In a zipper song, most of the verse remains the same each time you sing it, but you substitute one or more words each time. "This Old Man" is a classic zipper song. "This old man, he played one / He played knick-knack on my thumb / With a knick-knack paddy-wack, give your dog a bone / This old man came rolling home." You then replace the underlined words with "two...on my shoe," "three...on my knee," "four...door," "five...hive," "six...sticks," "seven...up in heaven," "eight...on my plate," "nine...on my spine," "ten...once again." Other children's zipper songs are "Old McDonald" and "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain."

Some African American hymns follow the zipper song form, although the noble beauty of the hymns defies the informality of the term zipper. Examples are "Over My Head" (Singing the Living Tradition, #30), "Cumbayah," and "There Is More Love Somewhere" (Singing the Living Tradition, #95). Use the rote method to teach "There Is More Love Somewhere" phrase by phrase. Sing it a cappella (without instruments). Teach the third line in two sections, because it is tricky. When the children have learned the song, begin substituting words, "There is more joy" or "peace" or "hope." Ask singers to provide one-syllable words, and make sure the words honor the tradition.

Zipper songs are great sing-along songs because they require little learning time and can be sung for a long time. During an assembly, the audience can pick up and join in on a zipper song with relative ease.

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.