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Valentine's Day Song

A Paper of Pins
I've loved the song Paper of Pins for years, but never taught it until this year.  It's a tough song to teach because it's a conversation of a man and a woman.  He keeps proposing and she keeps refusing.  Until the end when he offers her the keys to his treasure chest.  She then accepts his proposal and he says,

Sugar and spice and coffee and tea
you love my money but don't love me
so I'll not marry marry you, I will not marry you!
Awkward topic made easier
I used puppets to get over the awkwardness.  Originally I had boys sit opposite girls and sing back and forth, but they just couldn't handle it.  The giggling was terrible and nobody sang.  I did a movement activity before this and said that I'd choose the puppeteers based on maturity and concentration shown during the dance.  I chose children and used finger puppets.  I had a pile of scarves of various colors and chose children to pick out which scarf would be the red dress, green dress, blue silk gown, etc.  I had the last child find a "treasure chest" somewhere in the room.  

"You are all the ladies and gentlemen in waiting for our king.  You bring the gifts to him and he'll give them to his lady."  

It worked out really well.  They loved the song.  At first very few sang because the situation and drama made them laugh so much, but they sang more and more with each verse.  I used my white board folded down as a stage that children stood behind.  You can use a sheet draped around the children's shoulders and they can act out the drama with the finger puppets at chest level.  You could even use full-size puppets.  If you watch any interviews with Sesame Street puppeteers, you learn that people don't look at the person but the puppet. 
The Song
There are thousands of variants of this song.  Here is one with lyrics and guitar chords that is similar to the one I used.  The two melodies that are most common are these. 

Solfa, sing this with a s, upbeat and a lilting 6/8 meter.  
s,    D    D  D    D m m  s   D    D    r      r  r       r    t,      r    s, l, t,
I'll give to you a paper of pins and that is how our love be-gins if

D     l,     f,   l,   s,  D   D    D r m r      D t,    D
you will marry marry me, if you will marry me.

The original English version of this song ended with marriage of the maid and the man.  The moral was that a nobleman must not withhold his wealth from his wife.  When the song made its way to the New World its lyrics changed.  Now the man wanted to be loved and refused a wife who only wanted his money.  I got this history from Folksong in the Classroom, a newsletter that was published in the 1980s and is now available in book form here.  This book is particularly great for use with older students and for regular classroom teachers who need songs to enrich their curriculum.  The history and detail given to the songs is amazing.  

Pins were very difficult to make before modern machinery.  This song dates from the 17th Century or before, so pis were very expensive.  A blacksmith would take an hour or more to make just one pin!  A paper of pins was a gift fit for a queen and would be more valuable than jewels.  Giving a paper of pins was a great gift for a new wife from a husband.  Indeed, when women had some extra cash, they would save it up as their "pin money," a term that survives to this day.  
Pins needed to be kept dry so they wouldn't rust.
I demonstrated this to the children using a clave, fat red marker, thin black marker, thin red marker, and a pencil.  I showed the students how a large piece of metal was heated to red-hot then pounded to be thinner.  It was then reheated and pounded thinner still.  They were impressed with how much effort it took to make a single pin and how long it would take to make enough pins to make a fancy dress. 


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