Children have heard the tune to Auld Lang Syne, but very few of them know the words or what the lyrics mean. In this lesson, the children learn about the song, its origins, and how to sing it. I love to do this lesson early in January when the students come back from their winter holidays. Most of them are eager to reengage with school, and this is a fun lesson to get the creativity and energy flowing again. Use confetti, streamers, and noise makers, and make party hats if you are up for a true celebration!
1 and everyone older
To teach the children to understand and sing the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne. (AASL 4.1.8, “Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning.”)
Each student will be able to explain what “Auld Lang Syne” means and sing the chorus with his classmates.
Ask the students whether they have ever heard this melody. (Play a sample of the audio files from the Wikipedia article “Auld Lang Syne.”) They will probably be able to hum the tune, but will not know what the words mean.
Ask the kids where they have heard the song, when they have sung it, or if there are any special traditions associated with it. This will let you assess their current understanding.
Teach the children the history of Auld Lang Syne. Include that Auld Lang Syne is:
- A poem written by Robert Burns, a Scotsman
- Set to a traditional Scottish folk tune
- Means “To Old Times” or “To Times Long Past”
- Honors the last year while looking forward to the new year
- Is traditionally sung at New Year festivities.
Show the children a picture of Robert Burns, a map of Scotland, and the Scottish flag, so that they have a context for the song.
Pass out the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne (attached). Read and discuss them with the children so that they understand what the lyrics mean. Go slowly, as the language is challenging. For example, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” translates into modern English as “Should you forget your old friends?” Try to make the language accessible to the children. Let them write on their lyrics sheets if that will help them remember the meaning of the poem. You may wish to concentrate only on the first and last verses, as is done in the first recording in the Wikipedia audio files.
Sing the song together a few times. Use a few different YouTube recordings if you want to give some variety to your singing. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do a rock version, and Mariah Carey has a modern version, but there are many to choose from. Be sure to play a traditional Scottish bagpipe version of the song. I particularly like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to1xT93IlUI
If you have time, let the children make and throw confetti, make and decorate party hats, or blow noisemakers. They will enjoy having their very own New Year’s Back-To-School Celebration!
Ask the children to review with you some of what they have learned. Use questions like these as a wrap-up:
- Who wrote Auld Lang Syne?
- What country and language was Auld Lang Syne written in?
- When is Auld Lang Syne most commonly sung?
- What does Auld Lang Syne mean?
- Computer and Internet to access the Wikipedia article “Auld Lang Syne” and the three audio recordings.
- Speakers and the ability to play back the three audio recordings from the Wikipedia article.
- Copies of Auld Lang Syne Lyrics (attached).
- Materials for making confetti and/or party hats.
- Noisemakers (if you can find them on sale at a party shop after New Year.)
The few times I have taught this lesson, the kids have really enjoyed learning the song. However, once I taught it and a Scottish member of staff told me that I have it all wrong! She said that you must lock arms and sing it quickly, with gusto! Most of the online recordings are slow. They feel like ballads, but my Scottish friend that the song should be sung more like a celebration! Maybe you can find a Scotsman or Scotswoman to lend some authenticity to your lesson, but either way, your kids will learn something of cultural significance and will enjoy themselves!
Recommended books for this lesson:
Robert Burns, Scotland, Poetry, Auld Lang Syne, Songs, New Year’s Eve, New Year, Celebrations