Sometime during the Summer Term, 2007
So, the plan was to teach a class of thirty-two year 3 and 4 children some singing games. Sounded like fun – and it was. It was also chaos.
I explained that we were going to play a ball game, with partners. So, I paired up the children, and organised them into two rows, facing each other. This took a little while. Then we learned the song;
I taught them the song, clapping the pulse, until everyone knew it, and could keep time. Then, I handed out the balls, one for each pair of children. At this stage some time was lost as we restored order, uttered dire threats and finally managed to reach a state where children and balls were still.
Into the fragile silence, I explained that game; to bounce the ball between the pairs in time to the pulse, so that the ball hits the floor on the first beat, and is caught on the second beat.
Within seconds, there were children and balls everywhere, bouncing off the walls, ceiling, threatening the windows…
Order was eventually restored, and we tried again. Once more, the hall erupted into fast-paced competitive action. Finally, we managed to get the whole class singing and playing, with the penalty of anyone dropping a catch putting their partnership “out”. This changed the ethos from a wild form of dodge-ball to something more like the pictures in the instruction book. Success!
Wind forward to Autumn 2011 and the same lesson;
With the children seated in a ring, I explained the plan (learn the song and ball game). We learned the song, and then the TA and I demonstrated how the game worked; two adults, one ball, watched intently by the children.
In an orderly fashion, the children were paired off, and seated facing each other on parallel lines on the badminton court conveniently marked out on the hall floor. the balls were handed out, preceded with warnings of dire consequences if any balls escaped.
As a whole class, we attempted just one bounce and catch; the penalty of sitting out if catches were missed was suggested should things get out of hand. One hundred percent success. As a whole class, we managed two successive bounce and catches – near perfect success.
So, with a careful count in, thirty-something children played, and many sang, all together, and the balls thumped rhythmically on the wooden floor. Real success!
There are several morals to this tale; you can never plan too thoroughly, and sometimes the most important part of planning concerns the logistics; how will you move the children from sitting in a ring to standing in two lines; when will you give out the equipment/instruments; and how will you prevent the children from immediately playing with whatever they are given!