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!'). 

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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



  1. Great blog, Nuala. I loved reading about what began your life's mission. Looking forward to the next installment!

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Terri, and for leaving such a lovely comment - very much appreciated!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post - the next one is coming up soon, so watch this space!

    :-) ♫