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Lesson Plan #: AELP-MUS0224
Submitted by: David Demnitz
Email: ddemnitz@workingfamilies.com
School/University/Affiliation: Greenburgh Eleven UFSD
Date: November 14, 2003

Grade Level: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


  • Arts
  • Social studies

Duration: One 45 minute session

Description: An arrangement of the well known Spiritual, Go Down, Moses, which beginning music students can sing and play the accompaniment.

Goals: National Standards for Music Education: 1. Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music. 2. Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music. 8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts. 9. Understanding music in relation to history and culture.

Objectives: Students will sing an arrangement of Go Down, Moses and will play instruments to accompany their singing. In the course of preparing and performing the song, they will learn about important African Americans and their contributions to society.

Teacher Materials: Attached score . Electronic keyboards (an organ sound works best) or piano, bass. Copies of the additional lyrics, printed at the end of the attached score.


  • Spiritual: a style of music associated with religious worship.
  • Underground Railroad: a secret system used to help escaped slaves flee.
  • Harriet Tubman: An escaped slave who returned to transport hundreds of slaves to freedom.
  • Call and response: when a soloist sings or plays musical phrases and a larger group responds, usually with a repeated phrase.
  • Gospel: Like Spirituals, associated with Religious worship, but in a more exuberant style
  • Scales: Two notes of the same name connected by steps going up or down
  • Chromatic Scale: All the notes, white or black, in order up or down. These notes are all a half step apart.
  • Diatonic Scale: A scale which connects two adjacent pitches with the same name with 7 notes, like the white notes of the piano. Diatonic scales include half steps and whole steps, which are two half steps.
  • Bass: played using low notes
  • Chords: Three or more notes meant to be heard at the same time
  • Melody: a series of pitches which sound connected.
  • Ritard: an Italian word used in music for slowing down


  • Sing the first verse of the song with the responses for the students while playing the accompaniment. Ask them if they’re familiar with the song and if they know what kind of music it is, what it’s used for, and where they’ve heard it.
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss Spirituals, slave resistance, the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman. Compare spirituals to gospel, a more exuberant style. Ask why African Americans would sing a song about Israelites and Moses. Discuss the similarities between the Biblical story of the enslavement of the Israelites and the experience of enslaved Africans in the United States. Ask why Harriet Tubman might have earned the name Black Moses – what did she do that was similar to what Moses did in the song? Discuss the tone of the response; are the Israelites asking politely or demanding to be let go?
  • Review scales (for more on introducing scales, see Ah, Yeah (the D Scale Song), included in this collection). Compare chromatic scales and diatonic scales. Chromatic scales are all the notes, black and white, in order, up or down. The chromatic scale is made of what are called half steps. The diatonic scale used to in this song are the white notes. The intervals, or spaces, between the some of the white notes are whole steps, and some are half steps. Two half steps make a whole step. The white notes with a no black note between them are half steps. Have them find D and A by looking at the pattern of black notes.
  • Define bass part and chords. The bass is played using low notes, and is usually a kind of ‘line’, made by playing one note at a time. Chords are three or more notes played at the same time.
  • Teach the students to sing the response. Discuss call and response. Sing the first verse and play the accompaniment as they sing the response. Have them sing the response in a full voice-they’re demanding the release of their people.
  • Pass out sheets with the additional lyrics (you can print out the last page of the attached score). Ask the students which of the people they’re familiar with, and sing the song with the additional lyrics. You can discuss each individual after singing the verse which describes them and fill in some details of that individual’s contributions.
  • Ask for volunteers; some instrumentalists and some soloists who will learn one or more verses. Show the instrumentalists the first four measures and rehearse it, stopping at the end of each phrase. Then try to play it twice without stopping. Now slow at the end of each phrase. Tell students that this slowing is called a ritard in music, which, like many musical words is Italian, and means slowing down.
  • Add the third bass phrase if you’ve decided to use it. It’s made of whole steps going down, and the notes last four beats, twice as long as the bass notes in the other phrases. Rehearse this phrase until it’s ready to be added to the other part.
  • Play the chords as the students play the bass pattern. Try to get them to count or feel when to play the phrases; if you shout directions, they’ll rely on your directions, not on their own developing musical sense.
  • Add the verses. The soloists, when not soloing, will make up the chorus, who will sing the Let my people go part , and they can sing the Go Down part, too. Decide who’s going to sing when; you can stick to the order as written if you want.
  • Add the chords (you play them), and perform the song.
  • Show the chords to students so they understand it. The chords are all triads, or three note chords, and they move up and down in steps and describe what’s called a ‘chord scale’.
  • Encourage students to memorize the verses they’ve chosen, and encourage some students to learn the chords and practice them so they can play them with the ensemble.
  • Teach the introduction/interlude. The bass players must simply play a pedal tone D (you can tell them about pedal tones.) The chord players have to practice their part.
  • Rehearse the song and prepare for your performance!
  • Assessment: Teacher observation of students’ participation and involvement in singing and playing.

    Useful Internet Resources:

    National Standards for Music Education – MENC: http://www.menc.org/publication/books/standards.htm

    New York State Standards for the Arts: http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/arts/pub/artlearn.pdf