Friday, April 1, 2011

Four White Horses

This is a singing game that I learned from a wonderful book by the New England Dancing Masters (Down in the Valley: More Great Singing Games for Children, Schools, & Communities edited by Andy Davis, Peter Amidon, Mary Alice Amidon)--possibly my favorite collection of childrens' singing games. The clip is of my Elementary Music Methods course at Northwest Missouri State University playing the game. The third group is trying to figure out a way to play the game with more than four people. I also have the class make up new hand clapping (or other movement) patterns to go with the song. We tried this with the fourth graders at Horace Mann Elementary School (our on-campus lab school) and they went the entire 30 minutes making up new, creative ways to play the game and they played the game outside of class. That's the kind of successful activity I was referring to in my previous post!

The first thing that really catches my attention in this song is the repeated and syncopated pattern, "ay ay ay". So, when I teach this song to a group I usually have them first clap on the ay's while I sing the lyrics (Four white horses on a river, ay ay ay up tomorrow. Up tomorrow is a rainy day. Come on, join in our shadow play. Shadow play is a ripe banana, ay ay ay, up tomorrow. Up tomorrow is a rainy day.) This usually takes two times through to get them all. Then, we start adding actions for the various parts of the song starting with raising hands high above the head on up and then dropping the hands again . . . the rainy fingers for rainy day . . . make up shadow puppets for shadow play . . . etc. All in all, this gives about 10 to 12 repetitions of the song at which point the students may have internalized it well enough to move on. On a subsequent day, I re-introduce the song this time keeping the beat in various ways and eventually keeping the beat with everyone in a large circle keeping the beat as if they were playing the game starting with hands out in front as if they were clapping hands with the person across from them, then clapping, then clapping the hands of the people to each side, and then clapping hands again, etc. I find that it helps to do this as a large group first so that everyone builds off the success of each other. Then we divide into groups and try the game. Then, on other days, we make up new ways to play the game. It is important to let the students demonstrate in their groups either the original game or their new way. This gives them opportunities to sing in smaller groups without being self-conscious. It gives me a chance to assess how well they are matching pitch, etc. 

This game will kind of take on a life of it's own, but could be re-visited for skill development and creativity multiple times (10 or so) throughout a school year. Yes, fun and games!!! But, think about all of the musical, kinesthetic, creative, and interpersonal skills being developed in the process. 

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