This lesson will help young children appreciate music an respond to it through
song, movement, and discussion of its meaning. The examination of lullabies
from various culture will contribute to the students' ability to identify
similarities and parallels among other groups and societies. This, in turn,
builds the capacity to perceive the common biological and psychological
needs of all human beings.
Areas of Study
Art (sculpture and photography)
- Hear and sing
lullabies÷old and new÷which come from several different cultures.
- Describe their
own life experiences, relating how others have cared for them and how
they, in turn, have cared for others younger than themselves.
- Describe in their
own words some of the functions which lullabies serve.
- Compose a simple
lullaby using lulling words from a language or languages not their own.
3 or more class periods
Song or lyric sheets (of lullabies); snapshots or "informal" photographs
of the children in the class which were taken when they were infants
Comments to the Teacher
Lullabies have been sung for centuries by people all over the world. They
have been called "the original tranquilizers," "the first love songs a
human hears," "folk music," "sleep rhythms," and a "means whereby caretakers
of infants can release their feelings-both their joys and their frustrations."
Lullabies have a simple and direct appeal. Usually the words are of secondary
importance. Emphasis is upon sound and rhythm. "Lulling" is their most
Lull is a word which has come down to us from Roman times. In Rome,
those responsible for the care of infants used the word lalla to quiet
their charges. Other cultures have invented words comparable lalla (see
chart). But, while the words used for lulling may be different, lullabies
the world over rely on the power of monotone to induce contentment and
Beginning the Lesson
You might begin by asking the children if they know what the word song
means. What songs do they like to hear? To sing? How or from whom did
they learn those songs?
Next, ask the children to try to remember a time when they were much younger.
Can they remember going to bed at night? How did they feel about going
to bed? Who put them to bed? What bedtime routines, if any, did they follow?
Some children may recall a routine of watching a certain TV show, after
which time going to bed was mandatory. Others may recall that someone
told them or read them a story. Inquire about those favorite stories.
What were they? Why did the children like them? How many of the children
learned their favorite stories "by heart" so that they could tell if a
page was skipped or certain parts omitted in the telling? Why do they
think they wanted to hear the same stories over and over again? Why do
they think the storytellers may have tried to skip parts on some occasions?
Point out to children that, before they were old enough to watch television
or to understand stories, their parents or caretakers may have used another
way to get ihem to go to sleep. That method probably has been used everywhere,
for as long as there have been people. Can the students guess what that
means may have been? They may guess that it was by rocking and/or singing
infants to sleep. If so, fine. If not, say that you are going to show
them pictures so that they will be able to find out for themselves.
Let the children examine the pictures. Ask them who they think the two
people in each picture are. How do they think the baby feels? How do they
think the older person feels? What might the older person be saying or
singing to the baby?
At an appropriate time say that there is a special name for the songs
which people sing to babies when they put them to sleep. Each is called
a lullaby. Then explain to.the children a little about the purposes and
the musical forms of lullabies.
Introduce some lullabies and let the children hear them, sing them, discuss
Help the children to generalize as much as they can about the universal
aspects of child care and the interdependence of infants and their caretakers.
To conclude the lesson, introduce the children to some of the "lulling"
words and "compose" a lullaby which the children can sing. The lullaby
can be as simple as just repeating the lulling words over and over, setting
them to a melody with which the children are already familiar. You may
wish to give special consideration to the ethnic background of your students
when selecting the lulling words for your original composition. It may
be that the children would enjoy and benefit from using words of countries
from which their grandparents or great-grandparents came.
Point out on a map or globe the countries which were the source of the
lulling words used in the children's own lullabies. Talk about each country
and the peoples who live in it If possible, show pictures of children
who live in that country.
Extending the Lesson
This lesson presents an excellent opportunity to introduce children to
sculpture. If possible, bring some to class, so that they can see and
Students can be asked to bring to class snapshots or informal photographs
of themselves as infants. Let each child describe what is happening in
the photo he or she brings. Who is taking care of, playing with, comforting
him or her? How does the student think that person is feeling? How does
the student think he or she felt about that person? The photos can be
arranged in a special bulletin-board display and the students might talk
about the changes they perceive which have taken place in themselves and
in their classmates since those photos were taken.
Many of the children probably have had experiences caring for younger
brothers, sisters, or cousins. Encourage them to talk about those experiences
and to think of ways in which they can be good caretakers. What stories
could they tell or read to those younger than themselves? What lullabies
or other songs might they sing to them? How might they comfort them or
make them feel more secure? The point is to help children discover for
themselves that they are capable of helping others and sharing their feelings.
Knowing that they are competent improves the children's selfimage, and
a good self-image is one of the requisites for effective learning.
from the World's Baby Language As Used in Lullabies
|Ma ma ma
|Me me me
|Ai lu lu
|Na, na, ninna-nanna
|No no no
|Pi, pi, pi,
|Bom pe, bom
|Su su su
Poland, Ukraine, Sweden
Pyrenees, Belgium, Haiti
|We we we
|Yo yo yo
Leslie Daiken, The Lullaby Book (London: Edmund Ward, 1959),