Lesson 2: Exploring “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

Aim: How can we explore backbeat by moving to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine?”

Summary: Students learn to sing and move along to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” while building vocabulary to describe musical opposites and differences.

Materials: Music Explorers CD or online audio

Standards:  GA: ESGMK-2.PR.3; ESGMK-2.RE.1; ESGMK-2.RE.2; ESGMK-2.RE.3; ESGMK-2.CN.1; ESGMK-2.CN.2
SC: MGK-2.1, MGK-2.2, MGK-2.3, MGK-2.5, MGK-2.6

Vocabulary: backbeat


Explore the Backbeat in “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

  • Listen to “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Track 4.
  • Pat the steady beat while listening to the song. Pat and count each beat up to four: 1, 2, 3, 4. Then repeat.
    • Not all beats are the same, some are strong and some are weak. Which beats sound strong to you?
  • Typically, beats 1 and 3 are strong, while beats 2 and 4 are weak. However, in some kinds of music, such as soul, the drummer or other musicians will emphasize beats 2 and 4. This is called the backbeat. Soul music combines a strong backbeat with soulful singing.
  • Listen to the backbeat of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Track 5.  Pat or clap with the music on beats 2 and 4 only.
  • Next, divide your class into two groups. Have one group pat or clap on 1 and 3, and one group pat or clap the backbeat.

Moving with the Backbeat

  • Practice moving your hands with the backbeat.
  • Raise your right hand on beat 2, and your left hand on beat 4 (see pictures below). Challenge your students to get faster while still staying together as a group.

  • Once your students have mastered moving their hands with the backbeat, challenge them to learn the grapevine (see SG12).

Explore the Lyrics in “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”

  • Share the lyrics of the chorus in “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Discuss with your students what it means to hear something through the grapevine.
  • Play “pass the grapevine” with students. Arrange students in a circle, then begin by whispering a simple sentence or phrase into one student’s ear (example: “My cat is fat.”). That student will whisper what s/he hears to the next student, and so on. The last student in the circle will say aloud the sentence that s/he heard. Discuss with the class how the sentence changed as it passed through the “grapevine.”


I Heard It Though the Grapevine

It took me by surprise, I must say

When I found out yesterday

Don’t you know that I heard it through the grapevine

Not much longer would you be mine

I heard it through the grapevine

And I’m just about to lose my mind


Literacy Extension: Violet’s Music

In Angela Johnson and Laura Huliska-Beith’s Violet’s Music, there’s nothing Violet loves more than music, and she plays or sings every chance she gets. But where are the other kids who think and dream music all day long?

Musical Word Wall

Add backbeat to the Musical Word Wall.

PDF Downloads

SG12 ↓ Download File


Musical Explorers Audio Tracks


Go to Soul Music Unit Assessment