School Days and Preschool Days, Too:
A treasury of anecdotes culled from my work and play as a preschool worker and an elementary school after- school activities supervisor


     In the afternoon I lead a preschool music circle. Sometimes I do one in the morning and another before lunch, too. I thought I had a strong repertoire when this year started, but with this kind of demand, material gets used up quickly.
      Children are famous for enjoying repetition. Indeed when they like a song, they ask for it day after day. At a certain point, however, though requests continue, a song needs a rest. As with any live performance, the mood of the audience/participants is the barometer.
      "Willoughby, Wallaby, Woo", one favorite, is a very simple song/game I found while leafing through a songbook. I sing, "Willoughby Wallaby Woo, An elephant sat on you."
      Then, to a slightly different melody, I repeat "Willoughby Wallaby", and change the third word so that it rhymes with the name of one of the children. It might be "Willoughby Wallaby Wheeter".
      I go on to sing "An elephant sat on...", and the children shout out whose name is being rhymed. That person then gets to pretends an elephant sat on him or her.
      The boys and girls love, and are very good at, figuring out that "Wheeter" rhymes with "Peter." We continue till everyone gets a turn.
      Some of the children pantomime getting squashed in a very believable way, sliding forward on their bellies till they're flat on the floor. For most, though, getting sat on by an elephant strangely involves running round and round in a circle and finally falling down. A few children, conscious of the attention they were getting, ran marathons! I finally had to put a ten second limit on each "squashee".
      Circle was electrifying the day the children first heard "The Elephant Song". It immediately became Number 1 on their request list.. For weeks they asked for it daily. The time came, though, when few were paying attention and some no longer cared to even take a turn. We needed a new "hit".

      Circles have demanded a constant outpouring of creativity. Writing melodies and lyrics isn't even enough. Preschoolers need to be physically involved. I'm always looking for material, imaginatively exploring the world of children. I try to find actions or games they're familiar with.
      I came up with one song that celebrates the punctures, scratches, and bruises that fascinate children so, and the blue ice-packs we use at our school to treat them with. In a folk idiom, the first verse goes:
                      "Got me an owie, way down on my foot",
                      "Got me an owie, way down on my foot",
                      "So I held an ice-pack on top of my boot."
      Children pretend to hold an ice pack there and awkwardly walk. There's a different part of the bodies for each verse. Each one is awkward, and funny, in a new way..
      I've written another song about a family going to the beach, something most of our families have done. A train song, a version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", a song about a wizard turning people into different animals and obects, and a song about a fire truck seize on some of the fascinations common to many children.
      Lately, another teacher has been playing old rock n' roll CDs for "freeze-dancing" and a preschool-friendly version of Musical Chairs in which no one is "out".(Instead, you sit on a lap when you can't find a chair.) These games remove some of the relentless pressure on me for new material.
      Circle is a daily challenge. Children are human and therefore unpredictable. Sometimes a "filler" song gets everyone up and moving. Some songs I think will go over big bring very little participation, and it's back to the drawing board. Circle can bring a spell of joy or, on unruly days, a storm of chaos. You do your best, and you keep going.

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