Friday, January 31, 2014

Pete Seeger in my Classroom: Abiyoyo

Iconic American folk singer Pete Seeger passed away this week, on Monday, January 27.  In 2006, one of my first grade students introduced me to Pete Seeger's retelling of the South African folk story and lullaby, Abiyoyo.  

Abiyoyo originally appeared on Seeger's 1958 album for children, Sleep-Time: Songs and Stories, and most recently on the Songs and Stories for Little Children CD.

I'm not sure how I missed this classic during my childhood and that of my children, but I did. Anyway, from 2006 on, I used this story every year in my classroom. I introduced it during the first week of school and we replayed it often throughout the school year. We would just listen to the  story 5 or 6 times, then I would introduce the book and read it aloud a few times, we would choral read it together, and sometimes we would listen to the CD and follow along by turn the pages of the book. I had multiple copies of the book available for independent reading and a listening center. My students loved this story--it is both terrifying and calming.

My students loved comparing and contrasting the language in the print version and the oral language on the CD. We had discussions about the characters, what word "ostracized" meant, and the meaning of the story. And, the CD version was the perfect thing to put on during the last 10 minutes of the day--especially after a stressful day; my students would lay back on the carpet and just listen. The repetitious lullaby chorus is so soothing!
abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo,
abiyoyo, ya yoyo, ya yoyo
abiyoyo, ya yoyo, ya yoyo

A few years ago, I found this episode from Reading Rainbow, with Pete playing his banjo and telling the story and added this video into the mix.

Rest in peace, Pete Seeger, your legacy lives on!

The activities mentioned above are compatible with many of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards for 1st Grade (and possibly other grade levels as well):

Speaking & Listening: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.2

Reading: Literature: Any number of the standards here