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An Introduction to Fingerplays and Action Verses.
( by Ruth I. Dowell)


Children love rhythm. They express that love of rhythm naturally with movement. These activities help children to develop creativity and to experience greater self-esteem; and they promote and encourage verbal and motor skills. With this material, language becomes a pleasurable experience.
Fingerplays such as Where is Thumbkin? bring small motor skills into play, whereas action verses such as Ring Around the Roses call upon larger muscles. With large body motions more suitable for younger children, and hand and finger motions more easily accomplished by older children, choices can be made to suit particular class needs. Fingerplays are best used when there is limited space for movement, i.e., with children seated or when a quieting activity is in order. Use fingerplays, for example,before or after lunch. Action verses, since they involve whole,body movement, require more space and are most effective with children standing. The children may be in a circle, a line or wherever there is sufficient room to move. Such an activity is a relaxing transition between times of the day or a welcome change after a long quiet period.
Motions that accompany the rhymes should be creative and expressive, yet simple. Whether corresponding to individual words or to the meaning of the rhyme, one or two motions for each line of the rhyme is sufficient. Joining hands and walking in a circle, clapping hands or snapping fingers can be used for non-specific movement. The teacher should memorize each rhyme and its movement before presenting it to the class. With motor involvement providing the neurological imprint that speeds learning and repetition of rhythm and rhyme delivering pleasurable verbal stimulation, children easily remember these "story friends." The fingerplays and action verses should be recited rhythmically, as it is rhythm that will endear them to children as they respond to the whimsical nature of the characters featured in this book. Once learned, these fingerplays and action verses contribute not only to group cohesion, but also provide children with creative suggestions to bring to their individual free play. In addition, the children may add their own creative interpretations to the verses. For example, in the rhyme about a cat named Mr. O'Malley, a child may like to use the name of his own cat. The teacher can then repeat the verse, substituting the name of the child's pet. Another child may suggest a different hand or body motion. The teacher can personalize rhymes by substituting and inserting the name of a child in the class. (However, a word of caution: substitutions of this nature will need careful handling to maintain continuity and order, and, if attempted, should not be considered until each member of the class has mastered the original version.) Children should be encouraged to use a natural tone of voice, with variations that can include softer tones and a slower or faster rate. While fingerplays and action verses are most often used at structured times, such as "circle time," they can be invaluable during waiting periods: to go outside, before snacks, before dismissal, etc. A rhyme can be a signal for a particular classroom activity. It's also a way for individual children through solo performances to demonstrate verbal skills and pride in accomplishment to classmates and family members. The pleasure and usefulness of these wonderful, whimsical rhymes is yours to experience and is limited only by the imaginations of teacher and child.


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