March is a great month to introduce students to Irish music. And with the weather warming up, it’s also a great time for lots of movement and possibly a little field trip outside!


Check out the videos at the bottom of this post to hear the whole song.

There’s a Big Ship SailingΒ is a folk song originating from Ireland. The lyrics, which focus on ships and the ocean, provide a great opportunity for a class discussion about Irish culture. Project on your whiteboard or print the image below to help facilitate a class discussion.
A big thanks to Paula Kim Studio for the map graphics

If you prefer, you could print the following worksheet instead to hear individual answers from each of your students.
A big thanks to Paula Kim Studio for the map graphics

I discovered the following game from the website. I’d never heard of using these movements with this song, but I’m sure it would be a hit with students in a variety of grade levels.
  • Students form a line holding hands
  • The student on the left end (it) leans against a wall or a basketball post (if you’re outside)
  • The student on the right end leads the line counter-clockwise through the space between “it” and the wall/post
  • Students continue this action until “it” is completely wound up
  • Students start winding again, this time passing through “it” and the next student in line
  • Continue on until, one by one, all are wound
  • To unwind, simply reverse the process


After your students have had some fun singing and playing the game, have them sit down for some quiet listening time. The following videos are just a few examples of Irish music that your students may recognize and enjoy.The following performance from the Clancy Brothers goes through several children’s folk songs from Ireland. In between each song, they discuss a little about their own vernacular.

Fair warning that you’ll definitely want to review this video carefully. Depending on your unique classroom situation, I would suggest stopping after the 5:00 mark.

Have your students move to the steady beat of the following music. Then, ask them to discuss what elements of the music made them inspired to move to it.
What have you been doing with your students for the month of March (other than MIOSM activities)? Please share your ideas in the comments section!

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for the creative ideas around There's a Big Ship Sailing compiled in one place! We included it in our post on exploring and learning Irish music for St. Patrick's day, which gets more into apps and free resources for learning Irish folk music online: While we were looking up info on There's a Big Ship Sailing we found some resources that also pointed to its potential history from England. We couldn't determine if it was from Ireland or England, particularly with all the different versions and names – like much of folk music I guess. Did you encounter any discussions about whether the song was from Ireland or England? We figured by opening up the question to students it could lead to some exploration about the oral tradition and phenomenon of folk music in general. Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Thanks for commenting. It's interesting that you bring up its origin. No, I hadn't read any discussion on it potentially being from England. That would definitely be a fun discussion to have with students though–a great mystery!