Lesson #6 – Songs About Home

Time: 40-50 Minutes

Creator: Betsy Nolan, Musical Educator

Institution: Edmunds Elementary, Burlington, VT


What is this lesson about?

In this lesson students will listen to a composition about a Vermont refugees experience being separated from his homeland and family. Students will then create work in a variety of mediums that reflect their own feelings about the meaning of home.

Learning Objectives:

Students will practice describing a piece of music without personal judgement.

Students will discuss the idea of “home” and how that can be expressed musically.

Students will create a piece of visual art, poetry or music that reflects their feelings about home.

Lesson Plan: NNP #6

Section 1: Listening & Responding

Before saying anything about it, play the song once and ask students to listen with an open ear/mind, perhaps write down any reactions/thoughts/feelings they notice come up.

1. What do you hear? – Using the word bank, describe what you hear.  Do not share your feelings or opinions about the music.

Vocabulary Word Bank

Melody, harmony, major, minor, instruments, loud, soft, dynamics, tempo, beat rhythm, timbre, crescendo, decrescendo, form, verse, chorus, bridge, mood

2. Emotional Response:  Based on our group description, talk about how this music makes you feel and why.

3. Which parts of the music effectively conveyed the idea of longing for home to you, as the listener?

4. Provide contextual (i.e. historical, cultural, regional) information about the song.

From Migmar

“The song is about separation, like when you have to leave your country, go to another country, the pain that you have. When you have to leave your parents, so it’s like the cranes are taken as an example, like when the mother crane was able to cross the huge lake, the little cranes were not able to cross it…too young, doesn’t have the energy for that so the lake separates the two and then the little cranes singing the song…’How I wish I could cross the lake and be with them.'”

Section 2: Social & cultural practice

Read or handout copies of the translation of the song. Play the song a second time.

1. Are you surprised by the lyrics or not? How does hearing the lyrics change your understanding of the song?

2. Have students privately brainstorm a list of songs that make them think of home.

  • Why does the song(s) make you think of home?
  • What musical characteristics reinforce these feelings?
  • How is the song you chose similar to “Cranes?”
  • How is it different from “Cranes?”

Section 3: Creating

Students create their own song, poem, or art work about home.

1. Have students imagine they are living far from their home and family. 

  • What would you miss?

2. Have students choose a medium (visual art, poetry or song) and create a piece about their home.

Section 4: Collective Reflection

Facilitate reflection, possibly stepping back except to record responses on the board, of what it was like to  create something about home.

Possible prompts to give:

1. How did the composers of “Cranes” communicate their ideas of home through the music?

2. What ideas did you want to communicate in your work?

3. What was easy and/or hard about using art to communicate your feelings?

4. What is the value of using the arts to communicate emotions?  How might this change depending on people’s culture?

Section 5: Taking it out into the World!

Offer students the opportunity to extend this discussion with their friends and family.  What songs make them think of home?  How would they choose to express feelings of home through art?

Vermont Framework of Standards

  • Describing aural examples of music using appropriate terminology (e.g., pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, form, timbre, texture, articulation, harmony, phrasing, style).
  • Explaining qualities (elements, principles of design, expression) that may evoke emotion and meaning.
  • Relating varied interpretations of works of art using some or all of the following (e.g., observation, personal experience, cultural context).
  • Comparing/contrasting works of art, which may include a student’s own work.
  • Demonstrating an understanding of how the arts contribute to physical and mental health (e.g., self-expression, such as anger, joy, confusion, frustration).
  • Researching and describing how the arts reflect cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.
  • Analyzing how shared values and beliefs can maintain a subculture (e.g., political parties, religious groups). i
  • After examining issues from more than one perspective, defining and defending the rights and needs of others in the community, nation, and world (e.g. AIDS in Africa; One Child Policy in China; nuclear waste disposal). i
  • Analyze differences and similarities among people that arise from factors such as cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and religious diversity, and describe their costs and benefits.


Students show understanding of music CONCEPTS and VOCABULARY by…

A7-8:14 Students analyze, interpret, and respond to art by…

A7-8:17 Students show understanding of how the arts impact life by…

A7-8:18 Students show understanding of how the arts shape and reflect various cultures and times by…


H&SS7-8:16 Students examine how different societies address issues of human interdependence by…


This is a contemporary Tibetan song about being separated from your family and country.  “Yamdrok Yumtso” is a lake in Tibet”

“This reflects the situation in Tibet – the lake is Tibet, the cranes are Tibetans”
– Migmar

Yamdrok Yumtso - Translation

At the shore of Yamdrok Yumtso

The mother crane had a moment with her baby cranes

The mother crane has to cross the lake

When the mother crossed the lake

The baby cranes cry, saying “I am missing my mom”


Even though the mother crane wishes to be there at the shore for a while

The crane doesn’t have the freedom to make the choice

The baby cranes cry, saying “I am missing my mom”

– lyrics are a poem from the 6th Dalai Lama, music by Tenzin Choegyal, a classmate of Migmar’s

2. Souphine Phathsoungneune - Escaping Laos

This song was written in 1995 by Souphine Phathsoungneune; he is drawing on his experience of escaping from Laos in the aftermath of the Laotian Civil War.Souphine was born in Soungneune, Thailand in the late 1920s. After establishing himself as a folk opera singer, director and writer, he traveled throughout northeastern, Thailand teaching and training young opera troupes. As a young man, he crossed the border into Laos and is credited with introducing and establishing the Lam Leung Opera form there.During the war, Souphine and his wife, Phady, fled Laos and eventually resettled in Vermont in the early 1980s with their four daughters. He has continued to write and sing songs and to train new singers and opera performers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont.  Pictured above is Souphine playing on the Laos ‘Phi’ flute.

Escape Song - Translation

Now I will describe when Laos fell apart.

Everyone had to escape and had no home.

We had to move out from our old land.

Aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers

float in the Mae Khong River

Float across to Thailand.

All the sisters and brothers had to separate from each other.

Everybody had to go by themselves and will not see each other again.

Everybody had to escape from death and had nowhere to go…

Ubon refugee camp had millions of refugees

Laos’ people still floated over the Mae Khong River,

It took a long time before they could take a boat.

Some people died before the middle of the way.

A lot of people found that their families died in the river.

Brothers left sisters,

The sound of people crying, was everywhere.

Husbands and wives separated from each other.

What bad Karma.

It separated the children from their parents;

The girls separated from their partners

And far away from the flowers they used to smell.

Those days are many years from today;

Maybe they will have to marry another man or woman.

Already, now Oh!

My old girlfriend

I wonder if you went back to our old homeland or not.