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Songs Children Sing in Haiti

Grade Level: K–3, 4-6

Volume 5, #18 and #20: 'La Crocodile' and 'C'est le Piston Qui Fait Marcher de Machine'
La Crocodile — Group of children in Haiti

C'est le Piston Qui Fait Marcher de Machine — Group of children in Haiti

Activity #1: Song about the Crocodile
1. Listen to 'La Crocodile' (Volume 5: #18), and direct students to tap the steady pulse on a desk- or table- top, and on the knees or lap, shoulders, and head.

2. Listen again to the selection. Ask students to focus their attention on seeking answers to these questions:

Q: How many singing voices do you hear?
A: More than one.
Q: Could this be a children's song? Why?
A: Yes. The singers are children, probably between 8 and 12 years.
Q:What animal are they singing about? (For children who do not speak French, cue them to listen to the refrain's repetition of the first syllable as a clue to the animal's full name.)
A: Crocodile (pronounced "kro-ko-dee-leh").

3. Describe the song as a humorous tale about the crocodiles of the Nile River (in Egypt), and how they were headed off to war to fight the elephants. The song is known throughout France, and is sung by French-speaking boy scouts in Haiti. This recording dates to 1936, when sung for Alan Lomax in a school in Port-au-Prince.

4. Sing some of the phrases of the song's melody, using solfege syllables. The teacher may sing and cue the students' imitation of each phrase, several times and in mixed order.

(Part 1: Verse)
d d m s * fmrmfm r
r r m r * rmrmf#s
(Note that f is raised/sharped)
(Part 2: Refrain)
d m m m d m m m * d m m m f r
S r r r S r r r * s f m r d
(Note that the S is sol below do)

5. Play the recording again, and ask students to listen for the phrases they have sung.

6. While listening to the song, find and clap these rhythm patterns:

(Part 1: Verse)
/ /./ / - (quarter, dotted eighth/sixteenth, quarter, rest)
// // / / (4 eighths, quarter, quarter)
(Part 2: Refrain)
//// //// //// / / (12 eighths, quarter, quarter)
//// //// //// / - (12 eighths, quarter, rest)

7. Share the translation of the song; play the recording again while students silently read the English words.

A crocodile, going to war,
Was saying goodbye to its little ones
Dragging its feet, its feet in the dust
It went to fight against the elephants!

Refrain: Ah! The cro cro cro, the cro cro cro,
The crocodiles have disappeared from the shores of the Nile
Let's not talk about it any longer.
Ah! The cro cro cro, the cro cro cro,
The crocodiles have disappeared from the shores of the Nile
Let's not talk about it any longer

It was humming a military march song
Chewing the words with big teeth
When it opened up its jaws fully
You could imagine seeing your enemies in it.

8. Share the French text for the song. Challenge students to listen while reading the text, in order to match some of what they read with what they hear. Help them to discover that French is spoken and sung differently than English, and that they will need to listen carefully to hear French words like "crocodile" (kro-ko-dee-leh"), "guerre" (gehr, meaning war), "enfants" (a-fahnts, meaning elephants), "marche militaire" (mar-see mil-i-tah-ree, or military march).

Un crocodile, s'en allant a la guerre,
Disait adieu a ses petits enfants.
Tralnant ses pieds, ses pieds dan le poussiere
Il s'en allait combattre les elephants!

Chorus:
Ah! Les cro croc cro, les cro cro cro, les crocodiles
Sur les bords du Nil ont disparu, n'en parlons plus.
Ah! Les cro cro cro, les cro cro cro, les crocodiles
Sur les bords du Nil ont disparu, n'en parlons plus!

Il fredonnait une marche militaire
Don't il machait les mots a grosses dents.
Quand il ouvrait la guile tout entiere
On croyait voir ses ennemis dedans.

9. Ask the students to sing the children's songs quietly with the recording, focusing on the melodic pitches, the rhythms, and the French text, until the song is learned.

10. 'Le crocodile' can be added to a repertoire of children's animal songs, such as "Bingo," "Did you Feed My Cow?," "All the Pretty Little Horses," and "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."

Suggested Activity #2: Song of a Car Engine
1. Listen to 'C'est le Piston Qui Fait Marcher de Machine' (Volume 5: #20). Draw students' attention to the components of the song by asking the following questions:

Q: What is the most repeated word (or phonemes) in the song?
A: Piston.
Q: How many times is 'piston' repeated?
A: 34 times!
Q: Could this be a children's song? Why?
A: Yes. The singers are children, probably between 8 and 12 years.
Q: Besides the word 'piston', are there other repeated parts?
A: Yes. There is repetition of the pitches of the melody (tune) and the rhythm (phrases/patterns).

2. Listen again to the selection. Tap the beat, changing places at changes of phrases or sections, beginning on the lap or knees, shifting to the shoulders, the head, and to other surfaces (desk- and table-tops, floors, and walls.

3. Describe the song as a favorite of boy scouts in Haiti (the Plaisance Boy Scout Troupe), who were recorded singing it by Alan Lomax in 1936. Ask for an explanation of a piston, which is a component of engines, pumps and gas compressors located in a cylinder. An engine's piston transfers force from expanding gas in the cylinder to the crankshaft by way of a piston rod. For descriptions of piston engines, click here.

4. Sing some of the phrases of the song's melody, using solfege syllables. The teacher may sing and cue the students' imitation of each phrase, several times and in mixed order.

(S)dmdmdmd * drrrdrm d (Note that the S is sol below do)
(d)f fm * mrrrdrm d
sfmmmsmmmm * rrrdrm d

5. Play the recording again, and ask students to listen for the phrases they have sung.

6. While listening to the song, find and clap these rhythm patterns:

(/) / / / / / / / /
(1 eighth upbeat, 8 eighth)
/ / / // / - / -
(3 eighth, 2 sixteenth, 2 quarter)
(/) /. / /. /
(1 eighth upbeat, dotted quarter/eighth, 1 eighth upbeat, dotted quarter/eighth
/ / / // / - / -
(3 eighth, 2 sixteenth, 2 quarter)

7. Share the translation of the song; play the recording again while students silently read the English words.

It's the piston, piston, piston
That makes the car run

It's the piston, piston, piston
That makes the wagons run.

Piston, piston that makes the car run
Piston, piston that makes the wagons run

8. Share the French text for the song. Challenge students to listen while reading the text, in order to match some of what they read with what they hear. Help them to discover that French is spoken and sung differently than English, and that they will need to listen carefully to hear French words like "piston" (pee-stone, meaning engine piston), "machine" (mah-shee-neh, meaning car), "wagons" (wah-gone, meaning wagons).

C'est le piston, piston, piston
Qui fait marcher la machine

C'est le piston, piston, piston
Qui fait marcher les wagons

Piston, piston, qui fait marcher la machine.
Piston, piston qui fait marcher les wagons.

9. Sing with recording. Ask the students to sing the children's songs quietly with the recording, focusing on the melodic pitches, the rhythms, and the French text, until the song is learned.

10. Add to repertoire of songs about transportion. "Riding in the Car, Car," "Big Boat Up the River," "The Boatman's Song," "500 Miles," "I've Been Working on the Railroad."


Designed by Patricia Shehan Campbell

 

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