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A Local Ballad – creative writing and performance

This can be used as an extension project for other folk song exercises or an activity in its own right.

Level: KS2 Y5 or Y6

Curriculum: Traditonal Tales, Local History, Music


Ballads have been used for millennia as a form of entertainment and education. One reason why ballads are so widespread is that they are often easier to learn than a story. The rhyming structure and rhythms help us to memorise the exact words.  Old people can often remember all the words of songs they learnt at school.

Folk Tales

Stories from central Europe like ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Mother Goose’ are widely known because the brothers Grimm collected and published them.  However, there are thousands upon thousands of folk tales from all over the world.  Some are published, many are not.  Many still exist in the communities around Gloucestershire. 

Purpose: Use this song as a stepping stone to delve deeper into local history and create new work.

Outcomes: Understanding of local traditional tales, creative writing and singing.

  • Find a local story.
  • There are books that contain local folk tales
  • Ask the children to find stories from parents, grandparents, neighbours.
  • Ask people in the community who might know some local stories. There may be a storyteller locally
  • Have a storytelling session to bring the stories together.
  • Choose one of the stories and analyse it.
  • Tell each child to write the story in your own words – it could be as a 3rd person narrative, but encourage them to consider the story from the perspective of individual characters.
  • Share the stories in class.
  • Working in pairs write a section of the story in rhyming couplets. Collect all of the words on one document.
  • At this point there are two potential routes to follow:
    a) Ask a musician or singer to propose an existing tune.
    b) Use the project as a melody writing exercise.
  • Once you have a melody go through the song with the couplets from each group and try to fit them to the melody. This is a fun and interactive exercise. Use the creativity of the whole class.  The words will get changed to fit the tune.
  • Print out the newly honed song – so that everyone can sing it.
  • Record it – even recording it on a smartphone will capture the tune.
  • Put the words and music on the school website/learning platform/intranet, so that children can access it in school (and at home if possible).
  • Give them the challenge of learning it by heart in a week.
  • Have a song session, firstly singing together, then give individuals or pairs the opportunity to sing particular verses.
  • Keep it in the bag for the next school production or concert


Extension activities.

  • Singing competition – who can give the best (solo/group performance).
  • Make an arrangement for school band.
  • Change the style (think pop, country, rock, opera)
  • Film the music video – a fabulous creative project in itself
    1. Record the songs as a backing track.
    2. Storyboard the video
    3. Prepare the props and costumes
    4. Rehearse
    5. Film the scenes, using the recorded backing track to ensure you get the tempo right for good lip synch.