bearI’m starting the new year with an old song, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” I looked in my copy of Tom Glazer’s Treasury of Songs for Children (Doubleday, 1988), as well as in Wikipedia, and it doesn’t appear to have any kind of story behind it. It’s just a silly song set to the tune of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” (which means of course that you can use the uke chords I offer here for that song, too).

I’ve often used this song for toddler and preschool storytime sessions in which I brought out the big box of rhythm instruments – the drums, tambourines, shakers, and sticks – and descended with the children into sonic chaos. But it’s a fun sonic chaos, since most young children don’t really get the idea of a beat, but they sure enjoy making noise. The trick, of course, is “Can you, as song leader, guide this noise, and have the children follow your directions?”

I would encourage the kids to beat, shake, or pound their instruments whenever I’d reach the spot indicated by “dramatic pause” in the lyric sheet. I’d pause in the song, strum the uke percussively (rest your fingers, lightly, over the strings and strum yourself a drum roll), and shout out, “Faster!” or “Slower!” or “Louder!” or “Softer!” and then…. “Stop!” And then I’d go right into “To see what he could see…”

It’s fun. Try it.