The Orff-Schulwerk of Music: "Angry Birds Baked in a Pie"!


"Angry birds baked in a pie...Wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?

Illustration by Randalf Caldecott (1846-1886) from Hey Diddle Diddle and Bye, Baby Bunting. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882.

True, many of the old nursery rhymes are what we consider politically incorrect and out of style. Nowadays, it's angry birds on a hand held device who are being noticed by children playing a video game. Nowadays, it seems cruel to think of baking black birds in a pie just so the king could have a joke or two!

Photos from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

However, many educators believe that the children of today are missing out on a rich part of language development because they don't listen to and recite old fashioned nursery rhymes.

This book is available at Amazon at this link: Favorite Nursery Rhymes

Doug Goodkin, an internationally renowned Orff-Schulwerk presenter and instructor, has written many books on music and young children. He happened to be one of my instructors when I took my Orff-Schulwerk training in the 1990s and I can attest to his expertise in the field of music education. He has also been the music director at the San Francisco School since the 1970s and he has worked with children from preschool age through middle school. Here is the link to his site:

His wonderful book, A Rhyme In Time,  is chock full of great ways to introduce children to the principles of music through nursery rhymes. His books can be found at Amazon: Amazon Doug Goodkin's Page.

In his book, Doug observes:

Nursery rhymes are rich in sound; "Jack and Jill," "Lucy Locket, "Peas Porridge Hot"... all set the young speaker down the garden path of alliteration. The work of phonetics is greatly enriched by Mother Goose...the play of language comes to the forefront.
Here, Doug offers a great comparison about imagery:
Imagery: "The cow jumped over the moon...the dish ran away with the spoon"       "Five geese in a flock...sit and sing by a spring"Such delicious images in these rhymes! The young child's dreamlike world is given an even greater vibrancy by the color in these word pictures.Years later, this experience with alliteration and imagery will re-surface while reading Gerard Manley Hopkins:"...skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; moles all in stipple upon trout that swim..."Compare that to some contemporary children's songs:"Oh, you walk and you walk and you walk and you stop!""Touch your shoulders, touch your knees, raise your arms and drop them please."Gone is the fancy, the music, the poetry! The children fed on this diet will grow up to be good respectable citizens who read the newspaper, but they will miss one of the great gifts of language---its capacity to evoke fantastic imagery." (from A Rhyme in Time, Doug Goodkin)

Illustration by Randalf Caldecott (1846-1886). "And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon," from Hey Diddle Diddle and Bye, Baby Bunting. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882.

Parents & teachers can play many musical games with young children using old fashioned nursery rhymes. Some of Doug Goodkin's ideas are:

  • Adult speaks each phrase, leaving out the rhyming word, then inviting the child to fill it in
  • Child (and adult) can "mime" the actions
  • Adult & child can sing one part and then say one part, or match gestures (ex: arm high/low) and sing/say the words in a high then a low voice
  • The text can be transferred to rhythm instruments or to body percussion
  • You can create a new text
  • Create a new text in another language!
  • Turn the whole thing into a movement activity (ex: hop to the words of one part of the rhyme, then tiptoe for another part)

There will probably be many fun ideas that your child comes up with all on her own, too!

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