'BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE?'
Action songs for young learners
One of the staples of our teacher-training workshops is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. It’s an excellent book for both infants and primary, and we really love using it. The book is available in large format too, which is perfect for class storytelling. It’s a very rhythmic story, and we’ve found that it works best when you tell it with a Brown Bear beat, rap-style.
I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I can’t! I originally saw it told/rapped by the fabulous Miss Nina, and I strongly recommend her YouTube channel. It contains a lot more action songs which can be adapted for EFL students. And that’s where we come in, as her songs are aimed at English-speaking preschoolers. This means they do need adapting to make them suitable for students learning English as a second language. We’ll be uploading an mp3 file with a much slower Brown Bear beat for you to download and use in class.
Here are some ideas on how to use the book with early-years students
- Ask the students what animal is on the front cover, and what colour it is. Tell them that they’re going to hear a story about what a brown bear can see.
- Turn to the first page and get them to repeat the colours on the page. Normally I choral drill this.
- Read the book, eliciting all the colours and animals. If you don’t have the book, you can watch this storytelling video. Do it first with the sound down, to try to elicit the basic vocabulary (colours and animals): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WST-B8zQleM&t=78s
- If you haven’t got a beat soundtrack, you could try this slow rap version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5Y0HXKZp9I
And here’s our simplified version of Miss Nina’s rap.
The bold print is what’s in the book. This is the part the children repeat (break it down into segments, or just have them say the colour and the animal). The italics is what you say, and the children copy your actions. You can always adapt this to suit your group, of course.
THE BROWN BEAR RAP
Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me.
The red bird says tweet, tweet tweet, tweet
Now clap your hands and stamp your feet!
Red bird, red bird, what do you see? I see a yellow duck looking at me.
The yellow duck says quack, quack, quack, quack
Now shake your hips and shake your back!
Yellow duck, yellow duck, what do you see? I see a blue horse looking at me.
The blue horse says neigh neigh,
clip clop clip clop galloping away!
Blue horse, blue horse what do you see? I see a green frog looking at me.
Put your frog on your lily pad and jump like me
ribbet, ribbet, ribbet, ribbet!
Green frog, green frog what do you see? I see a purple cat, looking at me.
The purple cat says meow meow
I want someone to feed me now!
Purple cat, purple cat what do you see? I see a white dog looking at me.
The white dog says bow wow bow wow
Now wag your tail and wag it now!
White dog, white dog what do you see? I see a black sheep looking at me.
The black sheep says baaaa, baaaa
Baa baa black sheep, baa baa baaaa!
Black sheep, black sheep what do you see? I see a goldfish looking at me.
Who can make a fishy face for me today?
Put your lips together, just this way!
Goldfish, goldfish what do you see? I see a teacher looking at me.
Teacher, teacher what do you see? I see children looking at me.
Children, children what do you see?
Everybody come along and sing it with me …
We see a brown bear, a red bird, a yellow duck … etc.
And a teacher looking at me, I see a teacher looking at me!
That’s the end as you can see, thanks for reading Brown Bear with me!
Follow-up activities to do with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Here’s a ton of ideas of what to do once you’ve read the book and/or rapped the story with the brown bear beat!
And lots of ideas for activities here:
For more ideas on action songs, check out the Finger Puppets finger plays.
‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear’ by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle (paperback edition)
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