Monday, November 30, 2015

Jack Be Nimble: 3 More Ways to Play

Jack Be Nimble,
Jack Be Quick,
Jack Jump Over the Candlestick! 

Jack jumped high,
Jack jumped low,
Jack jumped over and burned his toe!

Who is Jack?

Like so many traditional rhymes, we can't be 100% certain of the origin of this chant recorded in 1815.  Here are three possibilities: First, Yellow Fever, also known as Yellow Jack, is a viral disease that sometimes leads to jaundice. In a time when treatments had more to do with superstition than science, it was thought that lighting a fire in the room of the infirm would draw the fever out. Perhaps this rhyme is an invocation for the fever to 'jump' into the fire.

Second, 'Calico' Jack Rackham (1620-1720) was a pirate captain, captured and hanged in a cage as a warning to others. The rhyme could be a celebration of Jack's many near misses before he was finally caught.

Third, is a theory that the poem relates to a tradition of using candles to divine the future. Candle-jumping was popular in Buckinghamshire, England in the 1600's, where a St Catherine's Day festival would end with leaping over a candle.  It was thought that jumping over the lit candle without extinguishing the flame would bring good luck. 

YOU Jump Over a Candlestick! 

Even if we're not sure who the original 'Jack' was, we have lots of fun with this rhyme in class inserting your child's name into the chant as he jumps over a candle. There is no shortage to the benefits of reciting chants like this one for both literacy and music skills.  Kids who can recite a chant:
  • Have increased self-confidence
  • Have more awareness of how words and grammar work
  • Have a more extensive vocabulary (words like 'nimble'!)
  • Have clear and modulated speech
  • Are better able to make up their own rhymes and recognize spelling patterns
  • Have improved ability to memorize
  • Can create a steady beat and flow words over it
  • Can find meter in poetry and perform it correctly
Want a fancy new candle to jump over? It's easy to make a pretty great one from a cardboard roll

1. Let your child decorate the roll.  
2. Draw a flame shape on orange paper and have your child cut it out.  
3. Cut two small slits in the bottom of the flame so it will sit on the tube. 
4. Set it on the floor and... JUMP OVER! Easy!


3 More Ways to Play

Game 1: Names: Of course your little guy can have a ton of fun inserting family names into the chant to coerce all of his family members (and favorite stuffed animals and action figures) to do the jumping. Nothing motivates him to practice a poem more than knowing that at any time, in any place (the grocery store? the library?) your toddler could launch into "MOM be nimble!" and of course, Mom will start hopping around like a goof, and you'll both burst into giggles.

Game 2: Rhymes: Recognizing how to make rhymes is a powerful literacy skill that doesn't have to be boring to practice. Change up the words of the poem to create rhymes for other items around your house (or use pictures of items.) Challenge your child to guess how each verse is going to end. Some of these objects can be jumped over; others might be climbed over. Of course your child will like it if you lift him up and swoop him over the big ones.

How does this rhyme end?
Jack be nimble, if you're able,
Jack jump over the kitchen _____.

Jack be nimble, do it again,
Jack jump over my blue ink _____.

Jack be nimble, read the news,
Jack jump over Mommy's ______.

Jack be nimble, Jack jump up,
Jack jump over my water ______.

Jack be nimble, Jack be fair,
Jack jump over my Teddy ______.

Jack be nimble, Jack come look,
Jack jump over my favorite ______. 


Game 3: Movement: Of course I LOVE that this chant gets us up and moving. Young children learn best when they have a whole-body experience, and they need plenty of practice to master the coordination of muscles.  

In this version of the game, invent different ways for your child to move by replacing the word JUMP with: SWIM, STEP, TWIRL, ROLL, CRAWL, SQUAT, TIP-TOE, FLY, TRIP, SCOOT, etc. If some of these aren't safe to do over a candlestick, try going around. 'Danny scoot around the candlestick.'

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

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