HOT TOPIC: Orinoco Flow
Volume 3, Issue 26 - March 18, 2007

"In 1988 the Irish songstress Enya released a dreamlike song entitled “Orinoco Flow,” which told of a journey across the world with the haunting refrain of “Sail away, sail away, sail away…..” The lilting melody and folksy Irish songstyle provided a romantic aire for anyone yearning to travel, be it across the globe or back into the past. It was a huge hit worldwide that has been covered by numerous artists since, most recently Celtic Woman.

Teaching at the time, I eventually found a way to utilize the song in my classroom, integrating technology and map studies to help students understand the meaning of the cryptic lyrics and make the song their own. Here’s what we did…..

We would first listen to the song several times, following along on a lyrics sheet, making sense of the words and coming up with a theme for what the song is all about.

Then we would identify those places referenced in the song and build a vocabulary list. Students were sent off to research the history and background of each location on the list.

We also created a wall-size map of the globe complete with lines of latitude and longitude ( a great experience for reinforcing basic map skills and especially concept of scale). As students identified where a location form the song actually occurred on the globe, they were encouraged to place it on the wall map for all to see.

When we were done, we would regroup, report to one another on what we had learned, and bring the meaning of the entire song together by comparing it with the theme we had identified at the outset of the activity. As a culminating activity, I would have the students learn the song so they could sing it a capella to other classes.

Fast forward twenty years and imagine the possibilities today for researching and presenting your students findings online, including an interactive map visitors can manipulate as they learn the song’s locations and meaning and an MP3 file of your class singing the song on their own! Consider the possibilities this St. Patrick ’s Day weekend."

©2005 Walter McKenzie

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