Wednesday, 18 January 2017


'There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, and that their lives are free from fear and want.' ~ Kofi Annan

In an ideal world, all children would feel safe and happy at school. Sadly, especially if recent news stories are anything to go by, this is not the reality. 

Education is key when it comes to dealing with unacceptable behaviours, and as a teacher and lyricist, I felt prompted to create a teaching resource for this purpose.   

My colleague, Kathryn Radloff worked her usual magic with the music, and the result is 'Bully-Free Zone!', a whole school, curriculum-aligned song that provides a non-threatening, positive behaviours approach to dealing with this serious issue.

Here's a preview sample of the downloadable, read, sing & learn along Curriculum Karaoke™ version of the song:

©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
                                                                               'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

The word 'bullying' is used a lot these days, so it's important to begin by defining the term.

'Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).'
Have you ever felt bullied?

Bullying is nothing new - it has certainly been going on for as long as I can remember.

My first experience of this type of behaviour was way back in the ‘olden days’, when, as a 10 year old, I became what is known as an ‘immigrant’. 

My family (Mum, Dad, three sisters, brother, and I) had farewelled all of our family, friends and neighbours in Ireland and England, and set sail for our new life in Australia, where Dad was to take up a teaching post as Head of English Department in a country high school.

Migrants were still rather a novelty in country NSW in those days, and certain students in my new school saw my minority status as an open invitation to tease, ridicule, and humiliate 'the new kid on the block’.

They repeatedly mimicked my accent, made fun of my English clothing and whatever Mum had put in my lunchbox for the day, and excluded me from their games. I began to hate going to school.

It was a very lonely, distressing, and unhappy time (until they got to know me and we became friends), and to this day, I still cringe whenever I recall the time that the nun on duty at playtime rang the bell to command the other children to include me in their games!

Bullying behaviour, then, is nothing new, however, what is new is the frequency with which we are hearing about this behaviour, and the alarming rate at which it appears to be escalating, in our schools and wider society. I talk more about this in a radio interview, after a video of a school playground bullying incident went viral, a few years ago.

Bullying occurs in many different forms - from verbal, emotional, and racist bullying, to psychological, physical, and the now, all-too-prevalent, modern-day phenomenon, cyberbullying – but one thing is for certain, whatever form it takes, it is never OK!

Mahatma Gandhi once stated that,
 'If we want to create lasting peace, we must begin with the children.'
There is great wisdom in this, and education is key.

Parents, schools and wider communities have major roles to play in helping to achieve this. We do it by:
  • Creating and promoting peaceful, safe, and secure environments for children
  • Modelling positive behaviours built on mutual respect, trust, and empathy
  • Setting very clear behaviour expectations and guidelines
  • Helping children to understand and take responsibility for their own behaviour and consequences of their own actions
  • Providing children with coping strategies for dealing with distressing behaviours, if and when they arise.

Looking back with adult eyes, I’m sure the behaviour of that handful of students from my school stemmed more from fear of difference and a lack of understanding than from any conscious malice on their part.

Hence, my decision to tackle the issue of school bullying head-on, in a way that would make it easy for children to understand ~ the non-threatening, effective medium of song.

I drew on my own childhood and teaching experiences to create the lyrics  which address various types of unacceptable behaviours, including the ever-increasing cyber bullying ~ with an emphasis on the right of every child to feel safe and protected.

Kathryn and I are very grateful for the support of a wonderful local primary school principal, Mrs Terri Paterson who, together with the parent body, graciously allowed us to work with and record some of their children on the song’s chorus, and to record a student assembly performance video of 'Bully-Free Zone!' with an introduction by older students ~ children teaching children!

Principal's Testimonial:
“Students from St Kieran's Catholic Primary School have been involved in the recording of this Keystone Creations song which promotes a positive behaviours/values approach to the serious issue of bullying. The song lyrics and catchy chorus, 'Bullying is NOT OK - NO WAY!' help students to understand and address this unacceptable behaviour.” 
Mrs Terri Paterson, Principal
*'Bully-Free Zone!' song is downloadable: as

We are very proud of the students, who took ownership of the message, some even going as far as writing to a local newspaper to tell of their experience, and to urge other schools to become bully-free zones:

As a teacher, I use this positive behaviours song with students, to kick start discussion about unacceptable behaviours and methods available to students, for resolving conflict. 

We unpack the song lyrics line by line, defining and clarifying words, then sing the song through a couple of times. We've included a verse about cyberbullying for older students, who enjoy creating their own slogans, which can then be used in assembly performances, as they reinforce and spread the whole school message ~ 'Bullying is NOT OK - NO WAY!'

Until next time,

Yours in SINGING to Learn,

  • ‘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
  • Preview samples of our Curriculum Karaoke™ video series of read, sing & learn along, curriculum-aligned songs.
  • Our ever-growing, Curriculum KaraokeTM read, sing & learn along series is available on ClickView to all subscribing schools.

*FYI: 'Bully-Free Zone!' is available in a variety of downloadable formats:
  •  MP4 (song & lyrics video file for your classroom whiteboard)
  •  MP3 (song audio file & lesson materials)
  •  Lyrics Only (lyric sheet pdf).
 *FYI: Our curriculum-aligned songs & lesson materials are available as:
  •  Hard copy (books/CDs)
  •  Downloadable song packages (songs & lesson materials: reproducible   lyrics, targeted learning & values outcomes, suggested activities,   assembly  performance items, Music score 
  •  Curriculum Karaoke™ read, sing & learn along, illustrated MP4 videos

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

'Bullying is a problem borne of dysfunction whereby the perpetrator and the victim are caught in a negative cycle of fear and control. We, as caretakers and educators have a duty to interrupt this cycle and facilitate change through early education and intervention. This song, 'Bully-Free Zone!' addresses the issues in a positive, child-friendly way. It not only provides strategies to help empower the victim, but also raises awareness and accountability in the perpetrator.'  ~ Eileen Condell, Psychotherapist

Thursday, 12 January 2017


‘When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment, we have no compass to govern us, nor can we know distinctly to what port to steer.’ ~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Rules are the mark of any civilized society.

Children are not born knowing rules, they learn these by degrees - rules of the home, the family car, public transport, public places, sports grounds, places of worship, and so on.

School communities are no exception. School and classroom rules exist to ensure harmony for all, serving as a reminder that, among other things, teachers have a right to teach and students have a right to learn - in a happy, safe, and secure environment.

When it comes to protecting the rights of the members belonging to these learning communities, the rules and responsibilities, as well as the consequences for not adhering to these, need to be clearly stated, understood and respected.

(Part of the chorus lyrics from 'Our Class Rules ~ OK!' song)

Children learn in many different ways – I’m a huge fan of helping them to learn through song - if it can be learned, it can be sung, and vice versa.

Music is not only highly effective for motivating and engaging young learners, but, because it activates different parts of the brain, it is also invaluable for aiding recall - ensuring that lyrical content will have more chance of being remembered.

With that in mind, I wrote some basic classroom rules and behaviours, in lyrical form, which, together with colleague, Kathryn Radloff's, catchy melody, help students to learn, remember, and take responsibility for classroom rules and behaviours – through the enjoyable medium of song.

I, myself, use ‘Our Class Rules ~ OK!’ in schools, to establish and reinforce classroom practices, and my daughter, TNT (The New Teacher) reports using the song throughout the school day, as a handy point of reference.

TNT tells me that she has only to mention a line from the song, and students are reminded of correct/safe classroom behaviour and practices (e.g. chair legs on floor; hands up in the air; point scissors to the ground…).

Sometimes, a quizzical look in their direction is all it takes, for students to remember the rule – enabling them to take personal responsibility for their own safety and that of others within the classroom.


Below, you will find sample song lyrics and a few tips and suggestions for using this, or any other song about classroom rules: 

Sample Lyrics:

We have rules and responsibilities,
To keep us safe and happy
And we take these very seriously,
We care for everybody!

Verse 2
Put –
Hands up in the air,
If we have something to share,
Knowing it’s the right way;
Try to be polite,
Try to never fuss or fight
And then we’ll have a good day.
©Lyrics, Nuala O’Hanlon / Music, Kathryn Radloff
Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

                                                                                                  Image Source:

Suggested Activities:

  • Discuss why rules are important (if we don’t follow rules, there are consequences, for ourselves and others
  • Discuss the need to feel safe and happy – what can we do to ensure this happens/we all have the right to… but we also have a personal responsibilities. 
  • Talk about good choices /not so good – consequences of both and the need for accountability
  • Brainstorm ways in which we can show we care and respect
  • Listen to song and list rules mentioned
  • Unpack/discuss lyrics, line by line, e.g:
  • Why do we have rules and responsibilities?
  • What does ‘rule’/ ‘responsibility’ mean?
Verse 2: Lines 1 & 2: 
  • Why do you think it is important to raise hands if we want to speak?
  • Identify and record rules mentioned in song
  • Brainstorm other class rules to add to list and continue to add as term progresses
  • Display rules around the room and refer to them often (use these for performance – see below)
  • Create a chart of class RULES / RESPONSIBILITIES / display these in classroom
  • Each student chooses a rule to be used to caption illustration (ref. ART, below)
  • Research rules for various communities/institutions and compare similarities/differences, e.g. home; school;  sport clubs; public transport, etc.
  • Discuss the reasons for these various rules
  • Create a class graph, recording different groups to which the students belong (students write out rules of these groups, giving reasons these are important)
  • Students illustrate/paint their chosen rule (see above
Create cartoons with speech bubbles, illustrating consequences of breaking rules, e.g. student falling off chair, after leaning too far back

  • Display students’ artwork (see above) around stage, and dramatize the song, pointing to the words: *RULES *RESPONSIBILITIES, during each chorus

Yours in Singing to Learn,

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

**FYI: Our curriculum-aligned teaching teaching resources are available as:
**Blog Learning Content: 
©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff

'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®

Friday, 6 January 2017


Integrating Classroom Learning ~ Through Song

Image Source:

The most significant learning occurs when emotions are integrated with instruction, because all body systems are united.  The Arts are strongly linked to emotions, enhancing the likelihood that students will remember something.’ ~ Eric Jensen, author of Teaching with the Brain in Mind

As I sit here writing this post, I hear music all around me.

It’s to be heard in the laugh of the fat, fluffy kookaburra sitting in the gum tree, right outside my window; it’s in the caws and tweets of the marauding neighbourhood birds; the hum of an overhead plane, heading for faraway places. (I’m not even going to mention the rhythmic bang, bang, banging of new carpet being laid, in my study! :-) 

Indeed, our world (to paraphrase a very famous song) is alive with the sound of music! It’s in our DNA from the very beginning - children sing before they talk, rock and sway before they walk. We live in a  rhythmic world!

Image Source: Facebook ~ The Violin Channel

National Arts In Education Week, which occurs each September, states that:
'Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines... is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.' 
Music, specifically singing, is a very powerful, multi-sensory discipline for helping children to achieve competencies and learning outcomes across key subject areas of the school curriculum.

Today, I’m going to suggest a few simple tips for integrating learning across key subject areas ~ through song.

I've chosen the universal theme, multiculturalism.

First of all, select a multiculturally-themed, age and stage-appropriate song which will help children to understand various aspects of different cultures in our world.

I'm going to use the chorus and a couple of verses from one of our
curriculum-aligned songs'One World' (CURRICULUM KARAOKE™ read, sing & learn along video sample below) that my colleague, Kathryn Radloff, and I prepared earlier (but the suggestions are generic enough, that the same principles apply)!

One World 
©Lyrics: Nuala O’Hanlon / Music: Kathryn Radloff

We are one world with different nationalities,
Some travel here to settle, from far across the seas;
All connected by our one humanity,
We are here because it is a great place to be!

Verse 6
Putting aside fiesta, siesta, we are all the same.
Forget skin colour, food and clothing, customs, different names.
Belonging to this human race, we’re all sisters and brothers,
So let us stand together now and be there for each other.
© 2007 Lyrics: Nuala O’Hanlon / Music: Kathryn Radloff 

Image Source: Facebook ~ Hippie Peace Freak 

Simple Suggestions for Integrating Key Subject Areas:

  • Research and sing songs from different countries/eras in history
  • Research history of migrant families/indigenous people
  • Students dress up in national costumes and present talks, told from the point of view of a child/adult/rich person/poor person/slave…, from different countries/historical eras   
Social Studies
  • Discuss ways people are same/different
  • Unpack song, line by line
  • Explore the different ways people live, e.g. dress, eat, sleep, shelter, shop, celebrate...
  • Research flags from other countries (children may bring in their own, from home)
Science & Technology 
  • Research weather patterns around the globe
  • Discuss the differences in climates and seasons of other countries 
  • Brainstorm the ways in which these impact on people's lives          
  • Make simple dishes from other lands 
  • Share a playground picnic lunch, comprising foods from other lands
'... in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.' ~ Plato
  • Locate verses, chorus, bridge, interlude
  • Listen for specific instruments, e.g. bells, drums, sound effects, A Cappella (voices only)
  • Allow students to select simple instruments, such as castanets, maracas: each plays a line of the song, all play in last verse and chorus…
  • Discuss different music styles around the world – pop, rock, jazz, current artists…
  • Research national anthems, dances, musical instruments from around the world
  • Students dress in national costumes, decorate stage with world globe, flags from other lands (and those painted in class), and display flashcard greetings written in various languages
  • Perform song, joining hands and circling ‘globe’, performing simple actions for chorus
  • Paint while listening to different types of music, fast/slow; quiet/loud, etc.
  • Paint flags from other countries, attach to rulers and use for assembly performance piece (see above)
  • Use various art mediums to illustrate different lines of song
  • Produce a powerpoint to accompany the music with artistic images that reflect the message of the song
If you are new to the idea of integrating song, it's helpful to start by incorporating just one suggestion that suits your teaching style, and build on that. I guarantee that once you see the effect it has on the children and their learning, you'll be as excited as I am, about this educational practice!

I hope this has been helpful, and look forward to sharing more about song-based learning, in my next post!

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

**FYI: Our curriculum-aligned teaching teaching resources are available as:
**Blog Learning Content: 
©Nuala O’Hanlon & Kathryn Radloff
KEYSTONE CREATIONS ~ Educational Songs
'A Lesson In Every Lyric' ®



'A Lesson in Every Lyric'®