Play and sing along with the vocal recording of Going to the Zoo (Click on Play 1, which is the recording with vocals. For printed notation, click on the title). This recording has delightful variations in style and tempo that reflect the lyrics of the song.
For younger students, the teacher sings the verses and invites the students to sing along on the refrain as they become comfortable doing so. If simple, consistent motions are added to each phrase of the refrain, the children can learn it very quickly. Older students may be able to read most of the lyrics to the song if they are projected for the class to see and the teacher helps the children track their place in the text. Enjoy exploring some of the lesson ideas included on the notation page.
Prepare to have the children help you create very simple new verses by modeling the process. Choose one animal, followed by a single-word description of something that animal might do. Turn that into a new verse, such as:
Using suggestions given by the children, create a vertical list of several zoo animals on the board.
Then have the children suggest single-word ideas of what each animal might do. Because young children are inclined to suggest either adjectives or entire phrases, I find it helpful to choose one animal from the list and ask the children to act out how that animal would move. After they show me how that animal might move, I ask them to think of a word that describes how they were moving. After taking several suggestions, I choose one of the words to write next to that animal’s name on the board.
After repeating this process several times, we have two parallel lists on the board. There is a list of animals on the left side (nouns) and a list of matching action words (verb) on the right.
First-graders who were preparing to visit an aquarium created these words for three additional verses:
We would sing: See the sting ray float, float, floating… etc.
The recording has 7 verses, with the 6th verse becoming very slow, and the 7th verse resuming the original, quick tempo. If you use the “Play 2” recording for this activity, it will play the accompaniment only and will not interfere with your new lyrics. The children enjoy moving while they sing their new words.
It is simple to extend the lesson to teach identification of nouns and verbs. Simply write the word “Noun” above the list of animals and “Verb” above the list of actions. Discuss how all the words on the Noun list are things that can be touched and picked up. (One student pointed out to me that some animals are so big they have to have a giant pick them up.) Verbs are the things that the nouns do, such as float.
Props can be helpful in teaching this concept. If each child has a cutout or stick puppet of the various animals they will be singing about, they can hold the noun in their hands, and then move it the way the verb describes.
If props are not practical, children can demonstrate nouns, by making themselves into a statue of the animal word the teacher is pointing to. They then demonstrate verbs by making the action the verb describes. When the children have mastered this, the teacher might point to a pair of words (i.e. lion, roar), then call out “Noun!” or “Verb!” and have the children respond accordingly.
Create more verses if you have time. Enjoy singing and moving to the song one more time.