Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew sit at a piano writing music together. Students will learn the iconic New Orleans song “I'm Walkin'” by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino in this free lesson plan for grades 9–12.

I’m Walkin’

GRADE: 6-8, 9-12
GENRE: New Orleans Rhythm and Blues
TOPIC: Marching Band
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments, Composition and Theory Strand


In this lesson, students will learn the lyrics, song form, and instrument techniques for the New Orleans rhythm & blues song “I’m Walkin’.” Students will illustrate their understanding of the song with a performance.



  • Gather historical facts about the song “I’m Walkin’.”
  • Analyze song form.
  • Apply instrument techniques and strategies for learning a song.
  • Play New Orleans rhythm & blues on an instrument.



Music – Harmonizing Instruments – Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Composition and Theory – Anchor Standard 3 Refine and complete artistic work.
Music – Composition and Theory – Anchor Standard 4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have familiarity with reading music. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson. 





  1. Display slide 3 of the presentation I’m Walkin’ to listen to the song “I’m Walkin’” by Fats Domino. Ask students: What do you think this song is about? What is the mood of the song? Tell students the song is about the singer’s love for his partner. The man is walking back home for the person he loves. 


  1. Tell students “I’m Walkin’” was written by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino, then later made famous by Fats Domino. The song was a popular song in the 1950s and stayed on the Billboard charts for six weeks. New Orleans is known for its jazz music, but Bartholomew and Domino were rhythm & blues innovators.


  1. Engage students in a listening session with the song, “I’m Walkin’.” Display slide 4 of the presentation to play the audio recordings.


  1. Have students discuss and compare each interpretation of the song. Ask: Which instrument is playing the lead/melody? Which instruments are playing the chordal harmonies (banjo/guitar/piano/etc.)? Which instruments are playing melodic harmonies? What is the time signature? Are there any notable differences when contrasting one recording from another? What emotions do you feel as a listener? 



  1. Tell students they are going to learn the melody of the song “I’m Walkin’.” Distribute the instrument-specific song guides below. Have students memorize the melody of the song. 

Clarinet Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Drums Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Flute Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Piano Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Sousaphone/Bass Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Trombone Guide: “I’m Walkin’”
Trumpet Guide: “I’m Walkin’”


  1. Distribute Lyrics: “I’m Walkin’” to students. Rehearse the verses and allow time for students to practice on their own.


  1. Have students reference the instrument-specific song guides to learn and memorize the chord progressions.


  1. Tell students that the song form for “I’m Walkin’” is AABA.


  1. Introduce students to the instrument-specific techniques for “I’m Walkin’.” Review the techniques with students and allow time to practice. 

Clarinet Techniques: “I’m Walkin’
Drum Techniques: “I’m Walkin’”
Piano Techniques: “I’m Walkin’”
Sousaphone/Bass Techniques: “I’m Walkin’”
Trombone Techniques: “I’m Walkin’”
Trumpet Techniques: “I’m Walkin’”


  1. Encourage students to independently transcribe solos related to their instruments. They can study the works of traditional early New Orleans musicians to grow and refine their craft as soloists. Tell students they can incorporate early New Orleans musicians’ ideas with their own to discover their unique identities.


  1. Once students know the melody and techniques, have students play along with the recording “I’m Walkin’” by Dave Bartholomew on slide 5. To extend, play the melody and exercise embellishment, adding flavor or creating your own interpretation of the melody.



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the song “I’m Walkin’.” Have students perform the song and demonstrate the New Orleans functions and techniques for their instruments. Conclude the lesson with a written reflection. Ask: What factors influenced the historical and cultural tradition of the song “I’m Walkin’?” “What instrument techniques are applied to the song “I’m Walkin’?”



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer
Meghan Swartz, Music Artist Consultant
Mark Braud, Music Artist Consultant



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