Teaching Tips: Two Activities by Helga Dietrich

by Judy Brindle (BKA Newsletter, Spring 2003)

1. “Hey Jim Along”* A song I new but never used because I lacked a “game”. Here is Helga’s: Stand in a circle & each think of a one syllable action word + action. In turn we set off the next version by singing our word & doing the action. Immediately everyone joined in performing the action (I think) at the beginning of each phrase. There were about 20 participants & we had “Ski Jim a long”, spin, drink. eat, as well as the usual walk, clap, and stamp. It was a relief when it came to my turn & no-one had pre-empted my version but then Helga let it run round the circle a second time. (I think the song had 4 phrases ABAB) So the song was repeated 80 times. We were all engaged, having such fun & maintaining the beat throughout.

2. The other idea that stands out was how Helga introduced a new singing game. I’d learned from Helga previously that in the Early Years “we don’t teach a song by echoing phrases”. But what exactly do you do? Standing in a circle, Helga sang a song with an action to the beat. Immediately, she repeated the song. Each time the song was repeated the action to the beat changed. We joined in with the actions & gradually joined in singing with increasing confidence. This was immediately followed by the game and of course we continued to produce a high standard of singing.

It is interesting to note that my SEN course has been well received by Early Years practitioners. I feel there is much common ground. We do lots of repertoire appropriate for mainstream EY KS1 & a little for KS2. We look at using the repertoire to develop musical skills & understanding with progression by small steps. I incorporate movement wherever possible.

Just before starting teaching in my special school I received some excellent general advice. “Imagine pupils with special needs are younger than they are.” My mainstream early year’s material was just right for my 11 year old pupils with moderate/severe learning difficulties.

Note: *”Hey, Jim Along” and other wonderful songs for pre-school and KS1 settings can be found in 150 American Folk Songs by Peter Erdei.