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“Oh, John the Rabbit”: From Story to Song
By Emilie Coakley and Elizabeth Mitchell
Students will learn to appreciate the process of telling a story through song, while learning basic musical skill like rhythm, singing on pitch, and call-and-response format. The featured song is “Oh, John the Rabbit”, a traditional story-song about a Rabbit that steals all the vegetables from the garden. The song and video is performed by Elizabeth Mitchell, her family, and friends and is from her 2010 album Sunny Day.
Suggested Grade Levels: Pre-K to 2nd Grade
Culture Group: American
Genre: Folk and Children’s songs
Instruments: Voice and rhythm sticks
Co-Curricular Areas: Phonics and fine motor skill (drawing and writing)
Academic Subjects: Music; Drawing; Writing
National Standards: 1; 2; 8
Prerequisites: A previous knowledge and practice of call-and-response singing is helpful but not required.
- Learn how to sing a melody and practice singing on pitch (1)
- Practice keeping a steady beat and copying rhythm (2)
- Learn call-and-response format (1,8)
- Take musical initiative through singing the “call” part and leading their peers in song (8)
- Relate story to song, learning how a song can both tell a story and have a story behind it (8)
- Exercise fine motor and phonics skill with writing and drawing about songs learned (8)
- “Oh, John the Rabbit” by Elizabeth Mitchell and family, on the Smithsonian Folkways album Sunny Day
- Rhythm sticks (optional, otherwise can just do hand clapping)
- 1. Sing me a Story (1,8)
- 2. Rhythm and Song ( 1,2,8)
1. Sing me a Story
A: Have you heard?
- Ask students if they have ever heard of John the Rabbit?
- Play the song “Oh, John the Rabbit”
You can tell them that Ms. Elizabeth Mitchell is going to sing them the story
- Have each student share one thing that they learned about the story of John the Rabbit from Ms. Elizabeth’s song
B: Sing along
- “Oh, John the Rabbit” again, with the teacher singing the call part and prompting the students to sing the response part
- Switch roles and play and sing through the song again with the students singing the call part and the teachers singing the response
C. Owning the song
- Break the class into two and have one have sing the call and the other have the response
- Switch the roles of each group, try to have students sing through the song without the recording
Write/draw it out:
- Depending on the skill levels of the students, have them either draw or draw and write a caption for or sentence about the story of “Oh, John the Rabbit”
Take note of the students’ ability to pay attention to the lesson, sing on pitch, and follow the call and response structure in order to know what elements to focus on for subsequent lessons.
2. Rhythm and Song
A: Rhythm sticks or hand clapping—simply rhythm exercise
- Model a simple four beat measure, using numbers for each beat (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3...)
- Ask students to clap or play along on beat
- Once they’ve mastered playing on beat, ask them to play ever other beat (on 1 and 3 or 2 and 4)
If students are having trouble with keeping beat have them say numbers or internalize the pulse by walking or stepping in place to the beat might help
B: Reviewing “Oh, John the Rabbit”
- Ask students to retell the story of John the Rabbit, based on what they learned last week
- Sing through the song as a class, without the recording if possible
Can invite a few students to stand at the front of the class and help lead the song by singing the call part with the teacher
C: Keeping beat to Oh, John the Rabbit
- Play “Oh, John the Rabbit”, having the students keep the beat by playing or clapping
- If students are still having trouble keeping the beat, or need to get their energy out, have them march around the room to the beat while singing through the song
- Play the students Elizabeth Mitchell’s music video for “Oh, John the Rabbit” and ask them to identify who sang the call and who sang the response in this version.
Observe each students attentiveness and behavior during the lesson. Give praise if warranted and/or discuss with the class ways to make the future lessons smoother and more productive.