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
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
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
"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
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",
me an owie, way down on my foot",
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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