What can you learn from the Jeely Piece song?

By Bruce Munro and Flora Napier

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In this feature, we'll show how listening to a song with your child can offer a variety of chances for them to learn.

This approach, which the professionals call "topic-based learning", is one of the key ideas behind the Curriculum for Excellence, the system followed in Scottish schools.

As a starting-point, let's take the first verse and chorus of The Jeely Piece Song, a Scots folk song written in the 1960s, written and performed in the 1960s by Adam McNaugton and also sung by, amongst others, Matt McGinn and Alastair McDonald.

Verse one

Lyrics to the song: I'm a skyscraper wean (child), I live on the nineteenth flair, But I'm no gaun oot to play ony mair, Cause since we moved to Castlemilk, I'm wasting away, Cause I'm getting wan less meal every day. Lyrics end. Additional annotation shows a photograph of a tenement flat being destroyed and the text underneath says after World War Two, many tenement slums were destroyed.


Lyrics to the song: O ye cannae fling pieces (sandwiches) oot a twenty-storey flat, seven-hundred gungry weans (children) will testify to that, if it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan, the odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine to wan. Lyrics end. Additional annotation shows a sandwich falling towards the earth next to a high-rise flat, with an arrow pointing downwards and the text underneath says in real life the force of gravity would pull the jeely piece downwards.

Verse one

I'm a skyscraper wean...

What does "wean" mean? It's the Scots word for "child". This means it's a word that some people in Scotland use that probably isn't used anywhere else. You could talk about Scots words you or other members of your family use and you could watch Liz Lochhead, the Scots Makar (National Poet of Scotland) reading her famous poem Kidspoem/Bairnsang which is written in both Scots and English.

You could also use this as a starting point for looking at foreign languages - what is the word is for "child" in French, Spanish or Mandarin?

'Cause since we moved tae Castlemilk...

This is a reference to the slum clearance that happened after the war - millions of people moved from tenements, in areas such as the Gorbals in Glasgow, to blocks of high rise flats. So you could use this as a starting point to talk about the different types of homes people have had throughout history. More information on the change in housing in Scotland can be found in Bitesize History.


Ye cannae fling pieces oot a twenty-storey flat

You could talk about whether a jeely piece really could fly up into the sky. The answer is of course, probably not. Why? Because of gravity - everything on the planet is being acted on by a force that pulls it downwards. You can explore this further by talking about astronauts in space - why do astronauts float in space but we don't float about on earth? You can use Bitesize Physics and videos on weightlessness from Class Clips to find out more.

Does your child call a sandwich a "piece"? Again, this could lead you in to talking about what Scots words you use regularly, or what the word for "sandwich" is in other languages.

If it's butter, cheese or jeely, if the breid is plain or pan

Looking at Scots language and history, what's the difference between a plain and pan loaf?

What would be in your ultimate sandwich? If you're not sure where to start, get some inspiration from BBC Food's sandwich recipes. You could even bake your own bread.

The odds against it reaching earth are ninety-nine tae wan.

Do you know how to work out the odds of something happening? Bitesize Maths and Class clips can help you explain about estimating how likely (probable) something is to happen.

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