Issue 59: Star Light, Star Bright – playing and strumming

This traditional song, “Star light, star bright” which I first came across in the excellent OUP “Young Voiceworks” books which I have mentioned before, is a most useful starting point for a whole series of musical journeys.

It is based on the notes “soh” and “mi”, a combination which seem to be known in every musical culture and tradition.

This song is a gentle lullaby. The same notes appear in “It’s raining, it’s snoring” and the ubiquitous playground taunts such as “nyah, nyah” or “Liar, liar, you’re pants on fire”.

I used this tune last week with a year 3 ukulele class.

The first stage was to teach them the song, and identify the first and third beats of the bar by tapping the pulse as we sang. There was a whiteboard in the classroom, so I was able to write up the words, and together we high-lighted the relevant syllables (link to literacy here).

STAR light, STAR bright, FIRST star I SEE tonight, WISH I may, WISH I might, HAVE the wish I WISH tonight.

Previously, I had spent a fairly trying couple of weeks teaching them to play their first “real” chord C. Young children seem to have only the vaguest idea of how many fingers are on each hand, and then to find the correct finger and put it on the correct string and the correct space on the instrument is a tough challenge. At long last we had a majority of children ready with their C chord, and we were able to sing and strum this song together.

I did follow the same procedure with another favourite song, “Bee, Bee, Bumble Bee“. However, there is a serious drawback with this song, in that you end up having to stress the first syllable of the word “Bumble”. I could see this lesson derailment event approaching, and there was no way to avoid it. The children were delighted at having a “playground word” released into the classroom, but I just about managed to contain the worst excesses of their hilarity. You have been warned.



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