Skip to main content

Book Review: The Counting Out Rhymes of Children

Girls counting out using their feet.
I live in one of the oldest towns in America. About 120 or so years ago, our library acquired a monograph whose name heads this posting. I'm so enjoying reading the prose of that bygone era, that I find myself writing in similar style and laughing to myself in the process.

Counting Out Rhymes
It is a collection of "counting out rhymes" from all over the world. The term "counting out" is so antiquated, I needed to read several pages just to figure out what it meant. To illustrate the definition of the term, I offer some modern examples which colored my childhood.

My mother and your mother were hanging up clothes
My mother punched your mother smack in the nose
What color was the blood? (child chooses a color, let's say, green)

G  R  E  E  N  and you are not it!


Eeny, meany, miney, mo
catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers, let him go
and my mother says that you are not it!

Now in these days of everybody being a winner and nobody getting "out," you might say that there is not place in our brains to learn such "doggerel," (did I mention how much I'm enjoying the language of the 1880s?)  But the savvy music teacher can use these rhymes to great effect. Here are some ways.

Be a Kodaly anthropologist

Children are very honored when you take their music seriously.  And when you are interested in one of their playground rhymes, that blows them away. Recording them, getting every word right, making sure you get their name right on the citation for your notebook, taking note of the location and date of the collection of the folksong or rhyme, all show the child that you take them seriously and you see their culture as worth knowing. 

Collecting their rhymes, you will begin to see patterns. I noticed that children who live by the sea do similar clap-passing games, be they Asian, European, Australian, or African. Perhaps you know such a rhyme. In New England it's called "Clap Delioso."  Children sit cross-legged, both hands palms up, one hand on ones own knee, the other on one's neighbor's hand. The clap is passed around the circle by each child clapping their own hands but hitting the next person's instead. Here is the pattern, but the players aren't chanting or singing. 

Build Relationships
When a child shares a similar game with me, I share what I learned from another part of the world with them. They love to help me research music, and they love to feel connected to children around the world. It's exciting to feel that our games are older than our differences. That kind of connection is always a good thing to foster.

ESL students often feel marginalized and stupid in their new language environment. By taking their songs and games and writing them down, you validate the student they bring to your classroom. Instead of trying to be a copy of those around them, they can aim to add to who they already are. The difference is monumental!

In the next several posts, I'll be sharing tidbits from this book. I'm enjoying the journey back in time and hope you'll enjoy it with me. 


Popular posts from this blog

D, Popsicle Stick and Paper Plate Kalimba!

Back to the Orffabet! Today's letter is D, the shape of the popsicle prongs on a homemade Kalimba!

Lisa Lehmberg of the University of Massachusetts, has agreed to share this portion of her book chapter. Hurray, Lisa! Let's make a Kalimba out of popsicle sticks, paper plates, and some scrap wood!
You'll need: two small, sturdy paper platesone wood block (3cm x 7cm* x 1cm) To convert to inches click here.  This block is inside the plates and keeps them from collapsing.7 cm* piece of thin plywood five flat popsicle sticks7 cm* strip of flimsy wood moldingbrads or small screws (optional)paper gluewood glue*the length is determined by the size of the paper plates. These measurements are for the structural stability of the instrument, NOT the intonation. Just eyeball or loosely measure the wood.
Glue a block of wood to a paper plate near its edge. Glue another paper plate (plates facing each other) to the original plate and the wood block. Spread glue on both the rims of the…

Liquid Ass

So we've had another school shooting. By the time I post this, we will have had a few more. The NRA and President Bone Spurs would like us to arm teachers. Shooting another human being is not natural. Killing is not natural. Self-defense only feels natural when hand to hand combat is involved. Guns, even in the heat of  battle, are abstract. Perhaps the primary reason the United States has a volunteer army instead of a drafted one is that drafted soldiers are far less likely to actually fire at the enemy when the time comes. The kill instinct has to be trained into a soldier. It isn't natural, and it takes its toll on the soul. Plus, you'll probably miss and shoot an innocent student and die anyway.

So I offer a humble alternative. Well, maybe two, but one of them is actually entertaining.

1. ALICE training. Click on this. It's helpful.
2. Liquid Ass

Developed as a joke product, Liquid Ass makes an excellent deterrent to the progress of a shooter. Shooters expect thei…

"P", The Bucket Routine for older students

Today's Orffabet letter is P, for the shape of buckets and sticks when they are in storage in our guest teacher's classroom.

The following post and series of videos is for Upper Elementary, Middle School, or High School Students.  This is a rare opportunity for you to learn a routine without having to go to a workshop or Orff level.  You will learn the routine as your students would.

John is a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools.  He has taught this routine to Upper Elementary students as an after school program.  John's students worked on the routine for an hour or so every day for 6 weeks.  To see John in an earlier post, click here.

The "students" in this video are Orff Level I students in the Worcester Public Schools class of 2010.  They learned the routine in a 90 minute session with Level III students who already knew it.  Here is the routine after those 90 minutes.

This routine, inspired by African dance and Orff body percussion, is well outside the …