Skip to my lou, my darlin'

8th June 2007 at 01:00
FOR GENERATIONS of schoolchildren, the chant "England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, inside, outside, inside, on ..." signified breaktime and play. Now, the skipping rope and the French elastic are being brought into the classroom.

Sally Wagter, a Sussex based primary music specialist, is encouraging teachers to introduce singing games, such as skipping, French elastic and clapping rhymes, into lesson time.

"We're heading towards a couch potato generation, where children are becoming more solitary," she said. "Singing games are dying out and we're losing a whole side of our culture.

"But adults just have to give them the basics, the initial input, and children will start to play these games spontaneously."

This is not merely an opportunity for teachers of a certain age to indulge in dewy-eyed playground nostalgia. Ms Wagter says that the games can assist child development and classroom discipline.

"They're good for concentration, co-ordination and spatial awareness," she said.

"All that chanting and rhythm is fundamental to language learning. And you have to learn these games, so there's a real sense of satisfaction and success. Success breeds enthusiasm.

"And it's about socialising, interacting and making friends. It provides a healthy foundation for their teenage lives."

Ms Wagter has produced a series of lesson plans incorporating these games.

For example, if children are struggling with a difficult maths topic, a mid-lesson skipping break can improve their concentration.

The games can be used in music lessons to teach rhythm and improvisation.

Fiona Whittaker, the Year 6 teacher at St Mary's primary in Worthing, West Sussex, regularly brings a skipping rope into the classroom.

"It's a great motivating factor for children," she said. "And it's brilliant for social skills. Everyone has to get involved and they're all playing together.

"It's difficult sometimes to watch them do it in the playground. I want to join in, too."

But she says she is not imposing her own rose-tinted childhood on pupils.

Eventually, she believes, older children will teach the rhymes to younger pupils in the playground, removing the need for teacher intervention.

Ayelisha Murphy, 10, already provides instruction to younger pupils. "The games are really fun," she said.

"I think our teacher wants to play with us as well. She normally holds the rope for us, but I don't know if she'd want to jump. I'll wait for her to volunteer."

* www.music-4-schools.com

SKIPPING CHANTS

Cinderella, dressed in yella, Went upstairs to kiss a fella.

By mistake She kissed a snake.

How many doctors did it take?

1, 2, 3, 4 ...

(Continue until skipper trips or misses a jump.) Bumper car, bumper car, Number 48, Turning round the co...rner (Draw out the word, as the skippers run around one of the rope turners.) Then put on the brake. (Skippers stop the rope between their legs.)

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