Blessed with curious minds, an abundance of energy and short attention spans, children in kindergarten provide a special challenge for teachers as they engage them with their first experience in a structured education. Early childhood instructors use familiar tunes such as "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," to introduce barn animals and farm activities to children unfamiliar with a rural, agricultural-based life. Lessons plans built around these familiar songs provide educators the opportunity to link units in social studies, art, science, music and movement, while keeping the activities brief and varied.
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Add spice to the traditional song by adding simple dance moves to perform while singing. Before beginning the activity, display images of the farm animals that will be incorporated into the song, such as horses, pigs, chickens and dogs. Ask the students to stand up next to their desks as they learn the actions that will accompany the sound each animal makes, such as imitating trotting with their feet when they sing "neigh, neigh for the horse," or pushing up their noses with a finger to resemble a pig when they sing "oink, oink." Instil discipline in the students by instructing them to perform the animal actions only when they sing the sound each animal makes.
On His Farm He Had a...
While the original version of "Old MacDonald" focuses solely on the barnyard animals, farming can touch on a broad range of concepts outside of livestock. Display photographs of various farms and farming equipment to teach a brief lesson on agriculture. After explaining the various farm buildings, tools, machinery and crops, work with children to come up with sounds and actions that could be incorporated into a new version of the traditional tune. For example, if the children decide to incorporate a crop of wheat, they could imagine the field swaying in the breeze by singing "with a sway, sway here, and a sway, sway there," while swaying back and forth. Once the class has written several new verses, perform the song as a group.
Plant, Water, Grow
Expand the scope of "Old MacDonald" from livestock to crops with a science lesson that introduces the process of how plants grow. Explain the concept of plants and flowers growing from seeds as long as they have sunlight, water and the right nutrients, or "food," from the soil. Help the children grasp the concept by equating the idea with their own needs for food and water to grow strong and healthy. Practice the lesson by asking students to don their imaginary "Old MacDonald" straw hats and suspenders as they plant grass seeds in soil-filled paper cups. Keep the planted grass cups in a classroom window where the children can take turns watering them while they watch them grow over several weeks.
Farm in Rhythm
The repetition that happens in "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" makes it an ideal tune for young children to practice their musical rhythm. Pass out basic percussion instruments to the students, such as cabasas, tambourines, maracas, rhythm sticks, sand blocks and claves. Prevent a cacophony of sound from overtaking the song by instructing the children to play their instruments at certain moments throughout the song, such as on the beat or only during the line when an animal is making its sound, such as the duck's "quack, quack." Expand the lesson to teach the kindergartners about musical cues and taking turns by assigning certain instruments to certain animals. For example, the students who are holding cabasas would only play their instrument to accompany the "cluck, cluck" of the chicken.
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