Early Childhood Leader's Guide

Songs And Strategies To Teach Noah’s Ark (Parshat Noach)

Friends, yasher koach (all the respect) on making it through our holiday season! 

We sang the songs about shofars and ‘sorrys’ and sukkahs and simchas…and now we get to sing songs from the Torah. Just recently, we re-started reading the stories from the beginning- bereisheet (Hebrew word for “Genesis). 

One of my earliest memories as a child is learning the story of Noah and the ark gleefully singing “Rise and Shine” during Sunday School at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, GA.

it was in the early 90’s, before the congregation had a building. I can’t help but smile when I remember the joy of crouching on the floor during the verses in order to be ready to leap straight into the air jubilantly when the chorus of the song invited us to ‘Rise and Shine and give God my glory, glory’ with my first and incredibly influential songleader, Blake Singer. 

The Noah story is one of my favorites to share for a few reasons.

I’m a nerd and I love to debunk misinformation- so I make it a point to share a the fact that while it is written “two of every kind” in Genesis Bereisheet Chapter 6- “And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.” (Genesis 6:20).

Contrary to popular opinion,  all of the animals did not come on “by twosies, twosies”! 

Y’all- we’re supposed to keep reading the next chapter of Genesis! The confusion comes in when songs like the Rise and Shine simplifies that line, makes is rhyme, and the next lines are neglected. The text goes on to state, “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:2–3).

When I design my program plans that share music in Jewish educational environments, I aim to include a few moments of learning for the adults present. 

This can be tricky to facilitate, because as the educational leader in the room I don’t want to neglect the needs of my youngest learners- so I slip carefully curated fun, interesting facts relevant to adult learners into my presentations. 

I love the drama Noah’s story in Parshat Noach and I like to present it briefly through interactive storytelling at the beginning of the experience I’m facilitating. Many kids are familiar with elements of this story, so I try to prompt recollection by displaying a Noah’s Ark toy prominently so that the children notice it while they walk into the room. In this “anticipatory set” I’m hoping to introduce elements of this complex story that the children can process while we sing and play.

This story is about rain! 

I’ve played with this sound using two totally different tools: digital storm sound effects and rainsticks. As children enter the space where we’ll be singing, I like to have this Hard Rain and Thunder Sound effect playing as ambient sound. If you’ve got access to a rainstick, great! If not- this could be a great time to borrow one. Consider sharing the fact that you are preparing to share the story of Noah as we read Parshat Noach and ask if anyone in your community has one to borrow- post the query to your school or synagogue’s social network as a way to not only get what you need but also provide an update about the work you are doing with the community!

Use these sound cues to spark interest and encourage kids to help you share the story through dramatic, interactive storytelling. 

The brain responds to novelty. 

Through the modification of the environment they enter by adding the sounds of rain and storm, you are priming their brains to engage with Noah’s story that you are about to share.

I typically try to introduce the main characters of a story I’m going to be exploring through song- before I tell the elements of the story. I bring out my trusty Noah Puppet  and introduce him.  I’ll literally pull him out and say (as the puppet) “Shalom! My name is Noah!” and ask the children if they know anything about Noah, a character from our Torah stories. I’ll share a few of the big ideas that I’ll be presenting throughout the session: “I built a big boat called an ark!” or  “I helped the animals” !

*I might also take a moment here to review the characters of a previously shared Torah story- this lesson might be taking place just after the creation story was explored, so I might ask “Does anyone remember the characters from another Torah story?” as a way to assess the retention of the content from a previous lesson.

Then, I’ll ask the kids to say hello to Noah. Depending upon the size of the group, I might bring the puppet around to individual kids so they can shake his hand.

Songs to Teach Kids about Noah’s Ark (Parshat Noach)

1) Calling All Animals by Miss Emily

Get the lyrics and teaching tips here: Calling All Animals Leader’s Guide

2) Rise And Shine AKA “Arky Arky”

This song is sure to spark memories in a portion of your adult participants- something I like to highlight. If the song is clearly familiar to adults in the room, I might ask them to tell us when they first learned the song. 

It was adapted from an African American Spiritual called “We Are Climbing Jacob’s ladder”- the familiar refrain many of us know so well is likely sourced from Isaiah 60:1: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

I like to share the verses of the song in a seated position and encourage the kids to jump up on the chorus, taking action on the word “rise”

3) Old MacNoah Had An Ark  book by Sally Lloyd-Jones illustrated by Jill Newton

This illustrates the story of Noah’s ark in rhyming language that can be song To The Tune of (TTTo) Old MacDonald Had a Farm. This book is outrageously silly and not a personal favorite- but I use it because it delights the children and engages them in musical play and literary exploration- two of my favorite things to encourage! I don’t have to personally prefer everything that I share with children- I need to offer diverse options to my learners so each of them can learn in a way that matches their preferences.

4) Who Built The Ark? – Raffi

I love Raffi’s recording of this- and I appreciate the way that their music teacher highlighted a few sweet voices. Music teachers can aldo use this strategy to make this an echo song. 

Why are there so many songs about rainbows?

6) Over The Rainbow/ What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole 

I pair this song with either rainbow scarves or rainbow streamers, I distribute one to each child, briefly review any relevant safety rules related to moving throughout the space, and then we all dance and get some gross motor practice while we stretch our rainbow colors actress the sky. 

I use recorded music intermittently throughout most lessons I teach because 

  1. Gives my voice a break and allows me to catch my breath
  2. Frees me up to participate in the music with the kids in a way that leading them directly 
  3. Exposes listeners to musical diversity that I could never offer without supplementing my the music I make with recorded music
  4. Connects listeners with what they already love while they encounter new related information 

Since the Noah story concludes with a promise and a rainbow and because this literally every time I play this, someone in the room says “I love this song”- I consistently choose to use it. You can feel free to swap it out with any rainbow song of your choice, of course: and you have so many choices!

Teachers, songleaders, parents and clergy who have taken the time to read this post are going to rock leading this story because you’ve taken steps to prepare and it will serve you well. Enjoy making music, meaning, and memories as you teach Noah’s story to the littles you love.

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