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PART I Myself & the Neighborhood
  Myself & Neighborhood
  Community Quilt
  The Mail Carrier
  Let Your Fingers Do the Walking
  The Sign Walk
  Who I Am
  Baking Bread with the Little Red Hen
PART II Exploring Systems
  What's in a Thumb
  Parts of You
  Puzzles Are Systems
  How Many Systems Do I Belong To Right Now
PART III Communicating with Others
  Talking with our hands
  Lullabies link people
PART IV Myself and the Larger World
  Move, Feet, Move
  The Challenge of the Desert
  Planning a Park
  Communication Tools
  TV or Not TV
  Missing the Point
  Who Likes Animals
  A Simple Chocolate Bar




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)
Creative Movement
Language Arts


Students will:
  • 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.

Suggested Time

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 important attribute.

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 sleep.

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 them.

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 feel it.

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.

Lull-Words from the World's Baby Language As Used in Lullabies
A-a-a Lithuania
Lalo loli Pakistan
Ahay, hay, hay Gitksan Indian (Canada)
Ma ma ma Yuma Indian (U.S.A.)
Ai-ha, Zu Zu Latvia
Me me me me Cree Indian (Canada)
Ai lu lu Poland
Arroro ro ro Spanish-speaking countries
Na, na, ninna-nanna Italy, Greece, Macedonia
'Awe 'awe Suni Indian (U.S.A.)
Nen nen France, Japan
Ni-ni-ni-ni Philippines
A-ya ya Trinidad
Ninni, ninni Tunisia
Baloo, baloo Scotland
No no no nette Switzerland
Bayu bayu Russia
Obauba Basque
Bissam, bissam Norway
Pi, pi, pi, pi Yiddish-speaking people
Bom pe, bom pe Cambodia
Cha-chang, cha-chang Korea
Shoheen-shal-eo Ireland
Su su su su Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden
Dengu, dengu Indonesia
Dodo, dodo France, French Pyrenees, Belgium, Haiti
Suze nane Friesland (Netherlands)
Doyi, doyi Sri Lanka
Tororo tororo Guam
E-a, e-a, e-a Czechoslovakia, Germany
Tprundy, tprundy Russia
Tulla lu lu Lapland
Ha-o, ha-o Kwakiutl Indian (Canada)
Tun, kurrun Basque
Tuu, tuu Finland
Ho-ho Egypt
Uaua Basque
Hoi-yo, hoi-yo Okinawa
We we we we Chippewaya Indian (U.S.A.)
Lala lai Iran
Lalla, lullay lull English-speaking countries
Yee, le-le Burma
Yo yo yo yo Bantu (Africa)
Adapted from: Leslie Daiken, The Lullaby Book (London: Edmund Ward, 1959), p. 9.

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