By Mary Munsey; Watauga Elementary School; Abingdon, Virginia
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1, 2, Special Ed
Subject area focus: General Music Brief Summary:
The students listen to two or more versions of “Froggie Went a Courtin,'” are introduced to traditional and bluegrass instruments, discuss the story of the song, play and move to the steady beat of the song, sing the song and then act the story out while singing. They learn that bluegrass songs can be fun and entertaining. They name and discuss the bluegrass instruments played in the recordings.
Goals and Objectives:
Introduce one of the more popular, fun English/Scottish ballads that ever came to the Appalachian Mountains.
Introduce string instruments used to play folk and bluegrass music.
Discuss bluegrass and folk musicians who perform the song.
Teach students to actively listen to music by acting out the story of a song.
Let students create motions and body percussion to mimic rhythms of the music and story.
Impart the joy and diversity of bluegrass music to students.
Summary of Lesson:
The lesson begins with students listening to Hylo Brown’s version of “Froggie Went a Courtin’” and then listening to Doc Watson’s version of the same song. Then children look at the guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass and fiddle posters and name them. They also look at pictures of Doc Watson and Hylo Brown as they hear their recordings.
The students discuss the story of the song: Froggie looks for a wife, finds Miss Mouse, asks her to marry him, gets permission from Uncle Rat, has a wedding with invited guests, and goes on their honeymoon across the lake. Next children are selected to be the actors: Frog, Miss Mouse, Uncle Rat, Wedding Guests, (such as Bee, Fly, Flea or any other you’d like to add), and the Black Snake or Cat depending on the version used.
Selected children come up to the front while the others are seated either criss-cross on the floor or in their chairs.
The actors act their parts. Frog and Miss Mouse sit in the middle; Uncle Rat comes to give permission; the invited guests come to the wedding; the wedding supper is held at the Hollow Tree (usually a chair to the side). I have stuffed animals and/or puppets to give each actor to represent their character.
As they listen again to a recording of the song, they sing along and act out their parts. The audience taps the steady beat on their knees as they sing along.
Repeat as necessary with new actors replacing the others. In a class of 24 students, it usually takes 3 times to have each child get a turn. You may modify the numbers of characters according to your class size.
You may change the ending of the song from tragedy to triumph if you want to. I play the guitar and sing: “They ‘bout got swallowed by a big black snake” instead of “And he got swallowed up by a big black snake” which is Doc Watson’s ending. I also give student’s their choice: Would you rather let the snake catch him or not? Depending on the age of disposition of the children, they may prefer getting caught by the snake. (Another option: The next one there was a big ole snake, uh huh (x3). He ate up all the wedding cake!)
Evaluation and Assessment:
1. Ask the students to point to and name the instruments on the bluegrass posters.
2. Listen to hear that the students can sing the song.
3. Watch the students in the audience to see if they tap the steady beat on their knees while watching the play.
4. Ask if they know any other fun folk and bluegrass songs about animals such as “Old Blue,” “Rattler,” “Rabbit in a Log,” “Man Gave Names to all the Animals,” etc…
5. Show a picture of Hylo Brown and show a picture of Doc Watson. Have children name these performers aloud.
1. Next lesson, we could sing through the “Froggie” song as a review and discuss some of the highlights of the lesson. If time allows at the end of a good lesson, one where every child participated and did well, the song may be sung and acted out as a reward in future lessons.
2. Play a recording of “Froggie” and have the children walk the steady beat in a circle counterclockwise 16 and then clockwise 16. Then have them walk the same pattern while tapping the steady beat on their knees or hands. I also have had them play woodblocks, rhythm sticks or use shakers for the steady beat while walking the circle.
3. You may also have the circle walking around Froggie and Miss Mouse seated in the middle. They may pick out wedding guests to join them in the middle.
4. In a follow up lesson, you could also present the book Frog Went a Courtin’ by John Langstaff. This book won the 1956 Caldecott Award and has wonderful illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky. The children enjoy Langstaff’s version where a cat disrupts the wedding, but all ends well with Frog and his wife on their honeymoon cruise. I also have Iza Trapani’s book Froggie went a Courtin’, which has her own rhyming lyrics added to the older ones. The students enjoy this book also. There are also colorful prints of several artists’ renditions of the story that are available online.
Additional Information (including national and/or state requirements or standards addressed):
National Standards in Music: Standard 1- Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music
Standard 2- Performing on instruments
Standard 6- Listening to and describing music
Standard 7- Evaluating music and performances
Standard 8- Understanding the relationships between music and the other arts
Standard 9- Understanding music in relation to history and culture
Doc Watson’s Songs for Little Pickers, Alcazar 2000
Hylo Brown’s – The best of Hylo Brown: Essential Original Masters - 25 Bluegrass Classics, Rural Rhythm Records, originally recorded 1967 re-released recently.
Woody Guthrie - The Asch Recordings Vol. 1-4, Folkways
Pete Seeger - American Favorite Ballads Vol. 2, Folkways
Puppets by www.folkmanis.com are used in this lesson. Stuffed animals representing the characters are also used when needed.
John Langstaff’s book: Frog Went a Courtin, 1956 Caldecott Winner available on Amazon.com
Iza Tapani’s Froggie Went a Courtin’, available on Amazon.com
Poster print of the Frog’s Wedding: Matteson Art: mattesonart.com/Froggie-went-a-courting
Poster of bluegrass instruments that I compiled from photos of bluegrass instruments. I downloaded pictures from wikipedia and cut and pasted them, enlarged them, put them together and then laminated the posters for my classroom.
Pictures of Doc Watson and Hylo Brown and other performers may be downloaded from the internet and enlarged to show in class.
Songsforteaching.com has copies of the lyrics to print.
Amazon.com sells several books with Froggie’s story.
Wikipedia.com is a good source for some information and pictures of bluegrass instruments, and musicians and song historical information.
Lesson Plan Outline: Froggie’s Wedding with “Frog and Friends” Objectives:
To teach “Froggie Went a Courtin’” to Pre-K, K, Special Ed, 1st and 2nd grade elementary music students, to let children hear bluegrass musicians with string instruments perform a fun children’s song, and to have children actively engage in the story of a classic children’s folk song.
CD’s; posters of bluegrass instruments; posters with pictures of Doc Watson, Hylo Brown and others that have recorded the song; props for actors such as: puppets, blue towel for the “Lake;” chair for the “Hollow Tree”
Prior Knowledge and Experience/Curriculum Content:
Children should be familiar with the bluegrass string instrument family and should have been introduced to the words “wedding, courting and honeymoon,” in order to understand the story. If you choose to, you could read the story to them the week before you began this lesson.
Talk about bluegrass music and instruments. Show posters or pictures of the basic instruments: guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and bass. Also show pictures of Hylo Brown, Doc Watson and any other performers the children hear on the recordings.
Talk about courting (dating), weddings, honeymoons and folk song origins.
Listen to several recordings of “Froggie Went a Courtin.’” Discuss different words and versions. Ask whether the song has a serious or funny plot. Ask students if they would be able to add to the story or change the ending if desired.
Have the students tap the steady beat of the song, and then add rhythm sticks to the recording or have students walk to the music in a circle. I have had 2nd graders play rhythm sticks on beat 1 and tone blocks on beat 3.
Pick actors: Frog, Miss Mouse, Uncle Rat, Wedding Guest, Black Snake or Cat depending on which recording they are acting with. Have different actors each time.
Give a copy of the words to the students to take home.
Indicators of Success:
Learn the words.
Describe instruments they heard.
Name several bluegrass instruments.
Recognize Doc Watson’s picture and Hylo Brown’s picture.
Be able to take the song home and perform it for their friends and families.
There are many sources for the words and music to “Froggie Went a Courtin.’” Different performers have different numbers of verses and a variety of characters and story endings. I let students head Hylo Brown’s version of the song first, but I use the Doc Watson version often for ease of learning and time limitations.