Center for
Lifelong Music Making
Affirming Parallel Concepts (APC)
Affirming Parallel Concepts (APC) is a strategy that uses singing and playing singing games  to practice reading and math skills


SAMPLEWatch Ella Jenkins teaching pronouns


Singing is a primary source for learning.

  • Singing activates more areas of the brain than any other activity.
  • Singing and playing singing games attracts and enlivens children, boosts vitality, fights disease, enhances lung capacity, and builds memory.
  • Daily singing in classrooms raises reading and math achievement.

Singing games create community.

  • Singing and playing singing games create a positive classroom climate.
  • Singing together promotes social cohesion among diverse cultures.
  • Spirit of a people/culture that is passed on for generations

Folk songs are building blocks for the brain.

  • Simple, basic, easily-sung patterns of sound that are retained in the brain
  • Marriage between text and melody = emotional engagement with language
  • Stories with pitch develop aural/oral language, expression, vocabulary, and fluency


1. Daily Singing
Classroom teachers choose when to sing: during morning meeting, during transitions, while moving down the hall to lunch, during fluency practice time, etc. 

2. Pitch Pipes
Teachers learn to start a song using a pitch pipe so that the pitches of the song stay within the comfortable range of students’ voices (middle C – high C for elementary children).

3. Song Leaders
Classroom teachers lead students primarily in unaccompanied singing (perhaps with guitar) to build singing in tune. Students can take turns leading each other.  During an APC course for teachers, each person receives a private vocal coaching session to enable them to understand their own vocal instrument, how to use it well, and to be confident singing with students.

4. Learning By Ear
Teachers transmit songs as they have traditionally been handed down—not in writing.

5. APC Lessons
Using traditional chants, folk songs, and singing games, teachers create their own lessons to practice reading and math skills in their curricula. During APC professional development, teachers create and share their own lesson ideas by teaching and coaching each other. Videotaping students is also used.

6. APC examples using singing and chanting folk games

Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? Video
Using each others' names, students keep the beat with a pat-clap pattern. Then, the teacher adapts it to, "Who stole the ___ (a number) from the cookie jar?" Each student chooses among their cards with numbers 1-10 and holds the called number up. Use with letter names, letter sounds, sight words, fractions, etc.

Circle Round the Zero Video
One student walks around the outside of a circle of children (the zero), finds a partner, and together they do the motions of the game; then the first student takes the place of the chosen one, and the game begins again. Extend the game to practice circling around the ___ (a different number, letter, or letter sound. Could also practice math facts by having everyone hold a number card and then multiply the circling student’s card with the chosen student’s card; everyone sings the answer.

Skip to my Lou
Sing the story song over and over while choosing new partners. Another day, the class reads together the illustrated folk song book, "Skip to my Lou," so that students match the visual symbols for words with the story they have already memorized.  Another day, students create their own new rhyming verses.

This Land is Your Land (or any other folk song)
After the song is memorized, students read it together on a screen. Another day, they sing the same song again while reading the words at a faster tempo. Then, the teacher covers up a few words.  As students sing-read the song, they are silent on the covered up words (can also just tell them aurally which words to omit).

 Contact:  Ann Kay, Director 
Center for Lifelong Music Making