I have only used this song once in my classroom, but my students really enjoyed it. They loved playing the game and it was frequently asked for in that year! This game is best suited for outside play.
Suggested Grade Levels: 3rd grade, 4th grade
Finding the history of this particular song was a bit tricky. Many sources around this song fall back upon one book specifically, which is Play Songs of the Deep South by Altona Trent-Johns. In the foreword of this book, Mrs. Trent-Johns notes that all of the compiled “play songs” were not familiar to the public outside of the children who sang and played them. “Black Snake” appears to be one of those songs created by and played by African-American children.
There are several different ways to play this game. This first suggestion comes from the Kodály Center for Music Education:
One child is chosen to be the “black snake” and hides behind a tree (if outside) or some other object. The other children march around their hiding place and sing the song tauntingly, going up to the “snake” and then running back. After the song is completed, the “black snake” runs out and catches one of the other children. This child is now the new “black snake.”
This next suggestion comes from The Yellow Brick Road Blog:
If there is not much space, treat this game like “Duck, Duck, Goose.” One child is selected as the “black snake” and walks around a circle of their sitting peers. Children sing the song while the “snake” taps their head to a steady beat. Once the song is complete (on the word “me”), the “snake” and their prey (the last child they tap) stand and race to sit in the newly vacant seat. If the child catches the “snake” before they get to the spot, they are the new “black snake.” If the “snake” gets there before the other child, they get another chance to be the “snake.”
–Good for teaching, feeling, and experiencing syncopation (du-de-de)
–Identifying and singing do-la, or a Major 6th interval
–Half rest identification
–Hibbard, J. (2019, December 198). Black snake in the elementary classroom. Yellow Brick Road. https://yellowbrickroadblog.com/2019/12/black-snake-in-the-elementary-music-classroom.html
–Holy Names University. (n.d.). Black snake. Kodály Center: The American Folk Song Collection. http://kodaly.hnu.edu/song.cfm?id=994
–Jill Trinka – Topic. (2017, February 3). Black snake [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3wYl0f9IhU
–Trent-Johns, A. (1944). Play songs of the deep south (pp. 28-29). The Associated Publishers, Inc.
–Trinka, J. (1996). The little black bull (pp. 2-3). Folk Music Works.