Telling Stories Through Songs/Music: A Playlist + Activities

Hello, my dear colleagues! This post is meant to serve as a quick activity playlist where you can reuse songs to do oral storytelling without too much prep. I will also share some possible activities to transform a song or any piece of music into one of the best stories your class will ever hear.

Nursery rhymes

Nursery rhymes are great for starting storytelling with a problematic situation because all of the songs have a character who is in trouble/who has some problem to be solved. Start by telling the story and have the children brainstorm how the problem can be solved. Every single song below can be transformed into a story by using a problematic situation!

  1. Hickory Dickory Dock
  2. Old McDonald Had a Farm
  3. Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
  4. London Bridge is Falling Down
  5. Humpty Dumpty

Bonus – with Row, Row Your Boat, you can use the song’s atmosphere for description with TPR. Once upon a time, a boy in a small kingdom liked to row, row, row a boat (demonstrate). Continue the narration by playing the video below and muting it to get only the video without sound. Describe the nature and ask children to help you create the ending together. What will happen when the boy reaches the end of the river? Will someone wait for him there?

Row, Row Your Boat

Modern songs

Modern songs are great for various projects and actual singing because the melodies are repetitive and easy to follow. The projects can be anything – from cooking to crafting and dressing up.

  1. Peanut butter and jelly – Tell a story by introducing a chef who is making peanut butter jelly (real or imaginary). Ask the students to repeat. To use the international approach to songs, switch the ingredients so that you can include different food from other countries.
  2. Go Away Spooky Goblin – Great for a costume party and a PE English lesson on Halloween. Make a story about spooky monsters who became friends with a child in the end,
  3. S-A-N-T-A – Tell a story about Santa who only responded if you spelled out his name and he was late for Christmas. Have someone dress up as a Santa and the children can look for him and spell out his name.
  4. What’s the weather like today? – Take children outside to explore what can you do in the current weather and narrate a story about a child who was a weather explorer. Make sure to have a dress-up game (say the weather and the children should find something at home to dress up (coat, jacket, etc.) (teaching online). Bring clothes to school to be able to play this game.
  5. Are you hungry? Explore the video below to see the short story for Are you hungry!

Chants

Chants are great for games, learning rhythm, intonation, and TPR (total physical response). A rhythmic orchestra includes making easy DIY instruments with recyclables and using them to follow the song’s rhythm while singing.

Who took the cookie

The group of children forms a circle. The teacher decides whose name will be called first (or we can use a choosing rhyme). The group asks the question and answers it with the given name. The person whose name is used refuses the accusation. The group insists. The person refuses once more. The group then asks who. The person gives the name of someone else in the group, and it goes on like that. Change the tempo during the game from normal to fast and slow.

  1. Who took the cookie (farm animals) – The same as above;
  2. Who took the cookie (under the sea) – The same as above;
  3. Yes, I can! – Start a story about a child who couldn’t do many things he wanted so the child went around and met a lot of animals who also couldn’t do many things. In the need, the child discovers that not everyone can do anything and that that is completely normal (fish can’t fly, etc.)
  4. Do you like broccoli ice cream? – Tell a story about a child who was a picky eater and a family member who made unusual food mixes in order to make the child eat.
  5. What is it? – Invent a story about a child who wanted to be a detective for mystery toys. Make a box where you will put toys and as you speak the children need to come up, close their eyes, and explore the toys inside.

Favorite channels!

Here are some of my favorite channels with easy songs for young learners

  1. Super Simple Songs
  2. The Singing Walrus
  3. Fun Kids English

A methodological tip + a happy example

Your stories don’t need to be too complex! You can narrate the song with some flashcards or use your body to demonstrate as you are narrating. This example below shows that the only thing that matters is your enthusiasm because using lyrics for storytelling requires some creativity and energy!

Masterclass: Telling Stories through Songs – Exploiting Lyrics for Storytelling in the Classroom

Have you ever thought of using lyrics and music to conduct storytelling in your young learner classroom? The workshop will explore 3 methods that can be used to exploit lyrics to conduct storytelling in the young learner classroom. It will practically present how to conduct all of the methods through real classroom examples and offer solutions so you can include music in your storytelling class regardless of your talent or aptitudes towards music.

We will also share further learning resources and demonstrate the scaffolded method of learning songs in the live session of the workshop.

What do you think about using lyrics to start a story in your ESL classroom? Do you have any activities that you would like to share? Please write in the comments or via the contact page. I would love to hear your opinion!

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About Alice Glass

Alice is a 29 years old English teacher with a B.Ed and M.Ed. with a double minor (English teaching methodology for young learners and Serbian language teaching methodology). She is also a young but published academic researcher, materials designer, and an online ESL teacher for children in her own school, ELLoquent. She is passionate about teaching young learners, environmental education, storytelling & drama, and distance learning. Last but not least, she is a mother of an autistic toddler with SPD.

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