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While Shepherds Watched (Bisley version)

The original manuscript and notes –  Go to this link to download the “See the song/tune as collected (PDF file)”

Audio of song:

While Shepherds Watched (Bisley) Prep
Key stage 2 years 5/6

Resources needed:
audio equipment to play music,
whiteboard to project text and write text.
Paper and pencils/pens.
In advance need to find the audio file (first three verses) and words on the website
Length of lesson 35-45mins

Learning Intentions
• To Learn a traditional folk song
• Learn history of a well known carol
• Write a tune to some well known words

What is a folk song?
• Not sung by professional musicians
• Passed down through families/communities/friends
• some songs are very old (often dating back to seventeenth century or earlier.
• Were often sung without any instruments.

While Shepherds Watched
• Published 1696
• Written by Nahum Tate Poet Laureate
• It was the only Hymn which could be sung in church because it is a direct quote from the bible.
• It was published without music so each community wrote their own tune.
• There are over 400 tunes for the carol

While Shepherds Watched (Bisley) Lesson

  • Ask children what they think a folk song is.
  • Tell them what a folk song is
  • Show them the words for While Shepherds watched
  • Ask if they know a tune for them and share any tune you know
  • Play them the recording from the website
  • Explain why there are so many tunes to this one set of words
  • Get children to write their own tune to some well known words. They could use
  • While Shepherds, other Christmas Carols or any other well know tunes. It is
  • advisable to avoid Pop songs.
  • Children share with group

Optional extra: maybe record the new tunes.
Optional extra: If they have used the words to while shepherds have a listen to The
recording of Charley Williams available at