Importance of American Folk Songs in Today's Education

My student teacher has given me much fodder for thought in the past weeks. Its amazing how mentoring someone can generate so much reflection on one's own teaching methods and philosophies.

Today my student teacher introduced "I've Been Working on the Railroad" to our Kindergarten through Fourth Grade classes. He created an animated, illustated Powerpoint presentation of the song with the lyrics and the embedded sound file. He timed it so the slides advanced automatically with the song. It was a fun, entertaining, and efficient way to teach an important American folk song. All the classes really enjoyed the experience!!

What I found amazing was after the first preview of the song, we took a survey of who knew this song already. Our school's school population is very diverse with a lot of children of hispanic heritage. Understandably, theses students are often unfamiliar with traditional American folk tunes. It was a great opportunity for a cross-curricular musical activity and tidbit of American railroad history.

On a second listening, we encouraged the students to sing along with the presentation. We can revisit this song again to reinforce musical understanding of this song.

This reminds me to be diligent in including more American folk music and songs in my curriculum. It is my responsibility to musically educate my students to be well-rounded musicians....who understand, know, and appreciate a WIDE variety of musical styles!


  1. It is amazing what kids do not know. I find it even with my night school class who could only name 3 of the 4 Beatles. I am sure they don't know Peter, Paul and Mary or the Kingston Trio.


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