Row Row Row Your Boat Solfege

image row row row your boat solfege banner

Do you want to connect your kids’ solfege learning to folk songs they know? 

Are you looking to challenge your kids with their aural literacy? 

Solfege is important, but if you’re not careful, your students won’t connect it to practical use and think the whole thing is a waste of time. 

I’m always looking for folk songs to do this way, and Row Row Row Your Boat in solfege is a perfect option. 

The Row Row Row Your Boat solfege is fairly easy and uses the pitches: do, re, mi, fa, sol, high do. This song’s use as a canon and tone set make it a great learning option for upper elementary. 

Read on for a breakdown of the song including the solfege, a sample lesson for isolating and pointing out “fa” in the song, and my canon teaching procedure. 

Row Row Row Your Boat Solfege Breakdown

Here is the Row Your Boat solfege and song breakdown. Even young kids know this song, but the pitches, rhythm, and iconic canon performance style really lend themselves to older students. 


Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream. 

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream. 

Pitches: do, re, mi, fa, sol, high do

Rhythms: In triple: dotted half note, three eighth notes, quarter-eighth, dotted quarter note


The song first appeared in The Franklin Square Song Collection in New York, 1881. Eliphalet Oram Lyte is given credit for this version of the song. 

There is the possibility the song is even older than this as a 1852 recording shows similar lyrics with a different melody. 



  1. Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.

If you see a crocodile,

Don’t forget to scream.

  1. Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.

Try to make it back to shore

Before your boat sinks.

Row Row Row Your Boat Lesson Plan Example

Row Your Boat is a great option for teaching “Fa”. The best ones would use Fa in descending stepwise, but this ascending is a great supplement to teaching Fa. 

Grade: 3rd grades, 4th grades, or 5th grades depending on your sequence. 

Concept: Fa, scale degree 4

Behavioral Objectives: 

  • Students will be able to find Fa will be able to find Fa in the song using hand signs and Orff instruments. 
  • Students will be able to audiate specific pitches during the song including Fa. 

Materials Needed: Orff instruments (1 per group of 3)


Students will already need to be comfortable with the song and familiar with singing Fa in other songs. 

  1. Sing the song in canon (see canon teaching below).
  2. Students return to normal seats while humming the song. 
  3. Teacher leads 5-7 echoing patterns using Fa. (Make sure one of the patterns is ascending stepwise, do-re-mi-fa-sol)
  4. Teacher introduces Fa finding activity. 
    1. Class, you’re really starting to get a handle on Fa. It’s a tricky note to find sometimes. 
    2. This song, Row Your Boat, has Fa in it. Maybe you’ve already heard it. 
    3. Here’s your challenge. Using your Orff instrument, you and your group of 3 needs to figure out how to play the song and sing it using the syllables. 
    4. I’ll give you only 1 hint. The song starts on Do. For today, let’s use the C pitch as Do.
    5. When you think you’ve got it, raise your hands, and I’ll come check it. Remember, you need to play AND sing to get the challenge. 
  5. Teacher splits the class up and circulates to provide feedback. (You may want to review or teach specific group work procedures.) 
  6. At the end, the whole class plays and sings the song together with syllables and instruments. 
  7. The class hums the song as they return to their seats.
  8. Teacher introduces an audiation challenge. 
    1. Note: This may also be done in a different class meeting. 
    2. I know it may seem silly, but I just love this song. But there’s a trick I can do with this song. 
    3. I’ll sing the first few words, then switch to singing inside or audiating the rest of the song. I want you to think with me. 
    4. When we get to “dream”, I’d like to hear you sing this word. 
  9. Do the activity as described. 
    1. I could almost see the notes coming out of your head as we audiated the notes. 
    2. Now, we can do the same things with solfege syllables. First, let’s sing the whole song with syllables. (From here, I’ll let you decide the words to introduce the activity). 
  10. Sing with syllables. 
  11. Sing with syllables, but only sign and audiate all sols. 
  12. Repeat with mi’s. 
  13. Repeat with re’s. 
  14. Focus on auditing fa. 
  15. If students are doing well, encourage them to pick even harder challenges of combining notes to audiate. 

Row Row Row Your Boat Canon Procedure

Everyone knows this song is meant to be sung in canon. But how do you teach it in canon? 

Well, if you don’t follow a specific series of steps, there’s a good chance you and your kids will get frustrated. 

You may still get there even without each step, but this is a tried and true method for developing the needed part-singing skills. 

  1. Students sing the whole song as a whole class with help from the teacher. 
  2. Students sing the whole song as a whole class without any help from the teacher. 
  3. They sing the song while the teacher sings in canon as the second entrance. 
  4. The teacher starts, and the class sings together at the second entrance. 
  5. Split the class into two groups. (It may help to move them into separate circles). 
  6. One group starts, and the other goes second. 
  7. Switch. 
  8. The teacher adds as the 3rd entrance.
  9. Re-split into 3 groups. Assign groups to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd entrances. 
  10. Perform 3 times rotating each job. 
  11. Teacher adds it as the 4th entrance. 
  12. Re-split into 4 groups. Assign entrances. 
  13. Repeat step 10 4 times.  


I hope you enjoyed learning the Row Row Row Your Boat solfege. It’s a good fit for older elementary students for melodic concepts and the part-work aspect. 

Everyone seems to know it as well, so it fits with the goal of transferring solfege skills into actual music reading and performance. 

Do you teach this song? Why or why not? 

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Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher in Michigan with 12 years of experience. He's the President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and founder of the Dynamic Music Room.

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