Functions! The Blackfly Song

Grade 3 • 30 minutes

Created by Caitlin Davey on 9/9/16


The iconic blackfly song tells the story of a surveyor working in North Ontario and facing some bothersome bugs. This song not only talks about Canada’s resources but has a repetitive structure that is useful for learning about functions in coding.

Prep Work

The Lesson

Image from NFB video Blackfly

  • Watch the Black Fly video together as a class
  • Prompt students by asking what parts of the song sounded the same
    Discuss how songs can be structured to have a repeating block that is called the chorus
    Explain how functions in coding can serve a similar purpose to that of a chorus in a song
  • Introduce functions and their definition
  • Explain how functions can save time much like listing the chorus at the top of the lyrics sheet and calling it throughout the sheet as you only need to define a chorus once and can use it as many times as you want. Much like in a computer program you’d define a block of code once, give it a name to reference it, and then use that block of code as many times as you’d need in a computer program


  1. Play the song again for students
  2. Divide the class into groups and see if the class can guess the chorus of the song. Have them write-down the words they hear and compare them with the chorus in the other groups
  3. Did all the groups get the same result?
  4. Have students write a song about a Canadian province that has a chorus or function and 1-2 verses to practice the concept

Image from NFB video Blackfly


Blackfly Song

By: Wade Hemsworth  

Chorus: And the black flies, the little black fliesAlways the black fly, no matter where you goI'll die with the black fly a-picking my bonesIn north on-tar-i-o-i-o, in north on-tar-i-o
'Twas early in the spring when I decide to goFor to work up in the woods in north on-tar-i-oThe unemployment office said they'd send me throughTo the little abi-tibi with the survey crew


Now the man, black toby was the captain of the crewAnd he said, "I'm gonna tell you boys what we're gonna doThey want to build a power dam and we must find a wayFor to make the little ab flow around the other way"


So we survey to the east and we survey to the westAnd we couldn't make our minds up how to do it bestLittle ab, little ab, what shall I doFor I'm all but goin' crazy on the survey crew


It was black fly, black fly everywhereA-crawlin' in your whiskers, a-crawlin' in your hairA-swimmin' in the soup, and a'swimmin in the teaOh the devil take the black fly and let me be


Black toby fell to swearin' 'cause the work went slowAnd the state of our morale was gettin' pretty lowAnd the flies swarmed heavy, it was hard to catch a breathAs you staggered up and down the trail talkin' to yourself


Now the bull cook's name was blind river joeIf it hadn't been for him we'd have never pulled throughFor he bound up our bruises, and he kidded us for fun. And he lathered us with bacon grease and balsam gum


At last the job was over, black toby said, we're throughWith the little abitibi and the survey crew'Twas a wonderful experience and this I knowI'll never go again to north ontar-i-o



  • What other songs can you think of off the top of your head that have a strong pattern or repeating parts?
  • What other songs do you know about Canada?
  • What did you like most about the lesson?

Suggested Lessons

Intended Province:


  • Subjects:
  • Social Studies

Key Curriculum Concepts

  • Canada's resources
  • Canadian culture

Key Coding Concepts

A function is a procedure in programming that returns a value. It is a block or set of instructions in computer programming that can be reused throughout a program.