man reading

Memory Songs – Idea File

Inspired by Jean Ritchie’s “The Blue Bird Song,” students write songs about memories from their childhoods.
Grades: 6-8

Teaching Concepts:

  • The inspiration for writing a song can come from many places, including memories from childhood.
  • Writing lyrics for a melody combines music and language arts skills.

Academic Content

  • Music: elements of music (melody), purposes of music (artistic expression)
  • Music and Social Studies: Appalachian culture
  • Language Arts: creative writing

Lesson Idea
Resource: “The Blue Bird Song,” performed by Jean Ritchie in Program 8 of KET’s Old Music for New Ears

Open: Explore the web site for Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story for information about Jean Ritchie. Introduce Ritchie and her significance to your class.

View: Jean Ritchie’s introduction to and performance of “The Blue Bird Song.” She talks about how she wrote the song with her sons when they were children and explains that it’s about the prettiest thing she remembers from her childhood.

Create: Have students think of memories from their childhood. Ask each student to write down a special memory, making sure to add specific details. Using the melody from Ritchie’s “The Blue Bird Song,” have them write lyrics to the song using their written memory descriptions. Students should write at least two verses and a chorus.

Expand: Allow students to write lyrics to a melody of their choosing, then record their songs to tape or CD. Compile all the songs together on one cassette or CD and make a copy for each student in the class. Have the class work together to think of a title and artwork for the cassette or CD.

Author: Sara O’Keefe

See more resources for:


See more resources about:

K-12English Language Arts and LiteracyThe Arts