Saturday, September 19, 2009

Literacy in the Playground (3)

Earlier on the Book Chook blog, Literacy in the Playground (1) brought you some favourite playground games, Literacy in the Playground (2) introduced clapping games. Here is a little slide show of a clapping game called Fish, which I put together from photos sent in for us by one of my wonderful readers!

As she describes it, "Two friends stand facing each other. They hold their elbows at the sides with arms out in front of them and palms of own hands together making a 'fish'. Then you swipe your 'fish' from side to side smacking into the other person's fish as you go while you say 'one' (one way) 'two' (the other way) 'three' (back again) and then clap your own hands together as you say 'together'.

The chant to go with it:
One (swipe your fish along other person's fish)
Two (swipe it back)
Three (and back again)
Together (clap your own hands together)
Up (both hold your hands up as in 'this is a stickup' to slap each other's hands as you say 'up')
Together (clap own hands together)
Down (slap partners hands down long - hands hang by sides and then turn palms to face partner and slap them like that)
Together (clap own hands together)
Backs (Back at chest level, turn your palms of your hands to be facing you and you smack the back of your hands agains the back of your friend's hands)
Fronts (turn palms to face friend's, and slap them again
Knees (each slaps both hands on own knees)
Together (clap own hands together)
Let's do it again! [Start from beginning again usually faster and faster each time]"

(You can see a very giggly version of Fish on
Youtube, to show you what it looks like when put together. It might be fun to invent some new words to go with the clapped pattern.)

Now for some skipping, or jump rope, games. Just like with clapping chants, skipping and chanting is a way for kids to internalize language, particularly rhythm and rhyme.

Skipping can be done alone with a one person rope, but these are all games for a group, which must be at least three people, and a rope that's long enough for your group.

One of the simplest ones to start young kids on is Bluebells:

Eavy, ivy, over

Two people hold the rope and rock it gently back and forth, about ankle height, while the person in the middle jumps up to miss it. On over, they turn the rope and the person does a proper skip.

Once you get good at skipping, you start to play games like the next one, where each person runs in, does one skip on the beat, and runs out. With a long line of skippers, you keep going until someone misses, when they take an end and turn the rope.

UP the MississIPPi if you MISS a loop, you're OUT.

In the next game, two people turn the rope. Everyone skips together, then run out one at a time on each month.

All in together, girls,
How do you like the weather, girls?
January, February, March...

Here's a Book Chook favourite from Primary School:

Donald Duck
Went to France
To teach the ladies
How to dance
(normal jumps for first four lines)
First he did the wigglewoggles (a bit like the twist, but you can make up a move)
Then he did the kicks (high kicks)
Then he did the twirly-whirlies (twirling around)
Then he did the splits (a legs wide jump that stopped the rope under one foot)

Back in the days when I went to school, skipping was mostly a girl's game. When it was our turn for this next one, we would nominate a boy's name as soon as we ran in. A new person would run in on the last line, as the first person ran out.

Susie and Henry
Sitting in a tree
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes
(another name) with a baby carriage.

The next game was for when you learnt to skip really fast, which we called peppers.
When you start counting, after How many kisses did she get?, the rope turners turn fast (peppers), until the skipper misses.

Cinderella, dressed in yella
Went upstairs to see her fellow,
How many kisses did she get?

Rebecca Newman, editor of
Alphabet Soup magazine, sent in this next one.

"The first jumper waits for rope to get up a good rhythm and then runs in to jump while everyone chants:

Bumper car, bumper car, number 28
Went around the coooooooooooorner
[during this line, the jumper exits the rope on the opposite side to the queue, runs behind the rope-turners and jumps back into the turning rope and everyone holds the word 'corner' till they're back into the jumping]
And he slammed on the brakes, but the brakes didn't work!
So he went around the coooooooorner
And he slammed on the brakes, but the brakes didn't work!
So he went

The jumper remains 'in' until he messes up the rope and then he retires to the end of the queue and the next jumper steps up. Because everyone is impatient for a turn, the waiting queue is usually good for 'ahhhh' or 'ohhhh' everytime the jumper manages another run around and back into the rope. I can't remember anyone monopolising their turn for the whole of the lunch break ..."

Kids are hot-wired to enjoy play. The motivational factor involved in games with accompanying chants, means that children will repeat them many times. This allows language to become internalized. Judging by the looks on the faces of people I've asked about these games, and the tone of their emails, adults remember them very fondly. The words stay with us (in my case!) for an amazing number of years.

UPDATE: Grab your free copy of my mini-book on Literacy in the Playground via my web site.

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