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Yo, away, ho, singing sea shanty poems is the way to go – to introduce Melville’s Moby Dick


Language Arts, Music, Social Studies  



Title – Sea Shanties
By – K. Schmidt
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subject – Music, Social Studies Grade Level – 11

Intro from

      Most sea shanties are call and response songs; a cross between a Marine drill chant and a yo-ho-ho pirate ditty. The Shanty Man sings the first verse and the sailors respond while pulling a sail rope in unison.

Call: Boney was a warrior,
Response: Away hey-yah,
Call: A warrior and a tarrier,
Response: Jean Francois.

I soon got used to this singing, for the sailors never touched a rope without it.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick .

Concept / Topic To Teach:

    The poetry of the sea shanty, as an introduction to Moby Dick

Standards Addressed:

    1.03 Demonstrate the ability to read, listen to and view a variety of increasingly complex print and non-print expressive texts appropriate to grade level and course literary focus, by:

    • identifying and analyzing personal, social, historical or cultural influences, contexts, or biases.

    2.01 Research and analyze ideas, events, and/or movements related to United States culture by

    • locating facts and details for purposeful elaboration.

    4.02 Develop thematic connections among works by:

    • connecting themes that occur across genres or works from different time periods.
    • using specific references to validate connections.

General Goal(s):

  • To understand the purposes sea shanties served
  • To write an original sea shanty

Specific Objectives:

  • To identify the call and response portions of sea shanties
  • To write and perform an original sea shanty

Required Materials:


Anticipatory Set (Lead-In):

      Introduction to sea shanties, whaling, and Moby Dick (LPP:

Wikipedia is a good starting source


Step-By-Step Procedures:

  1. Spend time researching whaling, the whaling business, and life on whaling ships.
  2. Go to sea shanty web sites (LPP: teacher goggles “sea shanty” and selects approved sites, since some can get “salty” ) and listen to some old sea shanties.
  3. With group of no more than three, write a sea shanty of no less than fourteen lines, complete with call and response.
  4. Sea shanty shall be typed and handed in.
  5. For extra credit, sea shanty may be performed.

Plan For Independent Practice:

    Students may search the internet and find other sites than those given by teacher

Closure (Reflect Anticipatory Set):

    Students will hand in, and they will be able to read or listen to each others.

Assessment Based On Objectives:

    Objectives will be met if shanty is fourteen lines long, reflects the shanty of the whalers of America, and includes call and response.

Adaptations (For Students With Learning Disabilities):

      Shanty can be shorter.


    Students can be paired with students who are learning disabled.

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

    These students could have their shanty reflect an actual, historic ship wreck.

Possible Connections To Other Subjects:




E-Mail K. Schmidt !

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