Monday, 27 August 2012


Have you ever gone looking for something, only to discover that it doesn’t actually exist – then gone on to create it yourself?
Well, this post is about just that - it’s about doing what you can with what you’ve got, and how that can lead to the most unexpected outcomes – literally!
During my years of teaching, from pre-K-6, I have always used song to motivate and engage students – it not only works, but they LOVE it!
Children are always eager to sing - yes, even the older ones, given the right song choice!
Testament to this power of song, is the fact that, to this day, some of my past students - long since left school – will still sing songs back to me, WITH the actions, when I bump into them on my travels!!
But back to the story: My search of libraries and music stores, on an never ending quest for new material, had revealed very little to support curriculum learning outcomes, and, sadly, very little that would appeal to older students.
So, necessity being the mother of invention (if you need something or want to do it, you will think of a way to do it), I sat down with the curriculum documents spread out in front of me and started writing lyrics.
Image: Facebook: We're All Random Here
My purpose was to create an effective and enjoyable method of learning that would help students to understand and remember important information.
These lyrical summaries of learning content were very well received by students, planting a seed in my mind, that was to grow into something that would take my life on a whole new trajectory!  
Around this time, something pivotal happened... I accepted a three week teaching block on an upper primary composite class.
Year 5/6 had been learning about the environment, and in the staffroom on my first day, I was informed that it was Year 5/6’s turn to perform at the Friday, weekly assembly.
The principal enquired as to whether I would be able to come up with something at such short notice, to which I replied, my brain already in creative overdrive, ‘Not a problem – absolutely!
That evening, after poring over the trusty curriculum documents, I wrote an environmental rap song, ‘KEEP IT CLEAN!’ highlighting such things as the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle); water and electricity conservation; composting; the importance of using solar power, and individual and collective responsibility for our planet. (My friend - now also colleague - Kathryn Radloff and I later added the catchy chorus.)
There was great excitement over the next few days, as the class prepared for the performance – the girls choreographing the rap dance routine, three of the boys asking permission to play their guitars - YES PLEASE!! I had never seen a group of upper primary students so motivated - their enthusiasm knew no bounds!

When Friday came around, those delightful students not only performed their little hearts out, in front of some very proud parents (not to mention their teacher!), but the learning that took place spoke for itself!
Image: just-littlethings//tumblr
This confirmed what I’d always believed, that engaged children learn, and children really do learn what they sing.

I was HOOKED and, although I didn’t know it at the time, what was to become my life's mission had begun – but more about that in my next post!

Yours in Singing to Learn,

Nuala  ♫ 

P.S. Below, I've included page links for lyric samples, learning outcomes and suggested activities, and two videos (one of which features a Yr 2 assembly performance of 'KEEP IT CLEAN!'). 

⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ ⊱╮ 

Listen up now,
‘Cause this’ll make you really cool.
Listen up now,
We’re gonna be the cleanest school!
Listen up now,
Put your rubbish in the bins.
Listen up now, ‘Cause this is where it all begins.
Bin, bin, ch, ch, bin, bin, yeah. (x2)
Let’s clean up our nation,
For future generations,
It all depends on what we do today, yeah.
We all have a duty,
Protecting Earth’s great beauty,
Together, you and I can lead the way.
© 2007 Lyrics by Nuala O’Hanlon/Music by Kathryn Radloff: KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs

  • VIDEO:                                                                                                                                                                                    View a Yr 2 assembly performance:

NB: Australian teachers, ‘KEEP IT CLEAN!’ features in the ABC's SING! 2010 publication, used in Australian schools.

  • VIDEO:
This video was produced by 13-year-old MaryMargaret with a bit of help from her dad. It identifies some of the problems that face our planet and describes how kids from the Kids Are Heroes website are helping to offset those issues.’:

Image: Planet Ark Environmental Foundation


Tuesday, 14 August 2012




The most significant learning occurs when emotions are integrated with instruction, because all body systems are united.  The Arts are strongly linked to emotions, enhancing the likelihood that students will remember something.’ ~ Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind
As I sit here writing this post, I hear music all around me.
It’s to be heard in the laugh of the fat, fluffy kookaburra sitting in the gum tree, right outside my window; it’s in the caws and tweets of the marauding neighbourhood birds; the hum of an overhead plane, heading for faraway places. (I’m not even going to mention the rhythmic bang, bang, banging of new carpet  being laid, in my study! :-) 

Indeed, our world (to paraphrase a very famous song) is ALIVE with the sound of music! It’s in our DNA from the very beginning - children sing before they talk, rock and sway before they walk. We live in a  rhythmic world!

Image: Facebook ~ The Violin Channel

Singing is a very powerful, multi-sensory medium for helping children to achieve competencies and learning outcomes across key learning areas of the curriculum.

In my previous post, I touched on the use of song to achieve learning outcomes in the area of Literacy, so today, I’m going to suggest a few simple tips for integrating song across other Key learning areas.

I've chosen the universal theme, Multiculturalism.
First of all, select a multiculturally-themed, age and stage-appropriate song which will help children to understand various aspects of different cultures in our world.

I'm going to use the chorus and a couple of verses from a values-based curriculum song that my colleague, Kathryn Radloff and I, prepared earlier (but the suggestions are generic enough, that the same principles apply)!

© 2007 Lyrics by Nuala O’Hanlon/Music by Kathryn Radloff 
We are one world with different nationalities,

Some travel here to settle, from far across the seas;

All connected by our one humanity,

We are here because it is a great place to be!


Meeting or greeting we may say, ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’, ‘Hi’,

Or ‘Guten Tag’, ‘Konnichiwa’, ‘Bonjour’ or ‘Come stai’.

You may have shopped in market places or big shopping malls;
Ridden donkeys, camels, elephants, trains or rickshaws!



Putting aside fiesta, siesta, we are all the same.
Forget skin colour, food and clothing, customs, different names.

Belonging to this human race, we’re all sisters and brothers,

So let us stand together now and be there for each other.

© 2007 Lyrics by Nuala O’Hanlon/Music by Kathryn Radloff 

Image: Facebook ~ Hippie Peace Freak 


  •       Research and sing songs from different countries/eras in history
  •      Research history of migrant families/indigenous people

  •      Students dress up in national costumes and present talks, told from the point of view of a   child/adult/rich person/poor person/slave…

, from different countries/historical eras   

  •      Discuss ways people are same/different
  •      Unpack song, line by line
  •      Explore the different ways people live, e.g. dress, eat, sleep, shelter, shop, celebrate...
 Research flags from other countries (children may bring in their own, from home)
  •        Research weather patterns around the globe

  •      Discuss the differences in climates and seasons of other countries 
  •      Brainstorm the ways in which these impact on people's lives          
  •      Make simple dishes from other lands 
  •      Share a playground picnic lunch, comprising foods from other lands
'... in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.' ~ Plato  
  • Locate verses, chorus, bridge, interlude

  • Listen for specific instruments, e.g. bells, drums, sound effects, A Cappella (voices only)
  • Allow students to select simple instruments, such as castanets, maracas: each plays a line of the song, all play in last verse and chorus…

  • Discuss different music styles around the world – pop, rock, jazzp, current artists…

  • Research national anthems, dances, musical instruments from around the world
  • Students dress in national costumes, decorate stage with world globe, flags from other lands (and those painted in class), and display flashcard greetings written in various languages
  • Perform song, joining hands and circling ‘globe’, performing simple actions for chorus

  • Paint while listening to different types of music, fast/slow; quiet/loud, etc.
  • Paint flags from other countries, attach to rulers and use for assembly performance piece (see above)
  • Use various art mediums to illustrate different lines of song
  • Produce a power point to accompany the music with artistic images that reflect the message of the song

I     If you are new to the idea of integrating song, it's helpful to start by incorporating just one suggestion that suits your teaching style, and build on that. I guarantee that once you see the effect it has on the children and their learning, you'll be as excited as I am, about this educational practice!

I hope this has been helpful, and look forward to sharing more about song-based learning, in my next post!

Yours in Singing to Learn,
Nuala  ♫ 

©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff

KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson In Every Lyric' ®

♫ ‘ONE WORLD’ is part of our primary school teaching resources, available from website (longer version, for middle & upper primary):
It is also available as a single, Mp3 digital download:

 ♪ Longer version, for Middle & upper primary, Track 2
♪ Shorter version, for lower primary (ages 4-9 years), Track 13:



WELCOME TO THE ARTS INTEGRATION MINUTE: ‘Arts integration is the use of the arts - dance, music… to teach students the academic subjects, math, science, reading, writing, and social studies.’

INTEGRATING MUSIC IN THE CLASSROOM: ‘…  in order to soak the learning IN and retain it, information has to be presented in a stimulating and engaging manner.’