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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Chick it out!

Hello there, fellow Kodalyphiles! Today you're in for a mega blog that has been a long time coming. I have been looking a lot recently at doing themed lessons (having a central idea that links together several different songs and activities into one cohesive lesson - great for smooth transitions!) and as I was going through my song lists looking for possible themes I realised just how many great songs there are out there about chickens!

Now my chicken puppets are some of my favourites to work with (despite what the photo evidence might say).

Therefore I've decided to share some of my favourites! There are actually a couple of different chicken puppets that I use for this (this is how much I love chickens!). There is squawks, the rubber chicken you can see above, and then Babs, a plush chicken I found at IKEA of all places!

Shanghai Chicken

I adore this game and so do my kids. It's an egg-shaker passing game, but every year (weather etc. permitting) I take my finishing yr 6s out to the oval with a stack of ponchos, a carton of hard-boiled eggs and one raw one.... this is known as Shanghai Chicken Roulette. It's fast. It's messy. It's a whole lot of fun!

If the thought of all that cleaning up doesn't appeal to you, you can always try the safe, inside, egg-shaker version. Students sit in a circle tapping an egg-shaker on their knees (you need a lot of egg-shakers if you have a big class!) then toss them in the air and catch them each time the song says "hooray". On the final hooray, however, you must toss the egg to the person to your right - at the same time trying to catch the egg coming in on your left!

Here's a video that shows a good way to practice the egg-passing with a partner:

Chicken on a Fencepost

This song is a staple of the early tika-tika repertoire. I know a variety of games in circulation to play this one including some involving jumping over a skipping rope that is "snaking" along the ground. My favourite version is played with the squeakiest rubber chicken possible.

Students form a circle (of course) and one student is chosen to be the chicken on the fencepost in the middle of the circle. At the end of the song, several people in the circle will change places and this chosen student must try to beat one of them to a spot so that they become the new chicken in the middle.

To begin the game, have the person in the middle close their eyes and silently point to a student in the circle (they will be one of the ones changing position at the end), Pass the rubber chicken around as quietly as possible while also performing a rhythmic ostinato (so much going on in this one - frantic!) until the end of the song when the person holding the chicken will loudly squeak the chicken and swap places with the silently selected student - if they can beat the chicken on a fencepost!

It's a hectic game with a lot going on, but my students love the challenge! The ostinato also helps them distinguish that the new rhythm has 4 sounds on a beat when we get to that stage of discovering tika-tika.

Who Stole My Chickens and My Hens?

This is a clapping game for older students and a great song for teaching tim-ka. The bouncy melody is insanely catchy and the clapping game looks easy, but is surprisingly tricky! I've seen more than a few chicken beaks colliding, leading to much laughter!

Who Stole The Old Chook?

This wonderful song is composed by the wonderful Stuart Gillard and can be found in his book "Crazy Compound Capers" (which I highly recommend checking out for some great repertoire for teaching compound time - he has an excellent approach which is to start with taam and ti-ti-ti, much like we would in simple time, but as there is so little authentic folk repertoire out there that only contains those two rhythms, Stuart decided to write some!)

Whilst I know the issue of composed music versus genuine folk repertoire is a contentious one, I'm all for finding the best repertoire for your students and their learning needs and have found since starting with JUST taam and ti-ti-ti and having some songs up my sleeve that ONLY use these two rhythms, their understanding has been much easier. Plus, there is a really fun game that goes with this song!

Much like Doggie, Doggie, one student is chosen to sit in the middle of the circle with their eyes closed while a chicken puppet is passed around the circle as students sing. At a certain point of the song the child with the chicken sings a solo section (some tasteful "bok bok" chicken noises set to so and mi) before hiding the chicken behind their back. At the end of the song, the student in the middle of the circle has 3 guesses to work out who the chicken thief was.

This song is great for so many things - solo singing assessment, compound rhythm discovery, so and mi practice for young students or as part of a fa strategy for older students - the list is endless!

There are plenty of other good compound songs in this book as well and I would highly recommend checking it out if, like me, you struggle to find compound repertoire that is straightforward, only contains the elements you're wanting to teach and is at the right level for primary students.

Do you have any other favourite chicken songs? Drop me a line and let me know, I'd love to hear about them!

You can grab a more detailed song analysis of all these wonderful tunes along with some lesson plans and worksheets at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here

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