Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush
Using the song “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” in EFL classes.
Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is a song which is popular with kids (especially if you whirl round very quickly!) and a great way of teaching daily routines language like “brush my teeth”. It can also be easily adapted to introduce and practice other verb and noun collocations. There are also several books based on the song.
In the most popular form of the song, the whole class makes a big circle by holding hands and the circle moves round as they sing “Here we go round the mulberry bush, mulberry bush, mulberry bush. Here we go round the mulberry bush, on a cold and frosty morning/ early in the morning”. They then stop, let go of each other’s hands and sing a verse about normal daily actions like “This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth, on a cold and frosty morning/ early in the morning” while doing the action (maybe including shivering for “cold”). They then hold hands again and the circle moves around as they sing the chorus again. Typical actions include “Brush my teeth”, “Comb my hair”, “Wash my face” and “Wave bye bye”
See below for other uses for the song and variations on how to sing it and do the actions, and there are links to videos of people doing the song right at the bottom.
Before the song
You could pre-teach actions vocabulary, meaning both the daily routines actions and also the classroom instructions they will need to understand to act out and sing the song properly. Instructions language that you might want to practice with TPR before you start the song include “Hold hands”, “Make a circle”, “Go round (this way/ that way/ clockwise/ anti-clockwise)”, “Stop” and “Sing (loudly/ quietly)”
Games you can practice actions with before the song include:
- Action chains- Students do the action you wrote on the board while shouting out what they are doing (e.g. “Stand up”), then the same after you add another action (e.g. “Stand up. Turn around”). Continue adding actions one by one until they are doing about ten in a row.
- Simon Says
See TPR Extensions below for other games that could be used for this purpose.
You could then move straight onto the song, but doing the actions slowly and just saying or slowly singing the lyrics. This will give you a chance to teach the meanings of the things they will sing and do, explain to them what they have to do during the song, and perhaps elicit and/ or discuss the actions. Examples of elicitation and discussion could include:
- “This is the way I eat my lunch. Do you eat your lunch like this?” (cultural differences with chopsticks, hands, table manners, praying first, speed of eating etc)
- Ditto with other eating and drinking
- Ditto with cultural differences in gestures like “Say hello” and “Say goodbye”
- “This is the way I shave my chin. Do you shave your chin?”, and other age and gender specific actions like “This is the way I put on my lipstick/ skirt/ tie”
- Elicit nouns for each verb, e.g. “Brush my nose? No!”
- Elicit the action by giving them the problem, e.g. “My hair is messy” or “I am smelly”. Other adjectives you can practice include “dirty”, “hungry”, and “bored”
- Elicit by the order the students do them as part of their own routines, e.g. “What do you do after you eat breakfast?”
- Do actions with puppets and they guess which one it is
It is very easy to adapt the song to language points other than daily routines. Here are some examples:
- Classroom actions- “This is the way I line up to go/ put my book in my bag/ open my book”
- Transport- “This is the way I ride my bike” (maybe on the spot or going round the circle)
- Clothes- Putting on, taking off, polish my shoes, fold up, hang up, do up, etc
- Sports- “This is the way we bounce the ball/ pass the ball/ throw the ball/ catch the ball/ run and jump”
Adding more language
- Tell them each time which way to turn, e.g. “The other way”, “Left” or “Counter clockwise”
- Times of day- Move onto evening actions with “On a cold and frosty evening”
- Flashcards- Put different things or flashcards in the middle of the circle, then sing “Here we go round the apple tree/ purple cat/ fireman” rather than mulberry bush
- Weather- “On a cold and snowy morning”, “On a windy and rainy morning” etc with actions
- Tell them how to do their actions, e.g. quickly and slowly, direction of brushing your teeth (up and down or left and right)
- Tell them to do other actions as they go round the circle, e.g. hop, jump, or run
While singing the song- other variations
- Walk round in a circle rather than holding hands (saves problems with boys and girls not wanting to hold hands)
- Students walk around their own desks or chairs individually or in groups (good if you can’t make a big space in the classroom)
- Trace their fingers/ finger puppets around the mulberry bush/ tree etc on the board/ table/ worksheet, so that you can do the song without standing up and add more vocab
- Students make circles in smaller groups or even pairs, perhaps to your shouted out instructions after each verse, e.g. “Make small circles”, “Make three circles”, “Three people in each circle” or “One circle of boys and one circle of girls”
- Use the elicitation techniques above to get them involved and/ or to let them choose the next action. For example, shout out “Brush my knees!” so that they protest and can choose between brushing their hair or teeth for the next action.
This song can be used as an introduction to daily routines, nature vocabulary (starting with mulberry bush and extending to tree etc), and clothes (starting with putting clothes on and taking them off as part of your daily routine). By using the variations above, you also have the option of continuing with work on classroom actions, adjectives, etc.
Worksheet and craft extensions
- Student colour in a toothbrush, comb, sponge etc and (maybe after cutting them up) use the right objects to do the actions in the song
- Students circle the objects that the teacher sings in the place of “mulberry bush”, e.g. “Here we go round the Christmas tree”
- Students make a mirror out of aluminium foil and then do actions like combing hair and brushing teeth in front of it
- Students choose pictures of actions from the sheet that they usually do, e.g. eating with chopsticks, and stick them on a piece of A4 or A3 paper in the order that they do them
- Students make a figure, e.g. finger puppet, that they do the actions with and then go around things in the class, e.g. a table, in the place of mulberry bush
- Students make a bush, tree etc to walk around while doing the song later
- Brush and wash stations- Put the word “brush” on one wall and “wash” on the opposite one, and students run and slap the right wall depending on what you say, e.g. “wash” for “dishes”, “clothes” and “face” and “brush” for “teeth”. For “hair”, the last person to touch either wall loses
- Yes/ No stations- You say “This is the way we clean our teeth” but actually washing them with your hands. Students run and touch the walls with and say yes or no
- Put pictures of animals around room and say “Wash the panda’s face” or “Brush the crocodile’s teeth”
- Do the same with hand puppets placed around the room
- Make bubbles and students run to catch them and wash the part of the body you say with them- must be outside or with carpet so floor doesn’t get slippery!
- Do classroom actions including some which are naughty and they say “No!” when you suggest something that they shouldn’t do in class
- Continue with other action songs where you stand in a circle, e.g. Hokey Cokey
Version of the song with shapes:
Another version of the song with shapes: