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Exploring Melodic Phrases

Aim: How can we recognize melodic phrases in a song?
Summary: Students explore phrases in poetry and in song.
Standards: US 1, 2, 6; NYC 1, 2
Grade: 1st
Concept: Form
Artistic Process: performing, responding
Materials: known poems, nursery rhymes, songs
Time Required: 15 minutes


  1. Discuss the meaning of a musical phrase with students (a short musical segment that is part of a larger melody).
  2. Examine phrases in a few poems, nursery rhymes, and/or songs. Analyze and count the number of phrases together.
    What are the clues that let us know when one phrase ends and the next phrase begins? (e.g., punctuation, line breaks)
    Download Teacher Worksheet (PDF)
  3. Sing a known song together and review the phrase structure.
    • Where does it feel natural to breathe?
    • What happens if we sing two phrases in one breath?
    • What if we sing all the phrases in one breath?
    • Why do you think it is important to have phrases in music?
  4. Play a few different musical excerpts and listen for the phrases. Have students raise their hands each time a new phrase starts.
    • How do you know that a new phrase is starting?
    • What clues do you hear in the music? (e.g., there is a short pause, the singer takes a breath, etc.)

Going Deeper

  1. Play a game in which a volunteer sings or plays only part of a known song (determined by the teacher or by the volunteer student).
  2. Have the class guess how many phrases the soloist sang or played.
  3. Have students take turns as the soloist.


Grade 1 Activity Exemplar: Form and Design

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled "Exploring Melodic Phrases." Students explore phrases in poetry and in song.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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