Greensleeves

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This song is said to have been written by Henry VIII, King of England, in the 16th century. It’s a beautiful melody, although, it’s a questionable listening activity for non-English speakers because the language is so old. Still, that’s the beauty of having short songs – they aren’t going to frustrate learners too much. By the way, the song has many verses; I only sing one here.

Step 1

Give out all the words to the song, and let students do a few sing-alongs and learn the melody.

Step 2

Tell students they are to write new words to the same melody.

A strong model – like blanks – works quite well, it gives students the proper number of syllables (or words, if you like). So take the first line of “Greensleeves”: Alas, my love you do me wrong. Rendered in blanks it looks like this:

_____   _____   _____   _____   _____   _____   _____   _____   _____

That’s the number of syllables. There are eight. Actually, there are nine because “love” is sung like “luh-uhv,” a two syllable word.

So here are 3 examples of first lines following the 9-syllable pattern:

1) I’ll tell you why I like snowboarding…

2) One night in winter I heard a sound…

3) I knew a girl named Vladislava…

Your students might re-write the song using these opening lines as starting points. Or even better – they can make an entirely new song. It’s, however, a good idea to write out the blanks on the board to give them a pattern. It doesn’t have to be nine syllables: you can add or subtract a few.

Option

If you just want to do a listening activity, you’re welcome to copy the text below and remove some words before supplying it to the students.

The song is short enough that you could write a gap-fill on the board, like this:

Alas, my __________ you do me __________
To __________ me off __________
For I __________ loved you well and long
__________ in your __________

Greensleeves was all my __________
Greensleeves was my __________
Greensleeves was my heart of __________
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.

The complete text is here:

Alas, my love you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously
For I have loved you well and long
Delighting in your company

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight
Greensleeves was my heart of gold
and who but my Lady Greensleeves.

For those with musical instruments, here’s the chord progression:
Verse:  Em, D, C, B, Em, D, C, B, Em
Chorus: G, D, C, B, G, D, C, B, Em

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This song was recorded before 1923, and is in the public domain. It means I’m free to record it and publish it on my web site, and you’re free to use it.

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