Tuesday, 13 December 2016


'The song expresses the highest philosophy in language that reason does not understand.' ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
I am very fortunate to have been able to work with my daughter (TNT – The New Teacher), in the same school, for a couple of years.

I am also very proud to report that having seen her and the other dedicated young teachers in action, our children’s education is in very good hands!

TNT shares my firm belief in the endless benefits of song-based learning (how could she not?) and enthuses about the positive impact and results, whenever she has incorporated songs into her own teaching day.

As a teacher myself, it delights me to see my own daughter, not only so enthusiastic about helping children learn, but about helping them to enjoy and be involved in their learning, through song, and arts integration in general. This bodes well for a new generation of teachers and learners!

Evidence abounds, that active participation in music can help children in a number of key curriculum learning areas – literacy and numeracy, social and team skills, problem-solving and memory, just to name a few.

This particular post focuses on the use of song for literacy extension.

The rhythmic nature of songs has particular appeal to children, making them particularly useful resources when it comes to auditory learners. Song lyrics not only tell a story, but they can be rich in vocabulary and imagery, providing a perfect platform for building phonemic awareness and firm foundations for literacy, in the emergent reader.

Singing songs is invaluable for engaging and focusing children's attention while contributing towards their imaginative and emotional development, and helping them to make meaning out of things that happen in our world.

Songs, chants, poems, and raps all improve memory of content facts and details and provide a hook for retrieving information easily later. Here is a video of students singing our curriculum-aligned song, 'Workers in our Community'

©Lyrics: Nuala O'Hanlon, B.Ed; Cert Teaching
Music: Kathryn Radloff, B.A. (Hons) Psych.

  • The use of rhyme builds connections and relationships between words and concepts thereby creating context and meaning. Students hear the cadence of the rhyming word patterns and word segments
  • The use of rhythm turns what is being heard (the beats/syllables), into a kinesthetic sensation – it becomes an experience that is felt all over the body.
  • The use of repetition helps to reinforce concepts and 'stick' them in the memory bank!
Below, are a few very simple tips for achieving learning outcomes for literacy (use our FREE lyric sheet for this exercise!):

  • Play the song through a few times
  • Deconstruct the lyrics, pondering on their possible meaning and message
  • Listen for rhyming couplets/repetition of chorus/different instruments, etc.
  • Identify parts of the song: Intro, Chorus, Verse, Bridge, Outro...
  • Silent reading of lyrics
  • Identify and discuss the key theme of the song – often summarized in chorus
  • Comprehension Sheet, comprising questions based on lyrical content
  • Students read lyrics aloud with expression, to get a feel for the rhythm of the language
  • Compare reading a poem/song to the way one would read other text types, e.g. newspaper or story
  • Discuss the poetic elements of song
  • Students recount some of the key messages in the song
  • Students develop a word bank of key words, to be displayed and added to as a unit of work progresses
  • Research and write dictionary definitions of key words and use in sentences
  • Write a list of the Rhyming Couplets
  • Compose a cloze passage
  • Create own verses to add to the song
  • Discuss the use of punctuation in the song lyrics
  • Research the rules of punctuation and grammar in poetry, noting the way it differs from that  of other text types 
  • Discuss the use of grammar in the song to convey mood, meaning and create effect
  • Research the rules of punctuation and grammar in poetry, noting the way it differs from that of other text types, e.g. the use of capital letters at the beginning of each line.
Image: Photobucket

All of our curriculum-aligned songs extend literacy, and our latest, interactive product range, Curriculum Karaoke™  with its video format is proving very popular with teachers and students. This read, sing & learn along MP4 song & lyrics whiteboard video version of our original songs not only motivates and attracts even the most disengaged students and reluctant readers, it extends literacy, and achieves learning outcomes across other key subject areas.

CASE STUDY: Teacher/Librarian, Cherie, finds song lyrics excellent for engaging her students and extending their Literacy. ‘My students used to ask me why we were singing in Library time, until I explained to them that we’re actually studying poetry.There is a lot to be learned from reading and discussing the lyrics of curriculum-based songs, plus, we get a lot of enjoyment from singing the song together, reinforcing learning content.’ ~ Cherie Wilkinson, T/L

Video 1 ~ Integrating Curriculum Learning (Social Studies/H.S.I.E; Creative & Performing Arts; Literacy): Students learned our curriculum-aligned song as part of their unit of work, 'Workers In Our Community'

Video 2 ~ Integrating Literacy & Art: Students presented their item during a school assembly, singing and dramatizing the song, then reading sentences they'd written for artwork they'd created: 'I would like to be a... because...'.
Until next time, yours in singing to learn,
Nuala (

Nuala O'Hanlon
Teacher; Director,
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

A Review: ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for Educators

Our curriculum-aligned songs & lesson materials are available as:

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

Sunday, 11 December 2016


'It's not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.' ~ Roy E. Disney

We do not come into the world with a set of values, we learn them in childhood from those around us.

These values are handed down from generation to generation, guiding their development along the journey into adulthood.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet either of my grandfathers, but their memories were kept alive with the many stories Mum and Dad shared with us, throughout our lives.

One of my favourite stories of Mum’s father, Grandpa Edward, lodges in my memory, as a perfect example of love in action.

The story goes:

One very cold Irish morning, Grandpa cleaned and polished 8 pairs of shoes (yes, that’s right cleaned and polished EIGHT pairs of shoes – his, and those of his 7 children), then set off for work, resplendent in the new jacket my grandmother, Elizabeth, had recently bought for him.

He bravely returned home that evening - minus the new jacket!

When questioned by Nanna, my grandfather explained that he had given it away to someone who needed it more than he, saying, ‘Ah, sure it was freezing cold, and the gentleman had no jacket at all to his name, and I had another one waiting for me in the wardrobe at home.’

It warms my heart to be a granddaughter of this man who was able to see beyond himself, to empathise with a fellow human being, in such a respectful and loving way. Edward met a fellow traveller on the road, cold, and down on his luck, and was able to do something about it, so he did  – simple as that.

The values by which Edward lived his life certainly contributed to influencing the values and behaviour of his seven children. My mum and her six brothers were kindness itself, as they lived their lives, serving the needs of their families and those around them.

Their legacy continues, as I witness those same values in my own siblings, our children, and their cousins.

Albert Schweitzer was correct in saying, ‘Leading by example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing’, and we cannot ever afford to underestimate the influence we have on the young people around us. Our guidance and support are paramount in helping them to develop strong moral compasses and firm foundations, for becoming strong global citizens of the future.

Schools often treat values as a separate, add-on subject, but, as Jean-Paul Satre once stated, ‘Childhood decides’, so it is imperative for positive values to be not only modelled and affirmed in schools but to be also integrated into daily classroom practice and timetables.

When it comes to specific lessons on values, song can be a very practical, non-threatening resource for kickstarting discussion, and a most invaluable tool for integrating learning across other subject areas.

We have a whole school, anthem-style song that does just that.

'Living Values' encapsulates the values set out by the Australian Government’s Nine Values For Australian Schooling document. Here is a preview sample

Below, you’ll find a sample of our song lyrics, the values targeted, and some simple suggestions for integrating this, or any values song you may have at your disposal.

·      Care & Compassion
·      Doing your best
·      Responsibility
·      Freedom                                                         
·      Integrity
·      Respect
·      Fair Go
·      Honesty & Trustworthiness
·      Understanding, Tolerance & Inclusion

Suggestions For Use:

Before playing or singing song, unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g.
  • Line 1, Verse 1: How do we demonstrate care for ourselves and others – at school/home/on the sports field/socially, etc?.
  • Line 5, Verse 1: What does it mean ‘building character is our destiny’? 
  • Line 3, Verse 3: Name someone who comes to mind when you hear the word ‘integrity’
  • Line 3, Verse 4: In what context is ‘sister’ brother’ used?
  • Line 8, Verse 3: What are some of the qualities/values demonstrated by a team?
  • Q: How can we work together as a class team?
  • Q: How can we demonstrate these and other positive values in our dealings with classmates, teachers, parents, siblings, social groups, etc.
(Depending on age of students)
  • Discuss each value in the song and invite students to share examples from their own experiences
  • Write definitions for each of these values
  • Use values words in sentences
Social Studies:
Study the lives of inspirational people such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr,.. and discuss/ write about…values they demonstrated in their lives. 

Students paint each value word from the song and attach to a ruler to form a placard (to be used in a simple, assembly performance piece).

Performance Piece:
At school assembly, students file onto stage, hold up placard, state value and definition, the form a circle and move in circle singing song.

Living Values’ (Sample lyrics):
©Nuala O’Hanlon, lyrics / Kathryn Radloff, music

In our school, we have values
That show how much we care,
About giving all a fair go,
In this great land that we share.

Verse 1
Caring for ourselves and others,
Always aiming to do our best,
Treating everybody fairly,
With understanding and respect.
Building character is our destiny,
We are working for the good of all,
With sincerity and honesty,
Moving forward, walking tall.

I'll leave you with this quote:

Yours in Singing to Learn,


Nuala O'Hanlon

Teacher; Director,
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®
A Review: ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for
Teachers' Testimonials: 
'Our school loves this song! it's become an assembly favourite, where each week, we focus on one value and its meaning. The teachers use it in their classrooms to discuss and reinforce the values we uphold. They report great class discussions and highly recommend! ~ Teacher, TPT
(5/5 Star Rating)

'This is absolutely beautiful and music is such a powerful way for us to encourage our students to have and practise good values. Thank you so much!' ~ 'Bernadette Teaches Music', TPT (5/5 Star Rating) 

'Great lyrics! Thank you! This is fantastic for character assemblies.' ~Meg's Music Room, TPT
(5/5 Star Rating) 
'A wonderful resource.' ~ Colleen F., Teacher, TPT
(5/5 Star Rating)

**FYI: Our teaching teaching resources are available as:


'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


'In the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.’ ~ Plato
Kathryn recording students for chorus of our 'Bully-Free Zone!' song.

My first-born daughter loves going to school; she loves singing and learning ~ and she's the teacher!

It seems like only yesterday I started my own journey as a young teacher - brimming with excitement, enthusiasm and a passionate desire to help children learn.

I am still, if not more passionate about teaching, and feel so privileged to be able to pass on the benefit of my knowledge and experience to my very own child!

I have always sung with my students, and years of teaching experience have taught me that they not only love to sing (yes, even the older ones!), but they also learn what they sing. It was this concept that prompted the idea to write songs  that would help them to learn curriculum content, life and school themes and values - through this enjoyable and highly effective medium.

This multi-sensory activity helps children to learn because it activates and exercises the whole brain, and I will go to my grave (hopefully not for a while yet!) espousing the importance and endless benefits of song-based learning.

Song is a very powerful teaching/learning tool for many reasons.

Songs can:
  • Tell stories
  • Engage & motivate students
  • Integrate learning across key subject areas
  • Help students learn 
  • Convey important messages and information
  • Espouse values
  • Aid recall
  • Create unity
  • Extend literacy - through rhyme, rhythm, and vocabulary...
  • Make learning fun!
The big plus for teachers is that singing is fun, so it’s almost guaranteed to attract disengaged students!

The influence of song across the human lifespan is undeniable.

From an early age, children are introduced to nursery rhymes and other educational songs that assist with early language development and social skills. There are numerous songs teaching everything from the alphabet, number sequencing, and animal names, to the weather, personal hygiene and months of the year.

As children grow older, songs infiltrate their daily lives via television shows, jingles, radio, films, interactive computer games, and pop culture.

As teenagers they listen passionately to 'their' music on stereos and iPods, avidly following their music idols and aspiring to be legends in their own right.

I know that I’m not alone when I say that rhythm helped me to learn and remember (even to this day) my Times Tables. I can only imagine the difficulty of trying to order (let alone remember) the 26 letters of the English Alphabet, without the aid of rhythm and melody!

Music is the one truly universal language. It has no barriers of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

It is the language of today’s youth, and Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America went as far as to say, “…The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” (I live in Australia but the same principle applies!)

Song is one of the most powerful resource tools we have at our disposal for helping children learn, making it such a shame that so many teachers balk at using it in the classroom, citing reasons such as lack of talent, confidence, time, etc.

The good news is that we don’t need to be able to sing like Adele or Pavarotti (or indeed, be able to sing at all), to provide children with the many benefits of this learning medium. Nor is the time factor relevant, as the right song choice can actually cut learning time in half, and ensure retention of the content being taught.

There is no reason for music to be the reserve of the specialist music teacher (if there is one). Modern technology (the good old-fashioned CD player, or smart board) puts daily music integration for learning within the reach of all educators.

Weaving relevant songs into lessons is not only fun, but it can also help to achieve learning outcomes across key subject areas.

(Browse the catalogue of curriculum-aligned songs (& lesson materials) Kathryn & I have created for this very purpose, including our new read, sing & learn along Curriculum Karaoke™ series of illustrated MP4 videos.)

Use Songs For:
  • Setting the mood for the day
  • Motivating & engaging students
  • Introducing and summarising new units of work
  • Kick-starting discussion
  • Reinforcing learning content
  • Aiding recall
  • Extending literacy
  • Assembly & performance pieces
Simple General Tips:
  • Be intentional about the use of songs in your classroom
  • Select, a song that best suits your needs and use it to introduce lesson
  • Older students often respond better to songs from the Rhythm and blues, hip-hop and dance genres
  • Younger children like anything catchy and repetitive
  • Play and listen to song ~ Repetition! Repetition! Repetition!
  • Read through lyrics, then read along while song is played
  • Unpack and discuss the lyrics, line by line
  • Define new/difficult words
  • Maximise participation by learning chorus first
  • Sing the whole song
  • Move to beat
  • Play simple body/music percussion (clap, click, tap, stamp…)
  • Allow students to bring in their own CDs
Until next time,  I'll leave you with these inspired words from Plato, who is quoted as saying:
‘Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.’
Yours in Singing to Learn,
Nuala ♫

Nuala O'Hanlon
Teacher; Director,
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®
A Review: ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for Educators
# QUESTION: How do you use songs with the children in your care?
**FYI: Our teaching resources are available as:

♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫ ♫


During the Middle Ages, few workmen could read or write, so they relied on songs, rhymes, and chants, to help them to be organized to build the great cathedrals of the world.

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®


There’s a wonderful quote from the mystical poet, Rumi, who once said:
‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.’
There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in these words, as those of you who have felt this ‘strange pull’, will understand. It is something innate – unable to be resisted – something that one just has to do…
I myself, have experienced that ‘strange pull’ since childhood – the pull of words - playing with them, rhyming them, singing them, writing them, teaching them, ordering them into prose, puns, story chapters…

Our home is testament to this word obsession of mine, groaning as it does, under the weight of box upon box of information-laden paper, waiting to be uploaded onto my computer (scribbled notations, song lyrics, stories, quotes, research articles for the half-finished novel that I mean to complete before I leave this mortal coil)... but I digress!

Looking back, with the benefit of my 20/20 hindsight vision, over a lifetime of experiences (childhood, teaching, parenting, singing, writing, etc.), I now understand that my passion for singing, teaching and writing, is in fact, my heritage.

My childhood home was a ‘singing home’! My Irish parents were always singing - Mum, in choirs, and around the house; my sharp-witted Dad, a high school Head of English, who kept us all entertained with his self-penned songs, accompanied on his trusty (never rusty) old harmonica.

He would sing us, his 5 children, to sleep at night with his original compositions, and Irish ballads and rebel songs, making singing, for us, not only one of the most natural and enjoyable experiences in the world, but also, one of the most effective methods for learning about life, history, and the world.

I remember those songs, to this day, and still tear up whenever I hear ‘Danny Boy’, one of his favourites, which never fails to take me back to those idyllic childhood days.

They say ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’, and I come from a long Irish line of singers who love to teach/teachers who love to sing, from great aunties, my father, two sisters and myself, to, more recently, my daughter and three nieces.

This Blog, then, is born of passion, belief, and experience: passion for writing, teaching, singing, and helping children to learn; belief in the power of song to help children learn, and diverse experience accumulated from many years in the field.

Teaching has changed in many ways, and it has taught me many things, but the one thing that remains constant, and really strikes a ‘chord’, is that children still love to sing! They respond to it, it makes them happy, engages them, gives them a sense of belonging, and creates a positive classroom mood for the day.

Image: A Year 2 assembly performance of our environmental rap song, 'Keep It Clean!'

The lightbulb moment, which led me to what I do today, is the firm belief that singing also aids learning – children learn what they sing!

I returned to casual classroom teaching a few years ago, after an extended stint, co-writing and publishing curriculum-aligned song packages for schools, with friend and colleague, Kathryn Radloff. Our company, Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs, create professionally-produced songs that target learning sequences of curriculum documents, and enhance, support & integrate classroom learning across key subject areas ~ there is literally 'A Lesson In Every Lyric'

We are very excited about our latest series, Curriculum Karaoke! Teachers and students are loving these illustrated, read, sing & learn along MP4 videos that play on your classroom whiteboards!

Image: A sample slide from our curriculum-aligned song about the human body systems, 'Busy Bodies'.

Image: A sample slide from our song about multiculturalism & diversity, 'One World'.

We are absolutely delighted that they have found their perfect niche in ClickView, whose wonderful learning videos are available, internationally, to subscribing schools!
'ClickView curate and produce educational videos to give teachers the best opportunity to create rich learning experiences and drive deeper student understanding. ClickView is the world's leading producer of educational videos, providing curriculum-aligned video content to schools. With our interactive videos, teachers can turn passive viewing into active learning experiences.'

FYI: Our animated Curriculum Karaoke videos are available on ClickView, to subscribing schools.

Stepping into the classroom setting, along with a definite feeling of ‘coming home’, there was a renewed excitement for being back with the children, and for the whole teaching and learning process!

It is a joy to be able to use and share our curriculum-aligned songs where I casual teach, at a really beautiful local school. The students often request their favourites and it enables them to enjoy singing while actually extending literacy and learning curriculum content (win-win)! 

Singing continues to be an integral part of my teaching day - and my life; I am more passionate than ever about helping children to learn through this powerful, enjoyable and highly-effective medium, and look forward to sharing with you what I’ve learned, and continue to learn, on this journey.

For now, I'll leave you with words from the master, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who once said:
'The best way to learn is through the powerful force of rhythm.'

Yours in singing to learn, ♫

Nuala (ツ)

Nuala O'Hanlon
Teacher; Director,
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®
A Review: ‘In terms of application to the classroom, and usability by teachers they rate a tick in every box.’ ~ Brendan Hitchens, teacher: Music In Action, A Magazine for Educators
# QUESTION: How do you use songs with the children in your care?

FYI: Our teaching teaching resources are available as:

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®