Saturday, November 14, 2009

Literacy in the Playground (4)

As well as favourite games in Literacy in the Playground (1), we've looked at clapping games in Literacy in the Playground (2), and skipping games in Literacy in the Playground (3). These next games involve songs, chants, movement and, as usual, lots of fun.

The first was sent in by Farida Dowler of
Saints and Spinners.

"This is a game my daughter learned at her Waldorf school. I like it because it reminds me of the Three Wise Men, and because it’s a cooperative game. While the group is saying “NO!” the first two times to the three travelers, those three children on the outside form a support-team as such. No one is singled out.

We Are Three Wandering Travelers

The group forms a circle. Three children “travel” outside of the circle, walking around it as everyone sings:

We are three wandering travelers
Out in the wind and the rain
We saw your light, shining so bright,
Tapped on your window pane, saying,
“Let us come in, let us come in,
Into your house we pray.
Let us come in, let us come in,
Please do not turn us away.”

Repeat two more times. However, on the third time, respond with “

The three children go inside the circle and everyone sings:

You may come in, you may come in,
Into our house we pray.
You may come in, you may come in,
We will not turn you away.

Here's another lovely circle game from Joseph (aged 5).

Doggy, Doggy Where's your Bone?

All the children sit in a circle. One child sits in the middle, huddles down, shuts their eyes and must not peek! This child is the 'doggy'.

Once that child's eyes are closed, the circle of children selects one of their number (by raising eyebrows or pointing enthusiastically at each other so as to stay quiet!) to hold the dog's bone. They hide it in their lap (or if it's small, in their hand). Then everyone sings:

Doggy doggy where's your bone?
Someone stole it from your home!

The doggy sings (muffled, from their huddled spot and without opening their eyes!):

Who stole my bo -o-o-ne?

The child who has it replies:

I stole your bo-o-ne!

Then the doggy is allowed to sit up and open eyes and see if he/she can guess who the thief is. If they guess correctly, they can remain doggy. If they get it wrong, the thief becomes the new dog. [In Joseph's class, the doggy can have 2 guesses.]

If you'd like an idea of the tune, try the notes on
this virtual keyboard.

Dog-gy Dog-gy where's your bone?
A A F# F# A A F#
Someone stole it from your home
A A F# F# A A F#
Who stole my bo-one?
A F# B A F#
I stole your bo-one!
A F# B A F#

The Cookie Jar

I've played this circle game with preschoolers, and with teenagers in an ESL class. It's a lot of fun. Mostly we just clap the the beat. It keeps going until everyone has had enough.

Who stole the cookie from the cook-cookie jar?
(name of a child in the circle, A)
stole the cookie from the cook-cookie jar.
child A:
Who me?
Yes, you!
child A:
Couldn't be!
Then who?
child A: (name of a child in the circle, B)
stole the cookie from the cook-cookie jar.
child B:
Who me?

Kim Chatel from
Chatel Village knows a different version:

Cookie Jar

"This is a group chant. It can be done with clapping too. Everyone picks a number. If a person doesn’t respond to his number he is out of the game.

(Sing all together)
Zing! Zing! Zoom! Zoom!
My little heart goes boom!
Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

(Leader begins and chooses a number. That person responds)
Was it you, number 2?
Who me?
Yes, you.
Couldn’t be.
Then who?
Number 4.
Who me?
Yes, you.
Couldn’t be.
Then who?
Number 1.


Here's an old favourite, sent in by Rebecca Newman, editor of
Alphabet Soup.

I Wrote a Letter

"When I was about 8 I used to love playing 'I wrote a letter to my mother'. We all sat in a circle with hands behind our backs and one person had a handkerchief (or other object,) to be the letter. That person (who was 'it') skipped around the circle while everyone sang (to the tune of 'Yankee Doodle Dandee'):

I wrote a letter to my mother,
on the way I dropped it
Someone must have picked it up
and put it in their pocket

[Then chant tunelessly, over and over until next step of game] Thief, thief, drop it!

When the person who is 'it' drops the handkerchief (or object) into someone's hands, that person leaps up and chases the person who is 'it' back around the circle and back to their place. If they catch 'it', then 'it' has to sit down. But if 'it' makes it back to their tagged friend's spot first, then 'it' can be 'it' for another round.

My children play this with their friends but they sing different words to the same tune:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket
Kitty Fisher found it
But there was no penny in it
Just a ribbon round it

Claire Saxby, whose latest picture book, Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate, I reviewed recently, loved that one too.

Kim Chatel, from
Chatel Village, also sent this great singing game.

Singing in the Rain
(Sung to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.”)

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again.
Thumbs up!
Patoo-patat, Patoo-patat, Patoo-pata-TA!

Kim says, "Repeat the verse 6 times. Line 6 changes each time. Begin standing up. When you get to line 6, act out the body action (ie: stick both thumbs up). Start with the thumbs up. Keep your thumbs up throughout the next verse then add elbows back. Accumulate the body actions until the end when you’re so twisted you can barely sing or move. Very funny! Here is the list of body actions for line 6 or you can add your own.
Thumbs up
Elbows back
Knees together
Butt out
Head down
Tongue out"

(The Book Chook would love to publish a photo of you doing the one above!)

When I was a child at our church camp, this was a favourite chant. Each line is said by the leader, then repeated by the group, while everybody claps their own thighs then hands for the beat.

Flea Fly
Flea Fly Flo
Coo-ma-la, Coo-ma-la, Coo-ma-la Vista
Oh no-no, no, not the vista
Eenie, meenie, decimeenie, oo walla walla meenie!
Ex a meenie, zall a meenie, oo walla wa!
Beep billy oaten doaten oh bo ba beaten doaten shh!

Why not use the model above so you and your kids can create your own chant from nonsense words? Or check out my recent posts about using Nonsense with kids,
Oh, What Nonsense! and More Nonsense.

With the increasing commercialization of play in the last fifty years, we seem to have somehow come to believe that for play, kids need a toy, or a video game. I think toys and video games are fine so long as we keep a balance. Encouraging kids to use their imaginations, and play with friends, helps with that balance, as well as providing opportunities for fresh air and exercise.

Clapping can be done with just one friend, while skipping games mostly require three and a rope. The songs and chants above are heaps of fun, and contribute to children's literacy skills. Let's help our kids learn more games that are fun, social and educational.

Coming November 17 to celebrate The Book Chook's birthday, my gift to you: a free mini book of the songs, rhymes and chants from these Literacy in the Playground posts!

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