Camp Songs in Elementary Music Class

Are you wanting to use traditional camp songs in your elementary music class but struggling to find music literacy and curriculum connections? Camp Songs can absolutely be an important tool for developing music literacy. Check out the ideas below which can turn fun and sometimes silly songs into real music learning experiences.

But first, let’s talk about WHY you should integrate camp songs into your music curriculum.

Using camp songs in elementary music classes - read, sing, play move

Why Use Camp Songs in Elementary Music

There are LOTS of reasons to use traditional camp songs in elementary music classes.

  • Kids need to learn to how to have “good, old-fashioned fun.” Silly camp songs are by nature fun. Help children learn how to unplug and have fun.
  • Camp songs naturally draw students in and increase engagement in music class activities.
  • Many children are exposed to a lot of inappropriate media. Even many cartoons and television shows which are written for children often send the wrong messages. Choosing our literature carefully can help build character and show students how to have fun without being disrespectful or demeaning anyone.
  • Many of your students will probably never get the opportunity to go to summer camp. They may not learn these traditional songs elsewhere. Pass on the tradition.

How to Integrate Camp Songs In Elementary Music Curriculum

At first glance, camp songs may seem to be a silly form of entertainment, but not all camp songs are silly. And these traditional songs can provide REAL MUSIC LEARNING opportunities.

Develop a capella Singing Skills

Many of our students are bombarded with recorded music all day long. Very little, if any, is a capella. A capella singing is the best way to help students build vocal performance skills. It also teaches students that they can sing anywhere, at any time. They do not need accompaniment.

Music Literacy

It is important to integrate music reading activities into every class. But some traditional camp songs have complex melodies and rhythms that are too difficult for elementary students to read. It can be difficult to find the perfect camp songs to teach specific music elements but they are out there. Check out the songs below and the music reading opportunities they provide.

Integrate Rhythmic Orff Ostinato Patterns

Even if a song itself has complex rhythms, it may be the perfect song for integrating simple rhythmic ostinato patterns. Rhythmic ostinati may be added to any song. And, you can tailor ostinato patterns to specific elements your students are learning. Better yet, guide students to create their own rhythmic ostinati.

Integrate Melodic Orff Ostinato Patterns

The simple harmonic structure of many camp songs makes it easy to create melodic ostinati as well. Use whatever instrumentation you have available. Simple melodic ostinato patterns make perfect accompaniments on barred instruments, Boomwhackers, recorders, or even keyboards.


The simple chord progressions in many camp songs are perfect for beginning ukulele players. Adding ukulele adds to the “campfire” ambiance. You might even want to set up a faux campfire in your classroom to create the camp vibe.


Ostinato patterns and other performance tasks may be used as authentic performance assessments as well.

Camp Songs in Elementary Music | K-5 Differentiated Activities

If you don’t have time to create your own camp songs lessons, check out the activities featured in this post. Each of these common camp songs includes K-5 differentiated Orff arrangements with 4 Orff ostinato patterns of varying degrees of difficulty. They are designed to meet the needs of multiple grade levels and varying abilities. Click to preview your favorites.

Each song includes 2 rhythmic and 2 melodic accompaniment patterns. In addition, movement activities, and fun facts are also included. These activities help to extend the lessons over several class periods without becoming stale. Kookaburra, Michael Row the Boat, and One Bottle Pop also offer an opportunity to perform simple harmonies.

Click to listen to a recording of each arrangement in the video previews.

Teach Part Singing with Camp Songs

Many camp songs are already part songs and they lend themselves to simple harmonic singing. They may be rounds or already include simple ostinato patterns or descants.

The silly partner songs that go along with One Bottle Pop are some of my favorite songs for teaching beginning part singing.


Camp songs in elementary music class can be fun learning activities. Let’s have some good, old-fashioned fun!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, click to read this guest blog post by Zach VanderGraaff – 8 More Reasons to Teach Camp Songs in Music Classes

Auf Wiedersehen!

Frau Musik

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