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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

A picnic with Peter

As I'm sure you will know if you've ever worked with children (if you have, you've come to the right place!), kids LOVE talking about food! Imagining food, describing food, even hearing about food - I don't think the Famous Five would have been quite as big a hit without their lashings of ginger beer!

Anyway, nothing excites kids quite like a picnic, so why not capitalise on that in your music lessons?

Below are a series of activities I learned from the wonderful Kate Thompson, all of which are based on this simple chant:

In the first lesson, I begin by teaching the students the chant, along with some simple actions (count off the numbers on your fingers, show Peter opening the kitchen door, keep counting, then mime scooping something off your plate and eating it).

We then play around with the form a little, turning it into a call and response where I say the numbers and the students respond with the words "Peter's at the kitchen door" then "Eating cherries off a plate" and vice versa. This is GREAT prep for part work.

In a subsequent lesson we'll do some inner hearing work where we put all the numbers in our thinking voice and only say the words out loud, or vice versa.

In future lessons, to work on their singing voice and pitch-matching, we change from a chant to a melodic song and the children will have to echo not only in time with me, but also in tune!

Now, to help along the children's imagination, I have a series of paper plates with a particular food on them: carrots, cherries, grapes, apples and pizza (guess which is their favourite!).

Plates with food pictures

On the back of each plate is a direction: high, low, tricky rhythm etc. which will change the way we perform the chant. If the plate says high, I may sing my numbers using high notes (eg. so so la so) which the children will have to respond to (so so so so la la so). The beauty of having fairly vague terms on the back is that you can revisit the idea with older students and simply up the difficulty of the passages they have to echo!

Note: Be aware that when the children are echoing the words, whereas you've sung the numbers, they will be singing a different rhythm and so they may need to have it modeled a few times to get the hang of how many of each sound to sing.

You can then take this activity in any number of directions - improvisation, composition of a new chant etc. the possibilities are endless!

Want to make your own set of picnic plates? You can grab the song analysis and some food graphics at my Teachers Pay Teachers store

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