We all still enjoy singing the 'oldie goldies', which, for some reason seem to have a sticking power that carries down through the generations. Many of those old songs are often relegated strictly to music class for the younger set. However, with a little creative thinking, they can be mined for the content of their lyrics which can make a great launch pad for the teaching of ideas, skills and concepts to students of all ages.
More Than Meets the Eye ... or Ear
For older students an interesting history research topic could be to find the origins of nursery songs such as London Bridge is Falling Down, Ring Around the Rosey or Rock-a-Bye Baby. They will find some theories that tell of gruesome beginnings for some of their favourite "ditties". In their digging around, students will encounter references to factual historical events that can open the door to further discussion. They could also be asked to search out all the versions of each song, determine which would seem to be closest to the original lyrics and then decide which theory of origin best suits the song. You now have an opening to make teams and work on debating skills.!
Research skills for younger students can be introduced with songs such as Over in the Meadow or Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends. Both of these songs contain information related to a science study of animals (classification, adaptations, habitat, habits etc.). Making charts to record and organize information from each verse of a song helps students by focusing on a well-known selection of text and enables them to easily find the information for each heading, which appears in the same location in every verse. Children also enjoy writing their 'report' on another animal by writing it in the format of another verse for the song. Each student then prints up his or her verse on a page with a picture of the animal. These can be compiled in a class Song Book as a singing science report.
Five More Songs for Teaching
Grandfather's Clock - math ... a pendulum experiment ... creative thinking
Five Little Ducks - ESL ... math ... creative writing ... drama
A-Tisket A-Tasket - creative writing ... drama ... music history
Bingo - spelling practice
Down By the Bay - Social Studies ... creative writing