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How long does it take?


Depending on the level and age of the children and the complexity of the song, completing the following steps may take 1 session or may need many sessions and lots of repetition to feel confident knowing the song.



Step One: Introducing to the song


To introduce the song, we would recommend singing and signing (if appropriate) the song with music accompaniment, so the children can experience what they are going to learn and feel inspired to do it themselves.


We recommend introducing the children to a range of different styles, tempos, instruments, modes and complexities of music so their listening skills can develop. It may be difficult for the children to attend and listen to the whole song, but it is good practice and will help to develop these skills.

Practice listening – you could encourage the children to close their eyes or look at a picture whilst listening.

Option 1 – Moving to the song


Play the song again and ask the children if they want to move to the music depending on how they feel. You can give this more structure by asking them to sway or move their arms (see movement section for more guidance) which may increase their active listening experience.


In My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, LINK we found that swaying, rocking and smoothly moving arms from side to side really helped the children to experience the music actively.


Option 2 – Asking questions

Play the song again and ask them to listen/ look for any words they know, what language it might be in or what they think it is about, so you are encouraging active listening in the song.   

We asked them to listen/ look really carefully and to try to think about which words they knew.  Some of the children identified sea, over, and ocean.

Step Two: Connecting with the song


You can talk about the song and ask questions like:


What is the song is about?


Can you guess the language?


Is it a slow or fast song?


It is important to relate it to the experience of the children so that it is meaningful to the children. You can show them the lyrics or write down as you are saying them.


You can include objects or toys, look up videos, use pictures, photos or symbols to help you to explain what the song is about and find a connection.


In the song ‘My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean’, we talked about what ‘Bonnie’ means and how the person is singing about someone they miss who lives far away. The person might be sad, but singing might make them feel better. We changed the word ‘Bonnie’ to ‘teddy’, as this was something they thought they would miss if they were far away.

Step Three: Call and response - learning the song


We recommend teaching each element of the song separately. We have chosen to teach the words in rhythm first, but you could also teach the melody first.


Break the song down into phrases, words and syllables to chant and into signs if signing. You can chant/ sign a line of the song and see how confident they are in responding back to you. If they find a whole sentence difficult, break it down into single words and if they find a word difficult, break it down into syllables or sounds/ part of the signs.


You can include objects or toys, look up videos, use pictures, photos or symbols to help you to explain what the song is about and find a connection.

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Remember, don’t be afraid to do lots of repetition to ensure all the children are joining in and learning. Even if you feel a bit bored with the amount of repetition, it’s unlikely that they are!


You can repeat the content but vary elements to keep the children engaged and consolidate learning. You can experiment with the following:


Speed – try it slower (especially if they are finding it hard) and speed up which will also make it exciting and more ‘game’ like.


Rhythm/ Emphasis – vary the emphasis of the word or the syllable (louder and/or longer on parts of the words). E.g. My Boooooo nie Lies oooover the ooooocean


Voice quality – chant in a  Witch (nasal)/ Fairy (light breathy)/ Bear (loud and low) voice. We recommend using pictures of characters to help to understand the different types of voice.


The children could even choose the picture.

Make the song accessible by using support such as lyrics, pictures, videos, toys etc.

Option 1 – Make the most of your accompaniment.


You can use instruments (we find percussion easiest) to accompany the chanting to help the children consolidate the rhythm and also to add another musical layer for interest and energy levels.



Option 2 – Using gestures


If they are not signing, you can ask them to create gestures or dances that go with the words. If they are signing, you could move feet or have a section for more creative movement.



Option 3 – Visualising rhythms of the words


You can write the syllables on a grid score so they can see where the parts of the words fall in the pulse. [image]



Option 4 – Thinking voices


This is a good way to consolidate (especially if there are key words/ signs you want them to feel confident with) and get a good idea of how well the children know the words. It can be a fun to encourage the children to use their thinking voices and turn it into a game.


There are levels of difficulty that you can try and remember that it might not be appropriate to try all of the options for your children.


Fill the gap.
e.g. my bonnie lies over the  ­­___ my ____ lies ____ the ____

Remember to be really clear with your hands when it is their go and when you are speaking.


Sing the song in your head and only say agreed word. Words in italics to sing in your head. 

My Teddy lies over the in head OCEAN. 

My Teddy lies over the SEA.


Go around the circle and say one word each.

e.g. My / Bonnie / Lies / over etc.


If using speech and gesture, alternate between only speech, only gesture and then both together. 

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Using a microphone


Some children still might find it difficult joining in. We have found that using a microphone and passing it around the circle encourages joining in and gives a focus for the voice.


This can be very motivating and even if it is not connected to a speaker, we found that the act of singing into something can still be effective

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