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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Froggy Went A Courtin'

The school I was working in last year was new to the Kodaly approach and had suffered lots of disruptions to their music program in the few years before I started working there, so some of the older students were at times a little difficult to get on side. The idea that I wanted them to sing, and not only sing but sing IN FRONT OF PEOPLE took a bit of getting used to. So too did the idea of folk dances.

Eventually they came round and discovered that they can actually be really fun - especially if you go into it with the right attitude and are ready to have a laugh. I think this song was the turning point for a lot of them and was one of the highlights that came up a lot in the reflections that I get my Yr 6s to do at the end of the year. I also had a lot of requests to finish off lessons with this folk dance if we ever had time to spare (haha, spare time in a music classroom. Hilarious!)

There are a number of variations on this song, including style, melody, form and especially the lyrics! They're all about a frog who wants to marry a mouse, but some include daring battles where Froggy fights off other suitors, other versions include him bargaining with Mousie's uncle Rat for permission.

All of them feature a chorus of nonsense words that goes like this: Kee-mo Ki-mo, Ki-mo kee / way down yonder in the hollow tree/ an owl and a bat and a bumblebee / King kong kitchee kitchee ki-me- oh.

That in itself is a fun tongue-twister for kids to get their mouths around!

I introduced the song by playing my lap dulcimer (check out a cool DIY one here) and teaching the kids a Call and Response version of the song much like the first video below. We then explored the form of the song once it was familiar enough and had a musicology moment talking about the origins of Call and Response. In the next lesson I showed them the folk dance set to this first recording.

A few versions:

This one by Laura Veirs is great, though it is a little fast and the lyrics can sometimes be a little hard to understand so I wouldn't use it to introduce your students to this song for the first time. The fast tempo made for a very lively folk dance though!

Then there's this version by Elizabeth Mitchell which I think is absolutely beautiful!

After the students were familiar with the folk dance and could sing the chorus inside out (most even knew the verses pretty well by now) then I showed them the Elizabeth Mitchell version to do a compare and contrast.

Students completed the Venn Diagram that is part of my Froggy bundle available on TeachersPayTeachers showing the similarities and differences between these versions. A colleague of mine who teaches secondary music was stoked to hear we were doing this in a primary setting as a portion of VCE music assessment is on writing about the differences between two interpretations of the same work. You can never start preparing these skills too early!

It's also a fascinating exercise to have students play "Spot The Difference" between the two - both in terms of instrumentation, style, tempo etc. but also just looking at the two sets of lyrics and how different they've become. What a great lesson in the fluid nature of folk songs and the ways in which they can change and grow from person to person!

If you'd like to try out this folk song and dance with your kids, head over to my TeachersPayTeachers store and download the Froggy bundle to get the sheet music, dulcimer chords, dance instructions and some worksheets like the Venn diagram I mentioned above.

Happy dancing!

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