Thursday, August 20, 2009

Literacy in the Playground 2

In Literacy in the Playground 1, I discussed the importance of games in kids' lives, particularly in terms of language acquisition and literacy. Thanks to Brian for sharing his favourite, Rabbit and the Dogs, Claire and Carrie Anne for bringing us elastics/chinese jumprope, and Valerie, Kelly and Terry for their vote of approval for Four Square.

Some games kids play are accompanied by chants and rhymes, especially skipping and clapping. I think these are very important, both for literacy and music education. By chanting the rhymes used for clapping and skipping games, kids are internalizing language, particularly rhythm and rhyme. This helps all their communication skills: reading, writing, talking and listening. The bonus is, kids get physical activity while they're playing. Skipping has obvious aerobic benefits, but if you've ever seen kids get up to speed in a clapping game, you'll know these do too!

Chants like these change from person to person, school to school, and country to country, so there are hundreds of variations. That is the nature of folk rhymes. It's fun to tweak them and create your own, adding more lines and movements.
Let's start with some simple clapping games.

Probably one of the easiest clapping games to learn is
My Mother Said. It may also be one of the oldest. Storyteller,
Helen Evans, says her mother played it in the early 1900s as a skipping game. "The chant is called while two kids turn the rope and other children run in to skip one at a time. The group chants ‘My mother said that I never should play with the gypsies in the wood. If I did she would say naughty girl to disobey. Disobey 1 Disobey 2 Disobey, disobey, disobey You.’ Then the rope is turned as fast as possible while kids count the number of peppers skipped."

A basic clap pattern can be put to similar words. You need to stand opposite and facing your partner.
My (clap own hands together)
mother (clap your right hand against partner's right hand)
said (clap own hands together)
that (clap your left hand against partner's left hand)
I (clap your own hands together)
never (clap your right hand against partner's right hand)
should (clap your own hands together)
play (clap your left hand against partner's left hand)
with (clap your own hands together)
the (clap your right hand against partner's right hand)
gypsies (clap your own hands together)
in (clap your left hand against partner's left hand)
the (clap your right hand against partner's right hand)
wood (clap your own hands together)
Keep to the same pattern for "If I did, she would say, naughty girl to disobey."

Try speeding up once you know the clapping patten and the rhyme. Try changing the clap - clap your own shoulders with crossed arms, for instance, or add in variations.

One of Terry Doherty's favourite clapping games is
Miss Mary Mack. Terry blogs at
Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, so I wasn't surprised when she discovered there is even a book of claps and rhymes called Miss Mary Mack. Kim Chatel likes this one, too.

The pattern is:
Miss (clap your own hands together)
Ma (cross your arms in front of your chest)
-ry (clap your own hands together)
Mack, Mack, Mack (clap both your hands on both your partner's hands three times)

And here are the words:
Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All dressed in black, black, black 
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons 
All down her back, back, back.

 She asked her mother, mother, mother
 For 50 cents, cents, cents
 To see the elephants, elephants, elephants, 
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high
 They reached the sky, sky, sky
 And they didn't come back, back, back
'Til the 4th of July, ly, ly!

Pippa (aged 7) loves to play Miss Mary Mack with her friends at recess and lunchtime, but with extra words, and a slightly different pattern:
She went upstairs stairs stairs
And bumped her head head head
and now she's dead.

Pattern: Both friends cross hands over their own chest on Miss,
slap own knees for 'Mar',
clap own hands together on 'ree',
clap opposite hand to friend's one on each 'Mack', then clap own hands together between each Mack (but not after the last Mack).
Repeat these cross, slap, clap actions for every line.


Thanks, Pippa!

Australian author,
Claire Saxby, remembers a favourite clapping game called Under the Bamboo.

"With a pattern of clapping which included clapping your own hands together and also clapping with another person in a variety of ways, you'd sing a song:
Under the bamboo
under the tree boom boom boom
true love for me
my darling
true love for me boom boom boom
when we get married
we'll raise a family
a girl for you
and a boy for me
how happy we'll be."

(Youtube
has a similar one.)


Here's a Book Chook favourite. Well, when I say favourite, it's one of those chants that actually sticks to your brain like glue once you know it. I used to play it as call and response with my students. There are many clap patterns you can do. The best idea is start with a simple one, and make it more complicated when you're ready. Simple: clap your own hands together twice, clap both your partner's hands twice, and repeat, for each line. Don't forget the extra actions!

Down down baby, down by the roller coaster
Sweet sweet baby, I don't wanna let you go
Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop, shimmy shimmy pow
Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop, shimmy shimmy wow
Grandma grandma sick in bed, she called the doctor and the doctor said:
Let's get the rhythm of the head, Ding Dong, (move your head from left to right)
We've got the rhythm of the head, Ding Dong (move your head from left to right)
Let's get the rhythm of the hands, (clap clap)
We've got the rhythm of the hands (clap clap)
Let's get the rhythm of the feet, (stamp stamp)
We've got the rhythm of the feet, (stamp stamp)
Let's get the rhythm of the hot dog, (shrug shoulders and open mouth wide)
We've got the rhythm of the hot dog (shrug shoulders and open mouth wide)
Put it all together and what do you get?
(ding dong, clap, clap, stamp stamp, hot dog)
Put it all backwards and what do you get?
(hot dog, stamp stamp, clap clap, ding dong)

These kids are clapping it in a group on Youtube. I love the way the older girl teaches the little one.



Here's another one that's nice to do with a group.

A sailor went to sea

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea

A sailor went to chop, chop, chop
To see what he could chop, chop, chop
But all that he could chop, chop, chop
Was the bottom of the deep blue chop, chop, chop

A sailor went to knee, knee, knee
To see what he could knee, knee, knee
But all that he could knee, knee, knee
Was the bottom of the deep blue knee, knee, knee

A sailor went to toe, toe, toe
To see what he could toe, toe, toe
But all that he could toe, toe, toe
Was the bottom of the deep blue toe, toe, toe

A sailor went to Timbuktu,
To see what he could Timbuktu
But all that he could Timbuktu
Was the bottom of the deep blue Timbuktu

A sailor went to sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
To see what he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
That all that he could sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, chop, knee, toe, Timbuktu

Here's the pattern:
A (nothing, or make your own)
sai (clap your own thighs)
lor (clap your own hands)
went (click your fingers)
to (clap your own hands)
sea,sea,sea (clap both your hands with your partners, three times)
Repeat.

I'm not even going to attempt to describe the pattern for this next one. It's for four people who are ready for a clapping challenge. The best way to learn the movements is to
watch this Youtube video.

Four White Horses

Four white horses, on the river,
Hey, hey, hey, up tomorrow,
Up tomorrow is a rainy day.
Come on up to the shallow bay,
Shallow bay is a ripe banana,
Up tomorrow is a rainy day.

If your children are learning French, there are some
hand clapping songs in French on Mama Lisa's great site. You need to scroll through the list.

For those who'd like an even more complicated pattern,
try Slide, and see if you can create a chant for it.

If reading these has jogged your memory, and you'd like to send directions for a clapping or skipping rhyme, or similar game with a chant, you can Contact Me just underneath my blog header. I'm compiling a free booklet for those who want to share these with their kids, or who would just enjoy, "a trip down memory lane"!

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