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Murray Journal

Grant teacher helps students learn facts with original lyrics

Jan 31, 2017 03:11PM ● By Julie Slama

Grant Elementary teacher Ginger Shaw leads her students in a song she wrote about the water cycle. (Kelly Sharples/resident)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]


Ask a Grant Elementary fourth-grader in Ginger Shaw’s class how many pounds are in one ton, the difference between adjectives and adverbs and the different kinds of clouds and they may respond with a song.


Shaw sets lines about these and other subjects her students are expected to learn to familiar melodies, such as “Old McDonald Has a Farm” or “Camptown Races.” She has about 50 of them, many she is writing this year.


“When I teach my students, I want them to remember what they’re learning for life so I realized through these songs, they will remember the words when they hear the familiar tunes,” Shaw said. “The words have just been coming to me so I write them down to the melody. I hear my students singing songs we sang early in the school year and have even heard some former students humming along.”

One of the songs is the “Utah County Song,” which Shaw taught early in the school year.


“We learned it in the morning and by that afternoon, everyone in the class could name every county and knew its location. We sang it a week later and again, they knew it all,” she said.


Simon Sharples still will sing this and other songs at home.


“I’ll hear him humming, singing to himself after school and at first, I thought it was a folk song or Christmas carol, but then I realized he was singing about the seven times tables or the water cycle. He was singing the ‘Utah County Song,’ just last week,” his mother, Kelly, said. “Mrs. Shaw is super creative and fun and it’s a great twist on learning. It’s helping him retain these facts longer than just for a test.”


Recently, the “Utah County Song” was recorded and sent to the Utah State Board of Education to share on a blog.


“It is always great to see students engaged in learning and always great to see the arts infusing the learning of social studies,” said Robert Austin, K-12 Social Studies International Initiatives specialist at the state office.


Through the years, Shaw has informally shared her tunes with other teachers across the district and state as well as at conferences, and has heard successful reports of students learning in other classes. However, she continues to focus on teaching her students the curriculum.


“I make sure the vocabulary they need to know as well as the concepts are in the song so they can get a grasp on what they’re learning,” said the 30-year veteran who doesn’t read music or have a music background.


Nine-year-old Brooke Jorgensen said one of her favorites is about learning how to divide the denominator into the numerator, a song set to “Skip to My Lou.”


“I’m always learning new songs that are creative but helping me understand what’s going on in class,” she said.


Classmate Sophie Condor said she’s even taught her older brother, who is a sophomore in high school, some of the songs.


“He says they help him with his homework,” she said. “It helps me a lot too. She’s teaching us, but we’re having fun learning.”