Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Setting Yearly Goals for Written Narration

by Karen Glass

I did write extensively about the whole process of learning to write through written narrations in Know and Tell, but that big picture has to be broken down into individual school years, and semesters or terms, and—of course—individual weeks. What will we do about written narrations this year? What do I need to do this week?

I’m going to try to break this down into steps that you can use to evaluate your student, set realistic goals, and create a plan that will allow your child to make progress this school year—just this school year—without worrying too much about the Whole Thing. I’m assuming you understand the purpose of oral and written narration, and that you desire to make narration the foundation for a significant portion of your child’s writing instruction (there’s room for some outside resources, but that’s not what this is about). Let’s figure this out.

Okay, the first thing you need to think about is what your child is doing right now. What was the norm when you left off at the end of last school year? If you’re just getting started, the obvious place to begin is at the beginning, with one written narration per week. But maybe you’ve already been doing written narrations, and last year your child was doing two per week, or three. That’s where you start now. For the first four to six weeks of this school year, just let your child get back into the rhythm of doing what he already knows how to do. Don’t ask for anything else just yet.

As you think about this—where your child is with written narrations—there are two things to think about—how frequently the written narrations are done, and how long they are. As children make the transition from oral to written narrations, the earliest written narrations may be much, much shorter than oral narrations. Don’t worry about that. Some children can just barely write a sentence or two when they begin, while others are ready to write multiple paragraphs. No matter what your child is doing when you begin written narrations, accept what they can do.

What I never said plainly in Know and Tell, but wish I had, is that it is better to increase the frequency of written narrations first, and then work on asking for longer narrations. A child who can write three sentences will find it easier to write three sentences twice a week, and eventually every day, than to be pressed to write five sentence. Once he is writing three sentences every day (and that’s just an arbitrary example), the extra practice will be the best preparation for writing five sentences, or half a page, or five minutes longer, or whatever method you find most effective when asking for longer narrations.

Once you have determined where your child is with written narration skills, the second step is to think about where you’d like to be at the end of the school year. This is a goal that cannot be set by any arbitrary rule. You must think about your child’s age, inclination to write, and the amount of educational years still in front of you. If you are just starting written narration with a 9-year-old, begin with one per week, and maybe your goal will be three written narrations per week by the end of the school year. If you divide your school year into three terms as AmblesideOnline does, you can plan to spend the first term doing one per week, and add the second narration per week at the beginning of term two, and the third one at the beginning of term three.

Or perhaps your child is just starting written narration at age 11. You can start with one per week, but you would like your child to be writing daily by the end of the year.  Add a second narration per week within three or four weeks, and another one every eight weeks or so, so that you finish the year with a child who is doing daily written narrations.

Or maybe you finished up last year with a child who had gotten up to daily narrations, but they are still short, only 30-50 words. Your child is 12, and you’d like to finish up the year with a child writing 100-150 words per day. Maybe you’d also like to introduce editing and correcting before the year is over.  Let your child have a few weeks of writing what he is comfortable with, and bump up your expectations about 25 words at a time, every eight weeks or so. As the narrations get a little longer, introduce editing during the second semester with just one narration per week. (Just a note—my preference is to ask for a certain number of words and my children have responded well to that. You may prefer to increase length more generally—“half a page, a whole page”—, or by number of sentences, or by the amount of time spent writing. Choose the method that causes the least stress for your child.)

No one can decide what your goal should be, but you definitely want to have one for the school year, because that helps you to break down the process of getting from where you are to where you want to be into manageable increments.

The third step is to revisit your goal once or twice during the year. Maybe your child has already reached the level you were aiming for by Christmas break. That’s great, but you’ll probably want to thoughtfully move forward during the second half of the year. On the other hand, maybe your 9-year-old is still having a meltdown every time it’s written narration day. Perhaps changing the goal from “three narrations a week” to “two narrations a week” or even “one narration a week without a meltdown” is more realistic. Maybe your 11-year-old is already doing daily narrations and is ready to work on lengthening them a bit. Maybe your child needs a bit of a challenge with creative narrations or would benefit from reading a book on the craft of writing. Another thing I haven’t discussed, but which can be a part of your narration goals for the year, is mechanical correctness. Some children readily begin sentences with capital letters, and others don’t. Keep the “rules” as few as possible, but as your children grow more adept at actually getting words on paper, it’s okay to say, “Please make sure you’ve ended every sentence with a period,” or whatever rule you’re hoping to make habitual.

And that’s it! Plan your work, then work your plan, as they say. Just three things to do, and I think if you do them at the beginning of each term or semester, you’ll find that they keep you on track. Assess what your child is doing now. Set a goal and figure out the steps that will get you there. Reevaluate midway through the process to see if the goal needs to be adjusted. You're on your way! You and your child have an individualized plan that you can fold into your homeschool week, and when the school year is over, you’ll be able to see definitely what progress was made. And then next year, you can do it again, from your new starting point.

There are some charts in Know and Tell that will give you an overview of the process that you can expect to unfold across the grade levels, but they are guidelines and suggestions only. Every child is different when it comes to writing, but if you set realistic goals and work purposefully toward them, this may be your best narration year yet.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Term 3, Folksongs for year 2020-2021

 1. Brown Girl in the Ring

2. King John and the Abbot of Canterbury

3. The Saucy Sailor

Brown Girl in the Ring- this is a traditional Caribbean nursery rhyme and  a singing game. 
How to play 1: Stand in a circle with linked hands, one person in the center.  The group sings the song and then pause at 'show me your motions'. The center person performs some dance move. The next verse in this version is 'come and face your partner'. The center girl chooses somebody from the circle, faces her and they dance a bit and then trade places.  Here's a video of Jamaican school children playing this one.

How to play 2: The group stands in a circle like Farmer in the Dell, with one person in the middle. They circle the person in the center singing, and then stop at the end of the verse. The person in the middle chooses somebody in the circle to 'show their motion'- usually this is some personal dance move, but it can really be whatever works for your group- a funny face, the splits, jumping jacks, moon-walking, toe touching- once the designated person shows their motion, they trade places with the person in the middle, and the game repeats.   

You do not have to play it as a singing game at all, of course. You can just have fun singing it together.

The song was popularized in America during the seventies, mostly by a group called Boney M, which had quite a colourful background (the singers mostly didn't sing on the recordings). This video is the Boney M. Soundtrack with just lyrics (their costumes were really quite something).   Others had previously released it as well, but BoneyM is the group that hit the charts with it. 

Jamaican poet and singer Loise Bennet released an album of children's songs from Jamaica in the fifties.  It's faster, and instead of 'she looks like a sugar in a plum' she sings 'for he likes sugar and I like plum.'  Listen here (youtube) or via Amazon streaming if you have prime (it's .99 to download if you don't)

You'll find a score and other background material here.

Johnny Cakes:  In the U.S. Johnny Cakes are similar to pancakes. In Jamaica they are more like hush puppies, fried dumplings eaten with seasoned saltfish or cod.

Lyrics to the Boney M. version:

Brown girl in the ring

There's a brown girl in the ring

Tra la la la la There's a brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Show me your motion Tra la la la la Come on show me your motion Tra la la la la la Show me your motion Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes

All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes Beng-a-deng Beng-a-deng Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la There's a brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Show me your motion Tra la la la la Come on show me your motion Tra la la la la la Show me your motion Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes All had water run dry Got no way to wash my clothes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes I remember one Saturday night We had fried fish and Johnny-cakes Beng-a-deng Beng-a-deng Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la See, brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la la Brown girl in the ring Tra la la la la She looks like a sugar in a plum Plum plum Brown Girl in the Ring- Amazon:  (this one has some  additional lyrics)-

You can find more info at the old cocojams site.  It was curated by Azizi Powell, who is African American.  A more recent version can be found here, where she lists cocojams and other blogs where she shared related material and says, "Much of the content of these blogs were previously found on my cocojams and jambalayah cultural websites. I curate all of these blogs on a voluntary basis. Each of these blogs have the primary goal of raising awareness about cultural aspects of African American culture and of other Black cultures throughout the world, particularly in regards to music & dance traditions."
Emphasis mine. 

2. King John and the Abbot of Canterbury

This ballad predates 1695, probably by a few hundred years. 1695 is just the date for the first printed version we have.  There are multiple versions, and the tune itself was popular enough to be used for many other songs as well.  The King John here is the bad King John we know of from stories of Robin Hood. He stayed home while his more popular brother Richard the Lion-Hearted joined the crusades.

 The song follows a common folk-take and ballad theme, a battle of wits between two people, one perhaps more powerful than the other, although that's not necessarily the case here- the Abbot and King John probably had similar power in their own domains- and a riddle to be answered.  In this case both powers are essentially defeated by a commoner, since one of them needs the help of a commoner in order to defeat the king.  That's fairly subversive.

  I suggest reading this through once or twice before singing it in order to be sure to get the joke. It switches to a dialogue at the third verse- King John speaks to the Abbot, the Abbot replies.

I'll tell you a story, a story anon, Concerning a prince and his name was King John. He was a prince and a prince of great might And he held up great wrong and he put down great right. Chorus (repeated after each verse): Derry down, down, hey derry down I'll tell you a story, a story so merry, Concerning the Abbot of Canterbury, Of his housekeeping and high renown Which caused him to go up to fair London town. “How now, Brother Abbot, it's told unto me That thou keepest a far better house than I. For thy housekeeping and high renown I fear you of treason against my crown.” “Well I hope, My Liege, that you hold me no grudge For spending of my true gotten goods.” “If you do not answer me questions three Thy head will be taken from thy body. “When I am set on my steed so high, With my crown of gold all on my head, With my nobility, joy, and much mirth, You must say to one penny how much I am worth. “And the next question you must not flout: How long I'll be riding the world about. And the third question you must not shrink: Tell to me truly what I do think.” “Well these are hard questions for my shallow wit I cannot answer Your Grace as yet. But if you will give me three days space I'll do my endeavour to answer Your Grace.” “Three days space to thee I will give, That is the longest that thou hast to live. If you do not answer these questions right Thy head will be taken from thy body quite.” Well as the shepherd was going to his fold He saw the abbot come riding along, “How now, Master Abbot, you're welcome home What news have you brought us from good King John?” “Sad news, sad news I have thee to give: I have but three days space for to live. If I do not answer him questions three My head will be taken from my body.” “Well, Master, have you never heard it yet A fool may teach a wise man wit? Lend me your horse and your apparel And I'll ride up to London and answer the quarrel.” “When I am set on my steed so high, With my crown of gold all on my head, With my nobility, joy, and much mirth, You must say to one penny how much I am worth.” “For thirty pence our Savior was sold Amongst the false Jews as we have been told Twenty-nine is the worth of thee For I think you are one penny worse than He.” “And the next question you must not flout: How long I'll be riding the world about?” “You must rise with the sun, ride with the same Till the next morning he rises again. Then I am sure you will have no doubt But in twenty-four hours you'll ride it about.” “And the third question you must not shrink: Tell to me truly what I do think.” “Ah, that I can do, it will make your heart merry You think I'm the Abbot of Canterbury But I'm his poor servant, as you may see, And I've come to beg pardon for he and for me.” Well the King he turned him around and did smile Saying, “You can be Abbot the other while.” “Oh no, My Lord, there is no need For I can neither write nor read.” “Then tuppence a week, I will give unto thee For this merry true jest you have told unto me. Tell the old Abbot when you get home You brought him a pardon from good King John.”

Youtube: sung by John Foster
Amazon version for purchase, by Simply English- this one is sung very, very fast:

 3. The Saucy Sailor

A sea song along a theme we've seen in a previous song- the poor ragged lad proposes, he is refused quickly, and then it's revealed he has money, and the lass who spurned him wants to take back her refusal.  That doesn't work out well for her.

Jack or Jacky Tar was a common name for sailors with the Royal or Merchant Marines. It was not by itself an insult. The Navy lads themselves used the term and loved it.  Jack was a common name for a common man.  Tar was used on hemp ropes on the ship to keep them from rotting, and on sailors clothes to waterproof them, and sometimes high grade tar was dabbed on long ponytails to keep them out of the way, so probably sailors did smell of tar.

The Saucy Sailor Come, my own one, come, my fairest, Come and tell unto me, Could you fancy a poor sailor lad, Who has just come from sea? You are ragged, love, you are dirty, love, And your clothes smell much of tar. So begone, you saucy sailor boy, So begone, you Jack Tar! If I'm ragged, love, if I'm dirty, love, And my clothes smell much of tar, I have silver in me pocket, love, And of gold a bright store. When she heard those words come from him, On her bended knees she fell. I will marry my dear Henry
For I love a sailor lad so well. Do you think that I am foolish, love? Do you think that I am mad? That I'd wed with a poor country girl Where no fortune's to be had? I will cross the briny ocean I will whistle and I'll sing; Since you have refused the offer, love, Another girl shall have the ring. For I'm young, love, and I'm frolicksome, I'm good-temper'd, kind and free. And I don't give a single penny, boys What the world says of me.
The Maritime Singers are on youtube singing it here acapella: The above lyrics are mostly the same, with a couple of variations.
Aaron Wilhoft sings it here, and I imagine many of you with lads would appreciate a male voice:
Amazon has The Wailing Jennies version for free if you have prime, 1.29 if you don't:

My youtube playlist for all the folksongs this year:

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

2020-2121 Folk Song List for Term 2

Term 2
The Cruel War
The Alberta Homesteader or Starving to Death on My Government Claim 
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

  The Cruel War 

 This song is often called a traditional American tune from the time of the Civil War, but it's not originally American and we have the wrong Civil War.  The original war which birthed this song is likely one of The English Civil Wars,  200 years before the American one.  It was refurbished and put to use during the American Civil War and then was modernized by Peter, Paul, and Mary. This is the Peter, Paul, and Mary version.
The Cruel War is raging, Johnny has to fight. 
I want to be with him from morning to night .
I want to be with him, it grieves my heart so. 
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.

Tomorrow is Sunday,
Monday is the day 
That your Captain will call you and you must obey.
Your captain will call you it grieves my heart so.
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.

I'll tie back my hair, men's clothing I'll put on,
I'll pass as your comrade, as we march along.
I'll pass as your comrade, no one will ever know.
Won't you let me go with you? 
No, my love, no.  

Oh Johnny, oh Johnny, I fear you are unkind.
 I love you far better than all of mankind.
 I love you far better than words can e'er express.
 Won't you let me go with you?
 Yes, my love, yes... Yes, My Love, Yes 

Some versions add this heart-wrenching verse:

They marched into battle, she never left his side 
'Til a bullet shell struck her and love was denied 
A bullet shell struck her, tears came to Johnny's eyes 
As he knelt down beside her, she silently died. 

 Peter, Paul and Mary version from Amazon: 
Dolly Parton, Allison Krauss, etc, from Amazon:

  The Alberta Homesteader 
Alberta is a province in Canada.  In order to get the land settled by farmers and worked as active farms, contributing to the food supply and establishing settled communities, the governments of both Canada and the US offered free land in exchange for filling certain conditions- filing claims, building a structure that could be called a house, and farming a set amount of land.  It was a hard life, but at the same time it was an opportunity for poor people who otherwise never would have a chance to own their own homes to gain land.  Many failed, as you had to have a lot of grit, resilience, stamina, strength, and luck to succeed.  

This is a comical, satirical song about the experience. 

You can purchase this rendition by Alan Mills at Amazon, or listen to it as part of your monthly music unlimited plan- I can't call it free since you pay a monthly fee for that. Youtube:
'According to Hoyle' means according to the rules.  The house could be a soddy, a hole in the ground with a roof (dug-outs, essentially). It had to meet gov't specifications, but those specifications were pretty meagre in terms of resulting in a thing of beauty or a joy forever.

 The Alberta Homesteader
1.  My name is Dan Gold, an old bachelor I am
    I'm keeping old batch on an elegant plan
    You'll find me out here on Alberta's bush plain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.

2.  So come to Alberta, there's room for you all,
    Where the wind never ceases, [and] the rain always falls
    Where the sun always sets and there it remains
    Till you [we] get frozen out of your [our] government claim.

3.  My house it is built of the natural soil
    The walls are erected according to Hoyle
    The roof has no pitch, it is level and plain
    And I always get wet when it happens to rain.

4.  My clothes they are [are all] ragged, my language is rough
    My bread is case-hardened and solid and tough
    My dishes are scattered all over the room
    And [] my floor is [gets] afraid of the sight of a broom.

5.  How happy I am [feel] when I roll into bed
    The rattlesnake rattles a tune at my head
    And [] the little mosquito, devoid of all fear
    Crawls over my face and into my ear.

6.  The little bed-bug, so cheerful and bright,
    He [It] keeps me up laughing two-thirds of the night
    And the smart little flea with the [] tacks in his toes
    Crawls up through my whiskers and tickles my nose.

7.  You may try to raise wheat, you may try to raise rye
    You may stay there and live, you may stay there and die
    But as for myself, I'll no longer remain
    A-starving to death on a government claim.

8.  So farewell to Alberta, farewell to the west
    It's backwards I'll go to the girl I love best
    I'll go back to the east and get me a wife
    And never eat cornbread the rest of my life.

Various scores and notations are available here, which is the source for the above lyrics as well:;ttIRISHWSH.html  

There's also an American version sometimes called Greer County Bachelor, or Starving to Death on my Government Claim. It's essentially the same, with a few words changes here and there. I included some of those renditions in the youtube playlist.

Michael, Row the Boat Ashore

Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah

Sister, help to trim the sail, hallelujah
Sister, help to trim the sail, hallelujah

Jordan River is chilly and cold, hallelujah!
Chills the body but not the soul, hallelujah!

River's deep and the river's wide, hallelujah!
milk and honey on the other side.hallelujah!

If you get there before I do, hallelujah!
Tell my people I'm coming, too, hallelujah!

Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah!
Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah!

Michael, row the boat ashore, hallelujah!
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah!

The first written copy of the song is from the American Civil War period. It comes from St. Helena Island, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, Gullah country.  Southern slave owners abandoned the island, the now freed by default former slaves stayed behind. Shortly after, Navy ships from the Union Army came and used the island as a base for a blockade.  One of the Union soldiers in charge was an abolitionist interested in in the musical traditions of the former slaves, and he noted it down. It continued to be a common work song of the area, and there are various mentions of it over time. Fishermen sang it while rowing back to shore, families sang it together while working, or some evening while spending time together.   It was first widely popularized in the mid 20th century by The Highwaymen- you can purchase the recording from Amazon here.  Ella Jenkins and friends sing it here.

Youtube versions-

I share this for nostalgia, curiosity, and fun. It's a bit odd, but in an episode of the old Tarzan television show, Diana Ross and the Supremes don nun's habits and sing Michael, Row the Boat Ashore- you should only listen to it once you already know the song or your younger kids may be confused.  Nothing wrong with jazzing it up once you've got the basics down, tho.

It was published in 1867 in the book Slave Songs of the United States- here is one online version.  It is free in several places on the internet.

Please do remember the purpose is to *sing* the songs, not just to listen to them.  I would love to have families singing these and other folk songs together, restoring an old and revered, delightful tradition of singing together.  This tradition is as old as Creation. I know you've heard me say this before, but it just seems so significant to me.  There are illiterate cultures, and always have been people with no written language.  There are no cultures I know of, however ancient, that never sang songs.  We have lost something precious, but we can regain it, starting with you, in your home with your children.
Please sing with us, with your children.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Quote for the day: Why Education?

"Education and study, and the favours of the Muses, confer no greater benefit on those that seek them than these humanizing and civilizing lessons, which teach our natural qualities to submitted to the limitations prescribed by reason, and to avoid the wildness of extremes." Plutarch, Life of Coriolanus

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Folksongs term 1, 2020-2021

My usual pleadings: Folksongs are for singing. Please sing.
 Folksongs, by their nature and definition shift, change, are reshaped by time and the process of being passed down. They sometimes seem to reshape themselves. Lyrics vary. If you find a version you want to listen to and the lyrics are different from those posted below, it does not matter. If you need to fix that, just fix it. Print out the lyrics and take a pen to them, cross out what you don't want, ink in the words you prefer. Or just sing your version alongside t'other one. It's okay if you sing Spanish enemy while the recording artists are singing Turkish enemy.

Suggestion: Learn just the first verse and the chorus using a recording of somebody else's performance.  Add the subsequent verses one by one, without using a recording.
Play the folksongs as background music while doing chores and see if reluctant singers don't find themselves singing along.

Scientifically- music has always been a part of human culture.  Literacy has not. To Be verbs are not part of every language. Every culture sings. Singing increases happy hormones and regulates heart rhythms and breathing. Singing together increases a sense of cooperation and bonding. Let that work for you.  Sing together and let the bonding begin. It will grease the gears of your homelife.

 Term One:
 Follow the Drinking Gourd
The Golden Vanity
Down by the Bay

 Playlist on youtube will be announced .

Follow the drinking gourd
Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man is a waiting 
for to carry you to freedom
Follow the drinking gourd

 When the sun comes up [or back]
And the first quail calls
 Follow the drinking gourd
For the old man is a waiting
For to carry you to freedom
 Follow the drinking gourd


The riverbed makes a mighty fine road
Dead trees to show you the way
And it's left foot, peg foot travelling on
Follow the drinking gourd

The river ends between two hills
Follow the drinking gourd
There's another river on the other side

Follow the drinking gourd


collected by H. B. Parks, an entomologist and amateur folklorist, in the 1910s, unpublished until 1928
 Whether this specific song was truly sung by enslaved black Americans in the 19th century is debated. Parks is the only one to have heard it and he claims to have heard it two different places.  What is not debated is that many did escape by taking the drinking gourd, the Big Dipper, the North Star as a guide. More here.

Taj Mahal sings it here (an Amazon song you can download)
Kim and Reggie Harris sing it here (.99 to download)

  The Golden Vanity

 This is a very sad sea song with a charming tune.  It is a charming tune that has vast sticking power and you won't be able to stop humming 'on the lowland, lowland low, as she sailed upon the lowland sea' at odd times for the rest of the school year, maybe longer.  I share it because I love you all so much and it makes me so happy when you write to tell me stories of your children singing it 2,000 times a day and you catch yourself humming it and cannot stop.  It is at least as old as the time of Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Drake. Imagine! You are subjected to an ear-worm that has been around since at least 1685! Doesn't it give you goosebumps?

 In some versions the enemy ship is Spanish, in some she's Turkish, because of course, it's quite adaptable to whatever enemy you happen to be at war with, including your brother in the swimming pool.

  Burl Ives version- free for Prime members, .99 for others. It's a Spanish ship here.
  Peter, Paul, and Mary version for 1.29

  The Golden Vanity
 Oh there was a lofty ship and a lofty ship was she
And the name of that ship it was the Golden Vanity
And she feared she would be taken by the Turkish Enemy
As she sailed on the lowland, lowland low
As she sailed on the lowland sea.

 Up stepped a little cabin boy, and boldly outspoke he.
And he said to the Captain, "what will you give to me
If I sneak alongside of the Turkish Enemy
And I sink her in the lowland, lowland low
And I sink her in the lowland sea?"

 "Oh, I will give you silver, and I will give you gold,
 And the hand of my daughter your bonnie bride will be,
If you'll sneak alongside of the Turkish Enemy
 And you'll sink her in the lowland, lowland, low
 And you'll sink her in the lowland sea.

 So he jumped overboard, and overboard jumped he
 And he swam alongside of the Turkish Enemy,
And with a little drilling tool he boar-ed holes three,
And he sank her in the lowland, lowland, low
He sank her in the lowland sea.

 Then quickly he swam back to the cheering of the crew
But the captain did not heed him for his promise he did rue
And he spurned his poor entreatings when loudly he did sue
And he left him in the lowland, lowland, low- He left him in the lowland sea.

Then quickly he swam around to the port side
and up unto his messmates full bitterly he cried.
Oh messmates draw me up, for I'm drifting with the tide
and I'm sinking in the lowland, lowland low,
I'm sinking in the lowland sea.

 Well, his shipmates brought him out, but on the deck he died,
And they stitched him in hammock that was so soft and wide,
And they lowered him overboard and he drifted with the tide,
And he sank into the lowland, lowland, low
He sank into the lowland sea.

 And he sank beneath the lowland, lowland, low... He sank beneath the lowland sea.

 A few versions add a couple of verses where the Captain also drowns, often haunted by the memory of the dirty trick he played on the cabin boy,  but they come from a later time period, one where we as a people felt the need to tack a moral on to the end of every song, tale, and ditty, rather spoiling the effect, in my opinion.

Or perhaps what altered was the view of a person's place in the world, an issue of democracy vs hierarchy- and the moral of the first few centuries of singing the song was that cabin boys ought to do the right thing because it is their duty, and not seek to rise above their station by receiving gold, silver, and the captain's daughter for merely performing their duty. Most sailors, btw, did not learn to swim. It was something of a superstition. So a cabin boy who could swim is rather remarkable.

 This song was also part of one of the collections used by Mason's PNEU schools, and I think I recall seeing this specific title listed in one of the Programmes. We are a bit more squeamish about these things in our own day, are we not? And yet, David had Uriah killed in an act as unjust as this one, and those in power break their promises to their underlings and see them die for it throughout history. And honestly, sometimes a tuneful, sad song is just what the heart needs to sing, even if it makes you cry.

  Down by the Bay This silly song is a palate cleanser after the tragedy of the cabin boy.

Raffi, of course (for purchase): has a kid version, and here's a version free for streaming to prime members or .99 for others.
You can sing the song straight through all together in unison.  You can also sing it as echo song, where every line is sung by one person, then echoed by the others, until you get to "Did you ever see a ....". Everybody sings that line together.

 Down by the Bay
 Where the watermelons grow
 Back to my home,
 I dare not go.
 For if I do
 My mother will say
 Did you ever see...
A goose, riding a caboose
Down by the bay?

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of variations on the second to the last line, and you can have fun creating your own.  Samples:
  the moon holding a balloon?
a whale with a polka-dot tale?
 a pig wearing a wig?
 a goose kissing a moose?
 a bear combing his hair?
a llama wearing pink pajamas?
mouse building a house?
bee sipping green tea?
Rook reading a book?
frog dancing on a log?
 Did you ever have a time when you couldn't rhyme?

 This is a song to play with. You can sing it fast or slow. You can sing it so that one person sings and the others sing an echo line. You can play with harmonizing. You can, of course, make up your own rhyming questions. It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't need to mean anything. It's silly fun.  Some of your kids will find it comes naturally to drag out and really ham up the last expression of Downnnn byyyyyyyy theeeeeeeeeeeeee Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. (Guess how I know).

Based on my reading, it's probably a song soldiers made up around WWI and they used part of a Greek folk song for the tune, which is catchy, fast, easy to learn, quickly picked up.  The infinite possibility of goofy verses makes it a good song for a group on a bus or car trip to sing. It's just clean goofy fun.

If you want to hear the older Greek folk song-you can hear it here, starting at the 29 second mark:  Or here starting at 1:27: 

From what I can grasp from comments, the Greek version is a folk song about being down by the seashore and longing for the singer's true love.

My youtube playlist for the year