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Music is key for understanding cultures. Each culture has different songs and rhythms that are related to an specific time period. These songs are perfect for learning more about society and the changes it has experimented throughout the years. The old American folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” is a great example of a time period portrayed through music. Its catchy rhythm makes it the perfect choice for the little ones to start getting to know English culture, and also for children that are studying English as a second language.

Folk songs are filled with history. They are usually composed with original expressions used in an older time, and their lyrics often discuss the ways of living of people and their cultural backgrounds. This lovely nursery rhyme for kids talks about a time where railroads had a large role in the development of the United States. As one of the main types of transportation, trains had a huge impact on the country’s growth. Many people worked on the railroads and told their stories through a myriad of folk songs.

In this children’s song, your little one will learn the story of one of these railroad workers, who worked there all day, from very early in the morning. This song will give your little one the chance to get to practice English vocabulary in a different setting. For example, you can explain your little one about railroads, and mention how trains were the one of the main modes of transport in the country. You can also mention, that trains have a whistle that make a very particular sound when blown, and which was the main way to let everyone know that the train was approaching town. Additionally, you can tell your little one that every train had a captain, who was in charge of the whole train journey. Finally, your child can practice learning about musical instruments with this song. Explain your little one that a banjo is a stringed instrument that’s very common in folk music, just like the one from this song.

As you sing this fun song, encourage your little one to practice all the words so he or she can improve fluency and pronunciation in English. This way, your little one won’t only be learning new words, but will also get to boost his or her conversation skills.

Once you’ve finished practicing the songs’s lyrics, you can fun with your little one by taking a look at the video. Try naming the different things that appear there, and ask some questions that will improve your child’s communication skills, like: “Where are the friends working?” That’s right! In the railroad in the desert, or “What color is the train?” It’s purple and blue. This way, your little one will start learning how to express his or her thoughts in English. Also, don’t forget to dance to the rhythm of the song and to have fun while singing its lyrics!

“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” Lyrics:

I've been working on the railroad
All the live-long day!
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away.
Can't you hear the whistle blowing?
Rise up so early in the morn
Can't you hear the captain shouting?
Dinah, blow your horn!

Dinah won't you blow
Dinah won't you blow
Dinah, won't you blow your horn?
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow,
Dinah, won't you blow your horn?

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Someone's in the kitchen I know-ow-ow-ow
Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah
Strumming on the old banjo
Singing
Fee fie fiddly-i-o
Fee fie fiddly-i-o-o-o-o
Fee fie fiddly-i-o
Strumming on the old banjo
Strumming on the old banjo
Strumming on the old banjo

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