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Have You Bear Walked Today?

January 12, 2022 | Kristen Jordan

Every morning, we devote a chunk of time to singing and saying Rhymes and Chants together.  We try to do an array of songs and chants that are catchy and that children can remember.  

The work we do at this time ranges from traditional nursery rhymes to simply stretching or moving our bodies to get the wiggles out! Sometimes we say theme or season-related chants like “Little Bo Peep”, when we were working on being sheep for the Christmas story.  At other times, we might do a rhyme that helps children focus on a particular body part, such as fingers in “Two Little Blackbirds”.

When children learn words, and hand and body motions for songs or rhymes, they are working on many different things.  

Children must practice listening skills, and coordinating what they are saying with their mouths with what they are doing with their bodies. 

They are working on sitting still and waiting their turn. (Sometimes you get to be Miss Muffet first and sometimes you get to be the spider who scares her away first!)

Children are also practicing using their voices and expressing themselves in front of others. 

As children work all together they are engaging in whole-class activities that help them connect with one another and build community. 

We do some Rhymes and Chants that help children to learn one another’s names: “Andrew. You are my friend!”.  These chants also help children to experience communicating back and forth.  “Miss Buckley, you are my friend!” (as the ball gets passed back and forth).  

Many of the rhymes we do help children to gain practice with fine motor movements.  When children sing a song with small hand movements like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Where is Thumbkin”, they are learning the names of their fingers and working on developing fine motor control with their hands. 

Some of this work also engages children in doing gross motor movements.  When children “Bear Walk” they are building arm strength, that in turn helps with fine motor skills (Bear Walking is a great one to do at home!).  Or when we sing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, children move their whole bodies and they must really focus and listen! 

Rhymes and chants also sometimes address more “academic” skills.  They can be mathematical.  Counting up or down is addition and subtraction. “5 Little Pumpkins” counts down from 5 to 0!

Rhymes and Chants are helpful for literacy development as they can be an important tool for language acquisition and speech development.  Children hear and say tons of words!  They must listen for sounds that are the same and sounds that are different.  Learning rhyming words helps children to think about how words might be similar.  Hearing beats or rhythm helps children gain an early understanding of syllables and words.  Children also hear language patterns and repetition.  Even if children aren’t aware of these things as they do them, all of this work contributes to their early literacy development. 

Last but not least, it is just plain, old, fun to sing and say Rhymes and Chants!  You might ask your child at home to teach you some of their favorites Rhymes or Chants!

Bear be nimble

Bear be quick

Bear jump over the candlestick!

(a favorite!)


Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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