Monday, June 10, 2013

Let's Celebrate Pop Goes the Weasel Day!

As you know, here at The Book Chook, I love opportunities to celebrate and weave literature, literacy and learning into special days. Pop Goes the Weasel Day is June 14 and I know you'll all want to be prepared, so here are some ideas.

First of all, what IS Pop Goes the Weasel? It's generally accepted to be a children's nursery rhyme, but its exact form and origins are not clear. The version I know goes:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Every night when I go out
The monkey's on the table
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop! goes the weasel.

Here's another version of Pop Goes the Weasel sung on Youtube.

Nursery rhymes help young children develop a love for language, and a sense of the rhythm of words. Because we often bounce babies or rock them while we chant and sing nursery rhymes, I like to think the beat gets into their bones. Learning through play like this is such a loving, enjoyable and effective way to teach young kids, and gives them a great start on reading later on. As Mem Fox said here at The Book Chook recently in Why Reading Really is Magic, "…if kids know six nursery rhymes by the time they are four, they are more likely to be in the top reading group at school by age eight."

Pop Goes the Weasel Day would be an excellent opportunity to look at nursery rhymes you know with your kids. You might like to read books of nursery rhymes, sing them, and act them out. One drama activity I love is to have each group of kids choose a nursery rhyme and create a still picture that represents it for the rest of the class to guess. This makes a nice family game for kids and parents to do too. Make it harder after everyone gets the idea by establishing a no talking rule!

Nursery rhymes in general lend themselves to fun games. Toddlers in particular love nursery rhymes they can dance to or do actions with. Here's a simple activity pre-school and Kinder kids enjoy for Pop Goes the Weasel:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice (clap the beat on your legs)
Half a pound of treacle (clap the beat on your hands)
That's the way the money goes (clap the beat on your head)
Pop! goes the weasel. (spring into the air like a jack-in-the-box, waggling about)

(For videos of more great rhymes and songs you can use with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, check out Jbrary's Youtube channel. Jbrary is two wonderful children's librarians who share resources for story time, like this recent  Bears and Berries Preschool Storytime.)

Oranges and Lemons is a nice game to teach a group. Find out lots about it at Mama Lisa's World.

Here's a list of lots of Mother Goose Rhymes at Mama Lisa's World.

Kids are very forgiving. If you'd like to put some actions with a rhyme, but you're not quite sure how, stick to simple actions like clapping, jumping, bobbing and rocking. Or ask kids to come up with their own actions to suit a rhyme. Another "game" children love is to improvise a scene around a nursery rhyme. Consider fracturing a nursery rhyme too - have a twist like Miss Muffet chases the spider away or it wasn't a spider but a gorilla. Michael Rosen's book, Hairy Tales and Nursery Crimes, has some silly twists kids will love.

Jokes based on nursery rhymes are great fun for kids. Look out for books like Far Out, Brussel Sprout and Real Keen, Baked Bean by June Factor. These are compilations of children's playground rhymes and kids LOVE them!

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
Then Little Miss Muffet did say:
"Buzz off, Hairy Legs!"

Though definitely not politically correct or even nice, my Year 3 students always thought this one was hilarious:
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?"
"Up, stupid!"

And one more:
Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was black as soot,
And everywhere that lamb did go, his sooty foot he put.

Sometimes kids love puppets but are at a loss to know what to have the puppet say for an audience. This is yet another time nursery rhymes come into their own! Puppets make everything more fun. Even a simple cardboard cut-out mounted on a paddle pop stick can help children speak confidently in front of an audience. Knowing the nursery rhyme by heart means that tummy butterflies don't take hold.

Nursery rhymes are not just interesting for youngsters. Older kids could try predicting how a nursery rhyme came about then research theories about that. Because there are so many theories around, particularly with Pop Goes the Weasel, kids gain a gradual understanding that sometimes, there IS no correct answer or truth for us to discover. All we have are guesses and theories. Here's a video about the meaning behind Pop Goes the Weasel. This Youtube channel has many videos devoted to Nursery Rhyme history.

Nursery rhymes also make wonderful short texts for older kids, say first grade up, to interpret visually. Activities can be as simple as drawing a picture, through to creating a comic or even telling a digital story. Read about one way I did this in Visual Story Telling. I used Toon Doo to interpret the joke version of Miss Muffet, above.

You might also be interested in Let's Use Chants and Rhymes with Kids or the Free PDF, Fun with Fairy Tales.

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