Music: The forgotten games
18 May 2009
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One music company is rescuing old singing games and bringing them back into the classroom. A success? You better believe it!
Whenever I walk into a Key Stage 1 classroom and ask, Who likes music? Who likes games? – invariably nearly every hand shoots up. That is why singing games work so well, because they are a magical combination of both. As the children become motivated by the games, they do not realise the numerous musical skills they are learning. Just playing one game can cover so many areas of the National Curriculum. Also, if you are uncomfortable with musical jargon, you will find it a far less intimidating prospect when it is turned into a game.
Singing games are a kinaesthetic way to learn, involving simultaneous sound and movement. They help children develop important thinking skills, including memory, sequencing and concentration; physical skills such as motor skills and coordination; and they harness children’s innate creativity in improvisation and role playing.
Singing games provide an invaluable repertoire for Primary Music. We sing all our games unaccompanied. This not only helps children develop confidence in their own voices, but also means we can easily play a game without fiddling around with CD players. In fact, most of the games need very little equipment. A selection of ideas follow, which cover some of the main aspects of the National Curriculum for music at Key Stage 1, using singing and action games.
To experience a clear, steady pulse is the first step in building musical skills. The song, ‘William He Had Seven Sons’ involves following sequences of movements to the pulse, while songs such as ‘Johnny Works with One Hammer’, involve accumulative actions to the pulse.
In both songs, the children experience a regular pulse for a prolonged period, while focusing on the game.
Rhythm is the next step. With some songs, rhythm patterns are an integral part of the game. With others, the rhythm of the games can be used to develop skills further.
When familiar with the songs, children can speak and clap the rhythm patterns and progressively build on their rhythmic understanding.
How do we teach children to sing in tune? I teach many songs on just one note. In ‘Hello Anna’ the children sit in a circle and roll a ball to each other, singing and responding.
They get lots of practice singing in tune, matching pitch and singing solos. From here the children learn songs on progressively more notes. A popular singing game with just two notes is ‘Here I Come’.
Puppets and pitch
A puppet is always an instant hit. I have helped children sing in tune by pretending that my puppet friend cannot sing the same as me. Children wear the puppet so they can respond for her. If the children’s pitch is very different, I sing again at their pitch so their response matches mine. While engrossed with the puppet, the children are unaware of the valuable learning taking place. A good game to use is ‘Doggie Doggie’.
Many traditional games work well with a parachute. As anyone who has used one will know, excitement levels rise through the roof at the mere sight of one! The parachute can be raised and lowered to match the shape of a song. Alternatively, children can use specific words within songs as cues for changing places or chasing each other.
From just one song, you can teach a multitude of skills. Once a game is learned, it can be used for subsequent lessons as a tool for developing musicality at age-appropriate levels. This demonstrates the unique educational value and relevance of singing games.
The social element
These days, most children spend hours a day in front of screens, which blocks out face-to-face interaction. For young children, who are still in a vulnerable stage of their development, interaction with others is a vital source of social input.
Singing games have children in circles, listening and responding to each other, turn-taking, moving and clapping hands. As there is very little competition in singing games, they naturally enhance team spirit and self-esteem. I have found that discipline is rarely an issue as children want to join in and are usually too engrossed to misbehave. A good social game is ‘Jump Jim Jo’.
William He Had Seven Sons
William he had seven sons, seven sons, seven sons, William he had seven sons and this is what they did...
Let the children sing the song. Then one child chooses an action that they all copy eight times. The second time they sing, another child chooses an action, which they all copy eight times before repeating the first child’s action again. This is an accumulative game, building up to seven different actions (each of the children is one of William’s seven sons).
All: Hello Anna, how are you?
Anna: Very well, thank you.
All: Now roll the ball to someone new…
Ask the children to sit in a circle. Someone starts with the ball and everyone sings ‘hello’ to that child. After responding, the child sings the name of a new child, rolls the ball to them and the game continues.
Here I Come
Solo: Here I come.
All: Where from?
All: What’s your trade?
All: Give us some, don’t be afraid.
Invite a child to sit on the leader’s chair and sing the solo parts. Let the group respond, and at the end all hold out imaginary glasses. The leader chooses a child to give some imaginary lemonade to and that child becomes the new leader. The children are usually quite happy to sing solos because they love playing the game.
Primary Music Specialist reader offer!
Primary Music Specialist has reintroduced a huge variety of singing games to children in many schools over the last ten years, bringing them into the classroom for their value in teaching music and social skills.
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All: Doggie doggie, where’s your bone?
Solo: Someone stole it from my home.
All: Who stole your bone?
Solo: I stole your bone.
Invite the children to sit in a circle with a child in the middle holding a dog puppet. Ask this child to shut their eyes and give a ‘bone’ to a child in the circle. When everyone sings Who stole your bone? the child with the bone sings the response for the middle child to guess who it is.
Jump Jim Jo
Jump, jump, jump Jim Jo, Shake your head and nod your head and tap your toe. Round, round, round you go, then you find another partner and you Jump Jim Jo.
Let the children stand in pairs, singing and following the actions of the words, before finding a new partner and repeating.