Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chairs to Mend - A Surprising Favorite

Have you ever had a song that turns out to be a surprising favorite of a class or grade level? 
Do you have a song that kids love right away that you thought you would have to really  "sell?"
Of course, for much of the repertoire we use there are games or activities that are very appealing to children and they latch onto the song because of the game. But there are songs we use that don't have a super fun game already attached. 

Chairs to Mend is a favorite of my 5th graders this school year. This is a street cry song with vendors peddling their wares and services. We talk as a class about the need for street cries to advertise goods at the market prior to the 20th century. "Yes, kids, there was a time before radio, TV, or the internet." (Oh my!) 

They initially learned it last September as a dotted quarter eighth note (tam ti in their world) song. The students love the simple harmonies. 

There are several ways my students have enjoyed singing Chairs to Mend. 

  • Sing in a 3 part canon
  • Sing in unison, then each student sings their favorite section and repeats until the conductor signals to hold the last note
  • Sing with 3 groups of students; the fish mongers, the carpenters, and the quilters. Each group repeats their two measures and watches the conductor for changes in tempo, dynamics, and cut-offs. (This is especially fun to dramatize; students wander the room singing their street cry while others are wandering nearby singing a different street cry. What a fun challenge!)

Just before winter break, I placed a big order at West Music and took a chance on this book that I had not noticed before:

The book Chairs to Mend was published in 2008 and was penned by an elementary music teacher, Sue McCallum Melton. (I don't now why I had not been aware of it before now!) She tells the (fictional) story of a young girl, Rachel, living in Boston in 1885 and her day as she hears the street cries of the chair mender, the fish monger, and the ragman. There is a CD included with the song and the story narrated (complete with the sounds of Rachel's day! This is a nice option and would be great to leave for substitutes!)
My 5th graders re-visited the song as I read them the book this week.
The illustrations are very appealing to students and they enjoyed the story. Next year, I'll introduce Chairs to Mend through this book. 
It's a wonderful addition for a surprising favorite song.

What about you, do you have any surprising favorite songs in your classes? What have your students loved that you didn't expect?


  1. Thanks for this! I love the song and will be using now with my grade fives!

  2. You're welcome, Steph! Thanks for reading and commenting!