Auld Lang Syne is probably the best-known New Year song out there and is really pretty familiar for most folks. I've found that often kids have heard the song before even if they don't know the words or exactly how it goes. I use this lesson to refresh their memory, clarify how the song really goes, teach a little history, add in a dance, and more.
LEARNING THE SONG - THE PROCESS
After we've been through the first verse and chorus I go back and stop to talk about the basic meaning of words in the first verse. We talk a little bit about the New Year and New Year's resolutions. "Should the old year be totally forgotten? If you moved to a new place, should you try to forget all of your old friends and just focus on the new ones?" Depending on what grade level you teach this with the point can really hit home. Even kids in elementary school know what it's like to lose friends. Kids move away or change schools all the time. Kids can even relate if you talk about how some students shift from one homeroom to another from year to year. This is a fun dicussion to have as you talk about the "new" and thinking about the future compared to thinking back and remembering the past.
Teaching the Vocabulary
Kids often don't realize that languages change, and so one thing that I do sometimes is really drop into some older English phrasing like you might find in the King James Version of the Bible or Shakespeare. Lots of "thee" and "thou" and "shall." Kids usually understand what I'm saying even though I'm not using words that they really know. Or I might try and speak with an Australian accent and throw in some Australian phrases and vocabulary (which I do pretty terribly even though I studied abroad there years ago). It's fun to draw comparisons and give some examples to kids of English used in ways that they are not familiar with.
Another important vocabulary word to talk about is acquaintance. This is not a word that they hear frequently, though they might know the general meaning. I explain it like this: "An acquaintance is someone you know. Someone you don’t know is a stranger. When you meet a stranger and get to know them they become an acquaintance. If you learn lots about them and learn to like them they become a friend. Stranger ---> Acquaintance ---> Friend." It's so easy to stop and take just a minute to explain this new word. It helps to expand the students' vocabulary and gives them more ownership of the song. They're not just singing a word or phrase "just because," they're singing it because the word has an important part in the song.
Additional Verses - It's easy to teach them all!
That being said, I really enjoy the other verses. If you want to introduce these new verses you could do a couple things. One really easy thing to do would be to quickly go through and sing the verses for the kids. You could project the words as you sing the verses and then have students join in on the chorus. That would keep them engaged and significantly speed up the learning process. Or you could divide students into groups and have each small group be in charge of singing one of the verses. Give them a minute or two to figure out how the words would match up with the melody. Then when it's time to "perform out" for the class, you could sing along with each group on their verse and have the whole class join in on the chorus.
The Folk Dance - Fun for Everyone
In the Favorite Carol kit that I created I've included a visual to help map out the dance and also some links to videos/media online that you could show to students. Try as I might I couldn't find a video that showed the "turn out" at the end of the song but there are lots of videos of people in kilts singing, dancing, and having fun with arms crossed in a huge circle. If you watch a few videos you'll find that the song goes pretty slowly at first but on the last verse they really speed up and have fun with the song!
If you liked the visuals and resources you saw in the above blog post then check out this Favorite Carol for the song. I have it available to download as a PowerPoint presentation and also as a PDF file. Included in the set are a lot more pages of historical context, vocabulary, background for the song, visuals, and aids for teaching. You can use the PowerPoint for visuals and explanation as you teach or you can post the images out in the hallway as a bulletin board that reinforces the content you explore in class (or you can do both)!