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Review: Primary Music Box

A useful and easy-to-use way of adding variety and fun to your classes with photocopiable materials based on traditional songs
Reviewed for TEFL.net by Michelle Worgan
Primary Music Box

Primary Music Box

Traditional songs and activities for younger learners is the subtitle of Primary Music Box and it gives an accurate description of what you will find inside. The book is a collection of photocopiable worksheets complete with comprehensive Teacher’s Notes that provide plenty of activities to use to accompany the audio CD.

The book is organised into three sections by age and level (from 6 to 12 years and from beginner to elementary). Each section includes twelve songs that most teachers who have grown up in an English speaking country will be familiar with. Some are more traditional than others, but there are plenty of action songs (“The wheels on the bus”, “If you’re happy and you know it”) and amusing lyrics (“I found a peanut”, “On top of spaghetti”). Many of the songs remind me of my own school days when we spent many a Friday afternoon just singing songs, as a class or in a round. There is a small section on how to exploit songs in the classroom at the beginning of the book, including rounds, using props and adding new verses.

Each song has two worksheets to accompany it which can be used in sequence or individually. A language focus is provided to give the teacher ideas on when to use each song or what specific language points to cover afterwards.

The activities themselves consist of a variety of tasks such as matching, numbering, colouring, cutting and sticking, joining the dots, puzzles, sentence completion and classifying. There are usually two worksheets for each song. The first is more concerned with the song itself, while the second is more of a follow up activity.

As the songs are organised into levels, you may have to adapt some of the activities to suit your class. For example, if you decide to use “The twelve days of Christmas” with an elementary class you will probably have to provide some extra pre-teaching and scaffolding to aid comprehension. However, most of the lesson plans that are provided are easily adaptable.

Traditional songs can be a great source of language, although often they use unusual, out-dated or complex vocabulary and expressions. I would therefore suggest that teachers using these songs should not focus too much on the lyrics, but isolate some of the more useful words. The songs can be used to practise pronunciation and intonation, as well as to add a fun element to the lesson. I would like to have seen some less-traditional or modernized songs in the book, as young learners of today are more interested in listening to pop songs than nursery rhymes.

The book is a useful resource to have in your library. On those days when you need an extra activity, or something a bit more fun, you can dip into the book and find a song complete with a full lesson plan that you can quickly photocopy and use. Even if you don’t want to do a song, there are plenty of worksheets that could be used to supplement your course book without actually having to either listen to the song or complete the activities as set out in the Teacher’s Notes. Primary Music Box is ideal for novice teachers or those with little time to plan and is a generally useful resource for any school that teaches young learners.

Reviewed for TEFL.net by Michelle Worgan
August 2010 | Filed under Young Learners
Michelle Worgan lives in Spain, where she has been teaching for over ten years. She has a special interest in young learners and has her own blog: So This Is English

One Comment on “Review: Primary Music Box”

  1. Sab Will Says:

    Hello Michelle, and thanks for the very fair review of ‘Primary Music Box’.

    I’m delighted you like the book and that some of the songs took you back to your childhood: they came from mine!

    As you mention, Primary Music Box, like all the titles in the Cambridge Copy Series, is designed to be a very solid starting point from which you can take the fully developed lesson and run with it, or just use part of the material and adapt it as you see fit. You should certainly feel free to do this with your classes, and indeed it’s important not to slavishly follow the instructions to the letter if that’s not appropriate for your class.

    Obviously there were some restrictions and compromises to be made in writing the book, such as choosing specific songs for each level, but an enormous amount of effort went into finding songs which would be suitable and in the end it’s up to the teacher to simplify or bump up the difficulty of the exercises if they want to use them with different levels. As the main focus of the lesson is the song itself this is quite easy to do as many will simply enjoy learning new songs in English, whatever the level.

    The book purposely concentrates on what we regarded as timeless children’s classics. I wanted the songs to be as close to what native speakers might experience with their parents or at school as they grew up. Having said that, occasionally I had to make some very small changes to either fit the level or remove some really obscure vocab item which would have been problematic for learners, but in general the songs are very faithful to the originals!

    The copyright issue is a big one, and it’s almost impossible to produce a book like this using modern pop songs or even traditional ones which are still in copyright, which means going back quite a few decades to avoid problems, hence the very clear focus on traditional pieces and the charm and authenticity that comes with them.

    The two things that struck me most when I saw the final product was the natural quality of the recordings, which was fantastic, and the brilliant illustrations the artists had come up with for all the worksheets. I’m still in awe of them, and the lovely mixture of children’s and adults’ voices on the recordings is wonderful. I hope you and your readers enjoy using this book.

    If you are interested, I have ten copies to give away to anyone who reads an interview with me about the book on my blog and leaves a comment:


    Good luck! – Sab Will, author, Primary Music Box

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