Down on the farm

MS MACDONALD HAS A CLASS. Picture book for infant pupils. By Jan Ormerod. Red Fox. Pounds 4.99.

Gwynneth Bailey on how to bring the farmyard into the curriculum OUTLINE

Ms MacDonald Has a Class is an accumulative and vigorous adaptation of the traditional song. It is ideal for use in farming, animals or "ourselves" topics and for guided reading in the literacy hour.



* The text cries out to be sung. Even if the children drop the melody, they will read the book with the rhythm emerging strongly.

* Read the story in groups. Try a double-page spread near the start, where only three or four groups are needed. Enlarge on a projector, then sing. Once proficient, break into smaller groups and try one of the spreads with more character parts.

* Look at the story setting ("with a pig pen here..."). Write alternative words, sticking to the rhythm. Practise and perform.

* With teacher modelling, choose one of the 24 children from the book. Give her a name, study what she does throughout. Record how she joins in, make her costume.

* Look for rhyming words. List them in groups for display, add children's illustrations for words such as skip and bump.

* Develop blendvowel work - trip, jump.

* Make up a tune - "Five Vowels in our Alphabet: A E I O U" (or use chorus of "Skip to my Lou"). Sing often. Make lists of CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words using each vowel in turn. Which vowel has the longest list?

* Children choose a favourite line - "A fluffy tail here and a spotty face there" - to learn by heart and say in circle time. Use collected information for data handling.

* Find other versions of "Old MacDonald"; read and compare.


* Count the children (24) on the end-papers - the often blank pages at the start or end of a book. Match with the numbers drawn on each double-page spread. Ask pupils to find different combinations on each spread to total 24, such as 12+12, 7+8+4+5, then make up their own.

* Pupils can identify a character and find him or her on each spread. Individuals in a group could locate one child each as pages are turned.


* Identify and talk about the different kinds of farming depicted.

* Grow broad or runner beans in a jar. Record and date growth.

* Compare behaviour of the wild and pet rabbits shown in the book.


* Musical notation is inaccurate in many picture books, but it is almost correct here. Older children with musical experience may be able to spot occasional poor placing of treble clef and FNoNo.

* Sing the original song as well as Jan Ormerod's version.

* Search for all the musical instruments used in the story. Match them with school instruments, learn their names, experiment with them.

* On tuned percussion, teach one child to play B B A A G (tune for E-I-E-I-O). Get that child to teach a friend, and so on until the whole class can play it. Then teach the beginning (G G G D E E D) and join on B B A A G. Play and sing.


* Find the black-and-white rabbit. Where does it first appear? On which page does it not appear, and why? Imagine the rabbit interacting with a child character.

* Fold A4 paper into four; make a comic-strip story. Spot the difference between the front and back endpapers.

* Study how the pig costume is made. Make a similar family set.

* Try some snipping and stitching with the assistance of a parent helper - only the fictional Ms MacDonald could work totally solo.

Gwynneth Bailey is language co-ordinator at Aldborough county primary school, Norwich.

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