877-542-5504 877-542-5504

Everybody’s Irish (On Saint Patrick’s Day) Lesson Plan

Want to Help Fellow Teachers?

Please help us grow this free resource by submitting your favorite lesson plans.

Lesson Plan #: AELP-MUS0216
Submitted by: David Demnitz
Email: ddemnitz@workingfamilies.com
School/University/Affiliation: Greenburgh Eleven UFSD, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Date: October 8, 2003

Grade Level: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


  • Arts/Music

Duration: 45 minutes

Description: An Irish jig arranged for beginning instrumental students to learn to play and sing in one class period.

National Standards of Music Education published by the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) :

  • 1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  • 2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  • 9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

New York State Standards for the Arts :
Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts (Perform music written by others. They will understand and use the basic elements of music in their performances and compositions. Students will engage in individual and group musical and music-related tasks).

Standard 2: Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources (Students will use traditional instruments, electronic instruments, and a variety of nontraditional sound sources to create and perform music. They will use various resources to expand their knowledge of listening experiences, performance opportunities, and/or information about music.)

Standard 4: Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts (Develop a performing and listening repertoire of music of various genres, styles, and cultures that represent the peoples of the world and their manifestations in the United States. Students will recognize the cultural features of a variety of musical compositions and performances and understand the functions of music within the culture.) Objective: Students will sing an example of an Irish jig and will play instruments to accompany their singing.

Materials: Electronic keyboards and simple percussion (whatever drums you have and claves or rhythm sticks; frame drums called bodhrans and bones played like castanets are typical, so are spoons). You can play the bass, chords and melody with any instruments with the white notes of the piano on them, but the keyboards let you pick sounds that sound more typically Irish like fiddle, harp, bagpipes (the harmonica sound works well here) and fife.

  • Musical Score
  • Musical Score in .pdf format; requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

    Click the icon to obtain the free Reader.


  • Jig – Dance in which the beats are grouped in threes.
  • Chords – Three or more notes sounded at the same time.
  • Interval – Two notes and the space between them.
  • Bass – Low notes, usually played one at a time.
  • 12/8 time – Grouping beats into four groups of three beats.
  • Procedure:
    Tell students what a Jig is: a dance, closely associated with Ireland, in which beats are grouped into threes. Discuss Irish music, how it’s primarily melody, and melodies using the white notes in steps. There’s really no bass instruments in typical Irish music, and the drumming isn’t very important, nor are the harmonies.

    Review the definition of chords (three or more notes sounded at the same time), and compare a chord to an interval (two notes and the space between them) by playing a G triad, then an G and D together. Ask students to distinguish between them and how they sound different. Now review the elements of music by playing each of the parts (melody, bass, chords) alone and ask students to identify them as you are playing them. Ask students to identify notes F and C by looking at the pattern of black notes on a keyboard. Point out that an F is like a C, but is alongside a group of three black notes. Now ask them to find G and D, which are a step up from F and C, respectively. Teach students two rhythms to play on their legs with their hands. The first is even eighth notes in 12/8 time using alternating hands (please see attached score). After they can play the eighth notes, have them accent the first beat of each triplet. This means that the accent will be played by alternating hands and the other is the first and third beat of each triplet, first on one leg, then on the other. Now divide the class into three groups. One group will play the first of the rhythms they’ve just learned, one group will play the second rhythm, and the third group will clap their hands on the first beat of each triplet and when they do, say one, two, three, four as they clap; rotate the rhythms so each group gets to play each one (please see attached score). Discuss what you’ve just done. This way of grouping beats into four groups of three is called 12/8 time, because there are 12 eighth notes in all. The group that’s counting is articulating the strong beats, and the other rhythms are two ways of articulating the groups of three. Ask what other articulations can be made with a group of three notes. Demonstrate by clapping the articulations, first 1, 2, then 2,3 (please see attached score). Also, mix articulations to see the effect and discuss how rhythms are different, how some are more danceable than others.

    Assign students to pitched instruments. Three students can share a keyboard. Ask them to locate G and D, then F and C to prepare to play. Count off, and have them play the first interval, G and D, then stop. Find the F and C, and when they’re ready, play the first two measures. When they’re ready, play the first four measures of the parallel intervals, being sure to observe the rest in the fourth measure. To play the bass part, all they now have to do is play the notes of the interval they’ve learned, one at a time. Teach them this the same way you taught the intervals: the first measure alone, the first two when they’re ready, then the four measure phrase, observing the cadence in the fourth measure.

    Now split the class into interval players, bassists and singers. Play and sing the song. Add percussionists. The most typical rhythms to play on bodhran and bones are the rhythms in the melody, and variations thereof. It’s hard to keep up a steady stream of eighth notes at this tempo, but that’s more or less what a bodhran drummer would do. Play the song with the percussionists, the singers and the accompaniment. Don’t forget to dance. Show the students the melody. Show the correspondence between the melody and the bass part in the first half of the measure, and the simple descending scale in the second half of each measure. This is a wonderful exercise for keyboard fingering because it’s in closed position and it’s a quick little musical scale etude. Encourage students to learn the melody. They probably won’t be able to play it in this class period, but they can learn it and practice it in the weeks to come.

    Assessment: Teacher observation of students’ participation and involvement in singing and playing.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * National Standards for Music Education – MENC

    * New York State Standards for the Arts