Singing Rounds in the Classroom

Singing rounds is a simple, accessible activity which provides opportunities for a wealth of musical learning and development. It is an easy introduction to the highly satisfying experience of singing in harmony. The only thing that holds back some teachers and their classes is the lack of strong leaders to aid beginners in holding their part. Since the advent of music technology with multitrack recording , though, backing tracks are available with each voice part played by a separate instrument, or group of instruments, so providing strong support for each part.

Singing in parts isn’t the only way to make use of rounds in class, though. Rounds, by their very nature, are built on very few  chords and, often, only a single chord. This means they can effectively be accompanied by short repeated phrases on a voice or instrument. Quite young children will soon learn to sing the melody over one of these repeated patterns, technically termed an ostinato (‘obstinate’) pattern. As they progress, pupils may be able to manage two, or more, of these accompaniment patterns. This is an easier experience of singing in harmony than singing the entire melody in parts. Special needs pupils, unable to learn the whole melody, may be able to sing, or play, a short ostinato.

Rounds also afford many opportunities for creative involvement including:

  • choosing an instrumental sound for an ostinato which will enhance the mood of the song
  • rearranging the sequence of phrases to create a new piece
  • improvising an ostinato, or even a whole new melody, on the notes of the chord
  • varying the sequence in which instrumental parts enter to create new orchestrations
  • composing an introduction section before the main melody enters.

Some years ago, when Becta’s Teachers Resouce Exchange was in operation, I uploaded two resources based on “A Bell Round”. This is the same tune used in “A Christmas Round” but with different lyrics. Level 1 was intended for use at Key Stage 1 and Level 2 at Key Stage 2. The resources comprised sheet music PDFs and MIDI files, describing a range of activities Now that, sad to say,  TRE is no more, I have adapted the resources to this site and they can be found at and Music and lyrics  for “A Christmas Round”, and several others, can be downloaded at

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