Standard Lesson

Read a Song: Using Song Lyrics for Reading and Writing

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 30- to 60-minute sessions
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments


Singing is a favorite pastime for many people and is part of popular culture. In this lesson, students make the connection that the words sung in a song are part of a book that can be read. They explore this connection through children's song storybooks and interactive websites. Students complete a project by writing new lyrics to a familiar song and creating illustrations related to the lyrics. During the lesson students engage in various levels of reading and writing activities.

From Theory to Practice

Musical activities can enhance a wide variety of literacy learning experiences including letter names and sounds, phonemic awareness, print conventions, background knowledge and vocabulary, and word identification.

Well-designed websites that are appropriate for young children create unique opportunities for developing and practicing basic and computer-related literacy skills.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • A collection of children's song storybooks

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Headphones (optional)

  • Markers, pencils, and crayons

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani (Charlesbridge, 1993)

  • Chart paper




Preparation for Session 1

  • If you have a computer that can be accessed in the classroom, bookmark NIEHS Kids' Pages; students will listen to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" during the introduction.

  • Determine how you will divide the class into groups of two to three students.

  • Gather a collection of several different children's song storybooks (see Resources for Children's Song Storybooks). At least one of these books should be "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." You will need enough books so that each group of two to three students has one to look at.

Preparation for Session 2

  • Explore the websites on the Websites with Songs, Lyrics, or Interactives list. Choose sites you think are most appropriate for your students, keeping in mind that you want them to listen to a variety of songs during this session.

  • If you do not have enough computers in your classroom, arrange time in your school's computer lab so that each student will have the time to go online to visit the websites you have selected. Ideally, students will have headphones to use while they are working. Bookmark the websites that you want your students to access on the computers they will be using.

  • Determine if you would like students to use the computers by themselves or with partners. If you decide to have students work with partners, divide them into pairs.

Preparation for Session 3

  • Obtain and familiarize yourself with The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani. (You may also choose to use another one of Trapani's books which include Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and I'm a Little Teapot.)

  • Review the list of songs on the Suggested Songs for Changing Lyrics sheet.

  • Make a copy of the My Song Lyrics Draft sheet for each student.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Practice definitional and comparative learning and increase their understanding of different types of texts by learning that the words sung in songs are called lyrics and by reading lyrics in books and on websites

  • Make the connection that words that are sung are also words that can be written and read by listening to, singing, and reading different songs

  • Apply what they have learned by composing new lyrics to a familiar song and illustrating the lyrics they write

Session 1 (45–60 minutes)


1. Post a large piece of chart paper and gather students in a place where they can all see it. Tell them that they are going to listen to the music of a familiar song. Instruct them to guess what the song is in their heads, but not out loud.

2. Play "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" from NIEHS Kids' Pages. (If this is not possible, you can hum the tune).

3. After you are done playing or humming the music, ask students to tell you the name of the song. When they have correctly told you, ask them to tell you what could be added to go along with the music (i.e., words to sing).

4. Tell students that the words that are sung to music are called lyrics. Inform them of the purpose of the lesson: "We will be learning how the lyrics of songs can be sung and can be written down to be read."

Shared Writing

Note: During this part of the session, students will assist you in writing down the lyrics to the song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Adjust the level of participation to meet the literacy levels of your students. For example, you can do the writing yourself, ask students to supply the initial sounds to words, help spell all the words, have students write initial letters or entire words on their own, and so on.

5. Begin by writing the title of the song at the top of a piece of chart paper. Make sure to capitalize the words, as they should be in a title.

6. Then write down the lyrics to the song. Select one animal to use when writing the lyrics (e.g., "And on that farm he had a dog. E I E I O. With a woof, woof here. And a woof woof there..."). You may want to call attention to particular parts of the lyrics that have been written down. For example, ask students to find all the times the word farm is used, how often a certain punctuation mark is used, or how certain words are capitalized. [Note: Save this copy of the song to use during Session 3.]

Shared Reading

7. During this part of the session, emphasize the connection of the words that are sung to the words that are read. Encourage students to participate in reading the lyrics along with you. Don't sing them yet.

Use a pointer to point to each word as it is read. You can ask students to come up and point to particular words in the text. For example, have a student show where Old MacDonald's name appears.

Song Singing

8. Sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" together with students. Have them select different animals to use for the different verses.

Introduction of Children's Song Storybooks

9. Share the copy or copies of the children's song storybook of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" (see Preparation for Session 1) by pointing out some of the features of the book, including the title of the song on the cover, the lyrics written on the pages of the book, and the matching illustrations.

Partner Reading

10. Assemble students into the groups of two or three that you have decided upon, and pass out at least one children's song storybook to each group.

11. Give the groups an adequate amount of time to read the books. All of the students should be encouraged to read at least a few pages of the books aloud. This may vary depending on the abilities of the students. For example, independent readers may read aloud all on their own, while emergent readers may read only a few pages.

12. Monitor students' reading while they are working in their groups. Encourage them to point to individual words while they are reading, locate the title of the book, and view and discuss the illustrations and how they match the text.

Session 2 (45–60 minutes)

Note: The amount of time needed for this session will vary depending on computer access. If necessary, have students who are not using computers read some of the children's song storybooks you gathered or work on some of the Extension activities such as creating the song cards. It will be easier for students to listen to the songs if they use headphones at the computers. Students may work individually or in pairs during this session.

1. Direct students to the websites you have selected (see Preparation for Session 2) and allow time for them to explore the sites. Encourage students to listen to songs and follow along by reading the lyrics silently. You may want to permit students to print out the lyrics of one or two songs they like.

2. After students have all had an opportunity to explore the websites, gather together as a group. Ask them to share some of the songs they listened to. If students printed out lyrics, encourage them to read some of them aloud. You could ask them to share their favorite song or a song they have never heard before.

Session 3 (60–90 minutes)

Read Aloud

1. Show students the front and back covers of The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani. Ask them what song they think the book will be about and how they know. (For example, there's a picture of a little spider and a web on the covers of The Itsy Bitsy Spider.)

2. Ask them to read the title of the book with you as you point to each word.

3. Inform students that they will begin working on writing new lyrics to a familiar song so they should pay attention to how this book has additional lyrics added to it.

4. Read the book aloud. When you are done, ask students to recall some of the new lyrics that were added to the song. Show them the corresponding pages in the book as they recall the lyrics. Point out how the lyrics and illustrations are related to each other.

5. Highlight how the new lyrics follow the pattern of the original lyrics of the song. Ask students to identify how the lyrics were changed to create new lyrics. (For example, the spider climbs up different things, such as a rocking chair.)

Shared Reading

6. Review the lyrics of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" that you wrote on the chart paper during Session 1. Have students sing the lyrics to the song as you point to each of the words.

Shared Writing

Note: During this part of this session, you will want students to work with you to create new lyrics for "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Emphasize the connection between the words that they are singing to the words that you are writing. Make sure that the lyrics follow the pattern of the song. The Suggested Songs for Changing Lyrics sheet has ideas about how to alter the song if students are having trouble coming up with their own.

7. Inform students that they are going to work together to write some new lyrics for the song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Guide them in creating new lyrics using the ideas from the Suggested Songs for Changing Lyrics sheet, and write the new lyrics on a piece of chart paper.

8. Post another piece of chart paper next to the first one and have students help you create an illustration that corresponds to one of the lyrics you wrote. This is to demonstrate how the lyrics and illustrations should be related to each other. You could include in the illustration a speech bubble that has the sound the animal makes written in it.

9. Together with students, sing some of the new lyrics you wrote to the song.


10. Have students brainstorm additional songs they could write new lyrics to. Use the Suggested Songs for Changing Lyrics sheet as a guide to encourage them as needed. Write the titles of possible songs on a blank sheet of chart paper.

11. Discuss how new lyrics could be written for each of the songs. You could have students sing how a new lyric could be sung (e.g., for the song "May There Always Be Sunshine," a new lyric could be "May There Always Be Moonlight").

12. Talk about how a new lyric could be illustrated (e.g., an illustration of the moonlight reflecting on the water could go with the new lyric for "May There Always Be Sunshine").

Project Draft

Note: Depending on the age and abilities of your students, you may want to provide further direction on your expectations for writing the lyrics. For example you may want to require older or advanced students to write all the lyrics on their own or even write multiple lines of lyrics. For younger or less advanced students, you could allow them to simply fill in a word or words to complete a lyric to a song (e.g., "If you're happy and you know it (fill in the blank).") Just make your expectations clear to students at this time.

13. Call attention to the importance of writing new lyrics that follow the pattern of the original lyrics and how the illustrations need to be related to the lyrics.

14. Pass out a copy of the My Song Lyrics Draft worksheet to each student, and make sure all students have pencils to write with.

15. Have students select one of the songs from the brainstorming activity or pick a song of their own. Tell students they only need to make a sketch of their illustration right now, not a final drawing.

16. Give students an adequate amount of time to work on the drafts. While students are working, circulate and offer assistance as needed. Help them to review and revise their lyrics so there are no errors. Mark off the box at the bottom of each student's worksheet to indicate you have reviewed and approved the draft. Keep the completed and approved drafts for Session 4.

Note: If students do not complete this worksheet at school, it can be sent home as homework. You need to make sure you approve the drafts before starting Session 4.

Session 4: Completing the Project (20–30 minutes)

1. Pass back the completed My Song Lyrics Draft worksheets, and give each student a sheet of blank paper.

2. Make sure each student also has a pencil to write with and crayons or markers for drawing.

3. Give students time to complete their projects by writing their new song lyrics on the blank paper. Instruct students to start writing the lyrics at the top of the page and to save the bottom for their illustration, or have them write the lyrics on one sheet of paper and draw the illustration on another sheet.

4. After they are done with the writing portion of this task, have students bring their projects to you to be proofread. Have them correct any mistakes and then draw illustrations to go with their lyrics.

5. Provide additional time as needed for all students to complete their projects. If students finish early, they can be encouraged to work on one of the projects from the Extensions section or be allowed to explore more of the websites if you have ready access to computers.

Session 5: Sharing the Projects (20–30 minutes)

1. Give students the chance to share their projects with one another. Encourage them to hold their projects up so everyone can see them. To check for understanding, ask the following questions of each student:
  • What song did you use for writing new lyrics to?

  • What did you change in the lyrics you wrote?

  • How does your illustration match the lyrics you wrote?

  • Is there anything else you would like to share about your project?
Use the Read-a-Song Student Assessment Rubric to record notes.

2. After a project has been shared, have the other students share their thoughts about it. You can either allow the presenter to call on three students or you can do this yourself. Using these guidelines, when students are called upon they may do one of the following:
  • Share something they like about the lyrics

  • Share something they like about the illustrations

  • Ask one question
Note: You may want to begin by modeling how to appropriately share the projects. Respond to each of the questions, as you would like students to do.


  • Bring in a karaoke machine and have students sing along to music as they read lyrics.

  • Have students make song cards by writing the title of a song along with an illustration. The song cards can be used in the classroom to select songs for singing.

  • Place the collection of children's song storybooks in the reading area and have students browse through them.

  • If you, students, or parents play a musical instrument, play the music as students sing the lyrics to the songs.

  • Record the students singing the lyrics they wrote.

  • Scan or photograph the projects and post them on your class or school website. Photos of the projects can also be used to create a class slideshow or movie.

Student Assessment / Reflections


  • Have students reflect upon the lesson by sharing what they learned. Possible questions to ask include:

    • What are the words we sing to a song called? (lyrics)
    • How could the lyrics to a song be shared with others? (They can be written down and illustrated.)
    • What is the connection between the words we sing and the words we read to a song? (They are the same.)
    • What did you like about this lesson?
    • What are some of the children’s song storybooks you like reading?
    • Which websites did you like visiting?

  • Assess if students met the objectives of the lesson when they are sharing their completed projects in Session 5. Use the Read-a-Song Student Assessment Rubric as a tool to guide your evaluation.

Add new comment