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Growing up, we had a large willow tree in our backyard. I remember thinking how pretty it was in the foreground of a summer lightning storm. It was always so flexible, with branches bending and swaying with the wind. It moved and danced so happily then, until it was struck by lightning and split almost down the middle. After that, it became a sad reminder of its former glory, and eventually, my parents were forced to cut it down.

Despite this, I’ve always felt that willow trees were special, a kind of symbol for the way we should live our lives. Strength through flexibility. And before you think I’m getting a little too philosophical, remember that it’s just as likely I love willow trees because one was featured in The Little Mermaid (also Pocahontas). Because you know…Disney musicals made my childhood go round.
Anyway, the willow trees around where we live are finally starting to bud, and I’m looking forward to seeing them spring back into their full green glory. This led me to the following folk song, which is great for movement, singing, and teaching a variety of melodic concepts.

I went in search of an example of this song on Youtube, but couldn’t find one. So, I decided to go ahead and make my own. I won’t be winning an oscar anytime soon, but the video does provide you with a quick example of the melody.

 

MOVEMENT
Have your students stand in a circle, with two chairs in the middle facing opposite directions. Choose one student, “it”, to sit in a chair. The other chair stays empty. Students in the circle sing the song as they move clockwise. At the end of the first verse, “it” chooses a person to sit in the empty chair. Students sing the second verse while moving counter-clockwise. At the end of the second verse, “it” shakes the other student’s hand, rejoins the circle, and the song begins again. Play as many times as it takes for all students to have a chance to be in the middle.

PART SINGING
Though not traditionally a song used in rounds, I think it would be fun to meld this song with the circle game I described above. Instead of choosing one student to be “it”, divide the class into two circles, with the smaller circle in the middle facing the center. Have the whole class sing the song in a round, with the inner circle starting second. At the end of the second verse, have a few students from the inner circle choose others to take their place in the inner circle. Continue singing the song until all students have had a chance to sing both parts.

MELODY
This song is great for reviewing and practicing so in part because it’s located in the middle of the song (fifth measure) and is preceded by do. If your students are practicing do, this would be a great song in which to ask them to identify it. While you’re at it, ask them to discuss the importance of the pitches in the final measures, which gives them the opportunity to discuss the song’s tonal center.

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Let me know what you think of these lesson ideas in the comments section. Have you ever used this song in your classes before? If so, tell me all about it!