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Is St. Patrick’s Day a big deal where you live? It is one of those holidays that either your city takes very seriously, or no one cares.
Here in Savannah, we take it very seriously.
We actually have the third largest St. Patrick’s ay parade in the US– yes, right here in South Georgia! I looked that up to double check we are still #3, and one of the articles I read said we have the highest density of Irish-Americans for our size– 8%. I did not know that.
Now, I’m going to be honest, none of my kids are Irish. But they still love St. Patrick’s Day, and I am shocked by how much they looooved the music in this Irish lesson! I actually did this K-3, although it is probably best suited for 2-3 grade. Nevertheless, in every class, students were asking me if they could sing it again.
At the bottom, I will link some other ideas if you want to expound upon what we’ve got here!
Also read: Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte
Irish Music Lesson
We start the day out with a well known song as a warm up. We did not previously know any Irish songs (should have planned better!), so each grade did whatever they had done last week.
After that, I told them, “We are going to listen to Irish music today! Does anyone know what holiday is coming soon that has to do with Ireland?”
We learn the chorus to “Tell Me Ma”. I taught it to them by rote– first words, then with the melody. This is actually one of our Musical Explorers songs (find out more about that here), which means I have extra resources to go along with it– that you can access! So I use this page to show the lyrics. You can get the song here.
They sing along with the song for about 30 seconds, and then I pause it. Then we talk about how the chorus is a part of the song that keeps coming back over and over, and the verses are different each time. I have the class pick different ways that we can keep the steady beat, and we change each time the section changes. So I will write something like this on the board:
- Instrumental: Pat legs
- Chorus: Clap
- Verse 1: Stomp
- Verse 2: Head
We will listen and sing and do the steady beat, changing our motions for each section. Of course, I am letting the kids pick it so it ends up being different each time.
Also read: Monkey Game for Crescendos and Decrescendos
Instrument time! We looked at the bodhran (an Irish drum played with a stick– you can look at one here) and– with the older students– talked about how it is a percussion instrument. We listened again and played hand drums, since they were the closest thing what we had to the bodhran.
To make it more interesting for my second and third graders, they each played the hand drums. Two students went to the front of the room and played tubanos (I have these!). Everyone was playing the steady beat. We walked in a circle on the chorus and stood still the rest of the time. Each section, the people at the tubanos had to switch with someone in our circle until everyone had played.
Next, I showed the students some pictures of Ireland (I literally just google “Ireland” and click on pictures– but make sure that you do this ahead of time and look to make sure they are appropriate!). We looked at the ocean, the castles, the cliffs, and make sure to show them the bogs.
After explaining what a bog is, I told them I had a song about a bog. They learned the chorus by rote. I sang the verses myself, and had them use their arms to make actions that represented all the things in the bog– the limb and the branch and the twig and the nest, and so on. They joined in on the chorus. And, of course, I played my ukulele (but you could play the guitar or the piano or xylophones or just do it a cappella).
After that, we watched some Irish dancing. Again, my kids are used to Irish dancing because– hello, parade– but they still amaze me with how much they love it. They think it is so cool. One fifth grader told me last year, “It’s kind of like our music, because it’s got a cool beat and then a melody on top.” I thought that was very insightful.
Anyway, I like to have them watch Riverdance, because it is super cool. This is my favorite video so far– I always look for one that have guys as well as girls.
More Irish music ideas:
- Recorder matching shamrocks game
- Piano matching shamrocks game
- Rhythm matching shamrocks game
- Treble Clef matching shamrocks game
- Have students design their own bodhran (just draw or cut a circle and let them color!)
- Read a book like How to Catch a Leprechaun, There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Clover, or Pete the Cat: The Great Leprechaun Chase
- Adding more Irish folk songs– here’s a nice list!
- Learn an EASY Irish dance like this one
- Watch some Celtic Women
What is your favorite Irish music lesson? Let us know in the comments so we can keep the conversation going!