Issue 3: Zum Galli Galli – singing game

This is an excellent song for passing something around the circle in time to the pulse.  I have used bean bags, but, if they are kept in the P E shed in the playground, and are all damp and smelly and rotting, then, unsurprisingly, the children won’t be very keen to touch them.

So, having discovered that the beanbags at this school WERE all damp and smelly and rotting, I had to cast around for alternatives at short notice.  Brainwave!  (all who know me are now taking to the hills; not all my brainwaves are total unalloyed brilliance).  Why not give all the children a piece of scrap paper and instruct them to crumple it up into a paper ball?  There are lots of reasons why not, as I discovered in time.  Still, paper balls do work very well now that I have the benefit of hindsight, and can therefore anticipate and forestall most of the likely reactions of the class.

The children will be delighted to be instructed to ruin and destroy a piece of paper and will apply themselves to the task with gusto.  However, there is something about permitted vandalism that releases a surge of unexpected and random energy in young children, and the air will soon thick with flying paper balls, unless you have pre-empted this activity with instructions beforehand. This doesn’t happen quite so energetically with bean bags.

At this point I will give you a good tip.  You will get on much better if you teach the song, keeping the pulse, and making sure the second line ends on “zum” without an inadvertent “galli” tagged on to the end, BEFORE you make the paper balls.  Hindsight again.  You have been warned.

The Tune



The Game

Everyone sits cross-legged in a circle and places their paper ball or (whatever) on their right.  On count 1, each person picks up their paper ball and on count 3 they place it SENSIBLY on the floor to their left.  If all has gone well, the person sitting next to them will have deposited their paper ball in exactly the right place, so that on the next count of 1 everyone has a paper ball to their right ready to pick up and place on their left at count 3.  So long as everyone keeps in time, the paper balls should progress around the ring at a steady pulse.  Trust me; it is a lot easier to do this than to describe it.

Actually, what happens is that several children will assume that you are playing a game like “Pass the Bomb”.  (This is a fiendish outdoor water game where you pass round a clockwork-driven container filled with water which explodes and soaks whoever is holding it when the timer goes off.)  They will scoop the paper balls across to the next child as fast as they can, so that their unfortunate neighbour ends up with a dozen paper balls.  Depending on the character of this child, they might moan and complain, or they might panic, or they might solve their over-supply problem by throwing the balls into the centre of the circle.

Other children will pick up and place their paper ball in one sweeping movement completed which only takes one count.  The consequences are similar to the water bombers.

Persevere; once you have overcome these misconceptions it becomes a very satisfying activity for adults and children, as you suddenly work together in perfect unison, like a finely-tuned machine.  With older children, I often ask them at the end of the game what skills they need in order for the game to succeed. It’s not just “keeping the beat” that is important; life-skills such as co-operation and teamwork are just as important.

You can extend the game by having two concentric circles, one passing the beanbags clockwise, and the other anti clockwise.  Or you can vary the tempo.  Or sing a different song.

Sooner or later you need to finish the game and collect the beanbags or paper balls.

The simplest way is to put your beanbag or paper ball into a suitable container instead of passing it on round the circle.  The game will come to a natural conclusion once the last beanbag ends up in the basket.

Another way is to stop the game at a pre-arranged moment (“one more verse and everyone freeze”).  Once you have sorted the circle out so that each child has one, and only one beanbag, you send a child round the circle with the crate, or whatever you are using, and collect everything in.  This doesn’t always work as well as you might like, as many children will chuck their paper ball at the collector, or in the direction of collector, rather than waiting until they can just gently and sensibly place the paper ball in the bin.

The most popular method (with the children) is to put the crate/bin/basket in the middle of the circle and let the children throw their bean bag/paper ball into it;


Before you go for this option, it is a really, really good idea to set out THE RULES and make it into another game.  Each child has just one go at throwing their beanbag into the crate.  If they miss, they have to leave it lying on the floor.  Once everyone has had a go, ONE CHILD is chosen to collect all the no-goals.  You can keep a tally of the class accuracy and try and beat it next week.

Once the children are all really, really good at this game, you might like to try playing it to the music of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.  Just make sure you pick a nice, steady pulse to start with, and be ready for the wild excitement at the end!

Flying birds divider

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