Image Map

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

かえるの合唱 (Kaeru no Uta): Japanese Frog Song

Frogs are a fun theme to use in the spring time, especially with early childhood and lower elementary ages, and one of my favorite childhood songs from Japan is perfect for that age group: "Kaeru no Gasshou" is commonly circulated outside Japan with the title "Kaeru no Uta", but those are actually the lyrics from the first line, not the title. Either way it is a simple song with only a few words for non-native speakers to learn, and there are so many ways to use it in elementary music lessons!

About the Song

I first learned this song in elementary music class growing up in Japan. While not a "traditional" Japanese song- like most music in the Japanese national curriculum (don't get me started) it uses a Western melody with Japanese lyrics- it is now a well-known, well-loved children's song in Japan. 

The Japanese lyrics are:
かえるの うたが (kaeruno utaga) きこえて くるよ (kikoete kuruyo) クヮ クヮ クヮ クヮ (kwa kwa kwa kwa) ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ ゲロ (gero gero gero gero) クヮ クヮ クヮ (kwa kwa kwa)

The translation is basically, "I can hear the song of the frog, kwa kwa kwa kwa, gero gero gero gero, kwa kwa kwa). You can find the sheet music here. This video shows how the song is most commonly used in Japan: as an easy way to introduce canon singing!

Lesson Ideas

Obviously one great way to use this song is to practice beginning canon singing. You can read more about my teaching progression for introducing canon singing in this blog post, but my #1 tip to make it easier for students when they are first learning is to add different motions for each line, like they model in the video above. It helps students keep track of the part they are supposed to be singing, and makes it easier for the teacher to help cue each group with the motions if one group or another loses track of where they are mid-song.

One of the first times I ever used this song in my teaching was to introduce the skill of playing instruments with a song for my Kindergartners. I first introduce the song by telling them it is a song about a frog in Japanese. We discuss the sounds different animals make ("pigs say oink, cows say moo" etc) and then I tell them that in other languages, people imitate the sounds of the same animals with different "sound words". Then I sing the song for them and ask them to find the frog sound words- it's usually pretty obvious on the first try! Then I have them sing along with that part while I sing the first 2 lines alone, and then have one student play an instrument every time we sing "gero" and another play a different instrument every time we sing "kwa" (I like using ratchets and guiros- the frog-shaped ones if I have them- for this). It's a great way to practice the skill of waiting for your part in an ensemble, playing while singing, and practicing instrument techniques.

This year I actually used this song in a new way with my 2nd graders to practice identifying and performing in duple and triple meter, and I am in love with the way these lessons came out! I taught students this song and added instrumental ostinati to it, then we learned the song "El Coquí", a Puerto Rican frog song in triple meter, added instrumental parts to that, and compared the meter of each (you can read more about "El Coquí", and my lesson ideas for it, in this blog post). Because they are both similar in lyrics but contrasting in several musical elements including meter, they are a perfect pairing.

What other ways have you used this song in your lessons? What other frog songs do you know that we could add to the list? I love this as a theme for spring lessons! Leave your ideas and questions in the comments below.

No comments :

Post a Comment