loving lyrics


Lyrics have always been a part of my life.  My earliest recollections include Sunday School and Bible School songs.  In second grade I remember our teacher having music contests every week after our music class; our classroom teacher would always ask who wanted to compete in the ‘Lyrics’ contest.  We would stand in front of an old microphone and recite or sing the song that we just learned in class.  We could also repeat a line from a piece of poetry that we had memorized, also telling the authors and the title of the poem.  Riddles and jokes counted back then and my favorites were from Bennett Cerf riddle books.   I think back on that now and realize that my second grade teacher was reinforcing what we all know about teaching beginning reading.  Repeated reading and even memorizing is very important in a beginning reader’s life.

Let’s try a few: (answers on the bottom, no peeking)

The wheels on the _____________________________________.

It’s all ____________ !

He’s got the ____________________________________________.

along came a ___________________________________________.

In the beginning ________________________________________________.

It was a terrible, _________________________________________________.

sugar and spice __________________________________________________.

Rome wasn’t _______________________________________.

We teach poetry for oh so many reasons.  It helps us with phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, vocabulary, fluency and the best part, for short attention spans… it can be short.  We don’t always have to teach even a whole poem.  We love it for the humor and I love it because it doesn’t have to have rules, however, we can teach certain poem forms for those students who love a format and need a format.  We can integrate in with our content areas.  It is the perfect avenue for noticing the world around us.  Poems can be put to music.  That is my favorite teaching device all.  I don’t have the best singing voice or the best rhythm, but it is my favorite way to learn something new.   My absolute favorite poets include  Amy at Poem Farm...love love her new book, Mary Anne Hoberman Poems for Two Voice books and Jon Scieska’s Truckery Rhymes which mirror many Mother Goose rhymes and some early learner songs.

You might be like me if you can remember the songs you sang on the bus on a field trip in sixth grade (Daydream Believer) or your eighth grade dance (Build Me up Buttercup), walking down the alley with the girls on a hot summer night in high school (Here Comes the Sun), around the campfire at summer camp (His Banner Over Me is Love and Pass it On), James, James and more James for three decades…my thirty year old daughter is as in love with James Taylor as I still am in my fifties.

You also may have your favorite musicians to use in your classroom …I use Raffi, Greg and Steve, Peter Paul and Mary, Jim Gill, old camp songs, and even some Jock Jams with my first graders.  For twelve years we have been using Cotton Eye Joe to get all our 5th and 1st graders psyched for Buddy Day in our cafeteria.  It is our opening Whoa clap/dance.  It gets us 200 of us ready to learn.

Let’s continue to give our children the gifts of lyrics and song in our classes in elementary school.  It will build your community and build memories forever.

I am the late sixties and early seventies generation.  I started teaching in 1976.  I’m curious about your generation and your favorites.  I would love if you would share.

Oh, the answers for my lyric finishing quiz…on the bus go round and round, good from Pete the Cat, whole world in his hands, spider and sat down beside her, God created the heavens and the earth, horrible no good very bad day, and everything nice, built in a day.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is our classroom community of readers, writers and thinkers.  Poetry and music will help us get there…one of our very best tools!

For me, a hearty ‘belly laugh’ is one of the beautiful sounds in the world.

Bennett Cerf


About Nanc

lifelong teacher who is semi-retired (does this sound better?) who loves God, family and laughing... who hates social injustice... who wants to write every day... who needs to exercise every day... who blog hops... who wants to live her everyday life led by her savior, Jesus Christ!

7 responses »

  1. Wow – your career started the year I was born. I have had a 13 year career and last year taught a music unit that I wrote on multi-cultural music/ from around the world – I was teaching 5 year olds… Year/Grade 1… children love music – there is a unity in the lyric – an understanding and an enjoyment.

    We learnt lots of songs and the class soon had there favourites – we’d sing them to line up, stack chairs, get to the carpet… whenever we could. It was lovely and I bet you, now September is on its way some of those children will have forgotten lessons, names, facts and ideas… but if they hear – ‘ Kye, Kye, Kule…’ they would all parrot the response… and then carry on the song!

  2. My wife taught in the primary grades for years and usually they sang a daily song, even though her principals questioned if it was useful. I’ve taught high school and now teach middle school and the students love it when music is part of the class. They usually love when I ask them to write new lyrics to popular songs to show their learning! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lots of music is important for sure. I did some of your songs when I taught first grade a long time ago, but singing was also a big part of the overnight trips with students. Even the older ones sang “Baby Beluga” over & over when we were on an ocean trip. John Denver’s lyrics played a big part in our lives too, and songs like “Stand By Me”. Great post!

  4. Songs hook into our very soul and never let go, no matter how old we get. I love that Tanny McGregor always includes a song in her Comprehension Connection book.

  5. Love this post! Songs and poetry can be used in so many different ways in the classroom. I love Joe Jackson’s soundtrack for Curious George, Beth & Scott, and Schoolhouse Rock. Here’s a link to my all-time favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHFtk6Si0Fk It’s a real hoot! I’m just a few years younger than you, so Happy Days was a big favorite when I was in 7th & 8th grade, which is why I think I like this one so much. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of keeping a place for music and poetry in our classrooms.

  6. Several groups at our staff meeting “sang” their connection skits to our new faculty. We started the tradition of writing new lyrics to favorite songs as graduation gifts this summer. I’ve not incorporated much music into my middle school classroom, but would love to learn from other teachers who have.

    • Hey Ramona….I know that I used Garth Brooks lyrics and Simon and Garfunkel with MS kids….they loved them…even though from another generation…oh Dave Matthew’s band has some great lyric to work with (Jeff’s fav) xo

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