Monday, August 1, 2016

Taking My Travels Back to the Students: Canoe Song and Land of the Silver Birch

Land of the Silver Birch

In third grade every year, my district colleagues and I introduce two songs that quickly become school favorites, the “Canoe Song” (Also called My Paddle) and “Land of the Silver Birch”. Once taught, they instantly become favorite songs. We teach “Land of the Silver Birch” first. The students learn how to do the solfa (solfege) and learn about how it is a la pentatonic song.

We also learn about ostinatos and the students enjoy tapping the Hi-ya-ya-hi-ya first while others are singing the melody and then they love the challenge of tapping it while they also sing the melody. They take the challenge seriously. They love playing this ostinato on the drum while the class sings the melody. They come up with new ostinatos, such as “land of the silver birch”, “home of the beaver”, “land where the might moose”, “wanders at will”, “blue lake and rocky shore”, and “I will return once more” repeated over and over while other students sing the melody.

My Paddle (Canoe Song)

Later in the year, we learn another favorite song, “My Paddle”, also known as “the Canoe Song”. It is another wonderful song that we sing ostinato’s to, such as “my paddle’s keen and bright”, “flashing like silver”, and other phrases of the song repeated over and over while other students sing the melody. I start by singing it and see who can tell me what they think the song is about. The students enjoy pretend paddling on the strong beats while singing.

Partner Songs

Finally, after we have learned these two songs very well, we sing them as partner songs and finally, add ostinato’s to each song and then drums. The students own these songs.  Be sure your students know both songs very well and that you get a strong student to conduct each part. Establish the two starting pitches and have the students sing the before you help them get started. If I get a good video of my kids singing the two parts together, I’ll post it.

Canoeing on the Lake

I spent a lot of time in Ohio this summer with my family. My dad had Parkinsons’s disease for over 10 years. I was fortunate to be able to spend 2 weeks in June and we spent a lot of time together. He passed away mid July so we went back to celebrate his life and spend another two weeks with my mom. My brother and sister have a camper that stays in a campground all year around so they can go there for months in spring, summer and fall to relax on the weekend. We enjoy going there to spend quiet time and like canoeing on the lake.

While on the lake, my husband was a very good sport and helped me record both songs so my students can get a better feel for these songs. I teach in a low-income school. Most of my kids will never get a chance to go out on a lake in a canoe, so this will help them visualize what the song is about. Even my students who do things like this enjoy the video.

The first video "Land of the Silver Birch". We recorded it right by a beaver's dam. We didn't get to see the beaver that day. 

The second video is "My Paddle", also known as the "Canoe Song". I sang as my husband paddled on the strong beat, even changing sides at the end of the phrase. He is such a good sport!

My husband and I

I hope you enjoy teaching your students these songs. Be sure to read my post about my travels to Italy and other places in the last few years. There are tons of fun songs you’ll want to teach your students!


  1. This is awesome! I love the videos to give students context for the songs. You have such a pretty voice!

  2. It's so lovely. I would like to say that this video is very wonderful and your voice is so romantic. I love it. custom speaker boxes

    1. Thank you. My husband loves my voice too!