focus on it.
  19. For independent practice: Leave out the verbal preparation and have the students follow the instructors hand preparation as the rhythms are being pointed to.
  20. Take up the instruments.
  21. Sing the song to conclude the lesson.


Make sure the students are playing the correct rhythm, keeping their eyes on the music, and playing their instruments correctly.

While singing, observe the students retention of the lyrics and melody. Did they repeat it as it was sung? Repeat the line, if necessary until correct. Did the follow directions during the “lining out” process?

Supplemental information

If this lesson is used for a regular classroom teacher, they will need to have some basic music reading skills.

For the recording, I used the Music K-8 CD Vol. 6 No. 5.


My students were very responsive to this lesson and learned quickly.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Music Education (2010)
      • Kindergarten

        • K.ML.1 Apply the elements of music and musical techniques in order to sing and play music with accuracy and expression. K.ML.1.1 Exemplify proper technique when singing and playing a variety of music. K.ML.1.2 Use accurate pitch to imitate two-pitch melodic...
        • K.ML.2 Interpret the sound and symbol systems of music. K.ML.2.1 Interpret iconic symbols for rhythms. K.ML.2.2 Recognize iconic symbols for at least two different pitches. K.ML.2.3 Recognize by sound quarter notes and quarter rest durations.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Music Education (2001)

Grade 1

  • Goal 1: The learner will sing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
    • Objective 1.04: Respond to the cues of a conductor.
    • Objective 1.05: Sing a variety of music representing diverse genres, styles, and cultures.
  • Goal 2: The learner will play on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
    • Objective 2.01: Recognize and play pitched and unpitched instruments.
    • Objective 2.02: Play with increased rhythmic accuracy.
    • Objective 2.04: Demonstrate and maintain a steady beat.
    • Objective 2.05: Respond to the cues of a conductor.
    • Objective 2.06: Play a varied repertoire of music.
  • Goal 5: The learner will read and notate music.
    • Objective 5.01: Read simple rhythmic notation including half, quarter, and eighth note durations, and quarter rest durations.
    • Objective 5.03: Recognize and respond to simple symbols and terms.
  • Goal 9: The learner will understand music in relation to history and culture.
    • Objective 9.04: Show respect for music from various cultures and historical periods.
    • Objective 9.04: Show respect for music from various cultures and historical periods.