I am currently spending an amazing summer break with my family in Europe – Spain and France. As always when a teacher travels, I find myself constantly collecting ideas and stories to bring back to my classroom. I was delighted to fall upon this lovely scene early in our trip, in Bilbao, Spain:
For a few years now I have been studying song experience games and incorporating them into my classroom. Based on folk songs, traditional stories, and many other pieces of music, these songs are paired with games according to a specific structure that is beneficial to kids. The song experience games help in the development of impulse control, turn taking skills, emotional stability, literacy, social referencing, auditory processing, the proprioceptive system, and so much more. And, of course, they are fun. Kids are motivated and love them. Teaching becomes easier.
Anyway, one of my kindergartners’ favorite games is called “Letter.” It is very similar to Duck, Duck, Goose, with the exception that no one is ever out. There is no pot, no out, no exclusion. Instead, all the kids sit in a circle and close their eyes. One child walks around the outside of the circle carrying a letter while the other children sing. By the time the song ends, the letter must be dropped behind another child. Everyone opens their eyes and reaches behind them, and whoever has the letter runs around the circle trying to catch the first child before they get back to their spot. Whether or not they actually catch them is irrelevant. Either way, the chosen student now gets to drop the letter.
When I first learned this game, I thought it would be hard for kindergartners to deal with not catching one another. I thought there would be cheating or disappointment. I thought they would get angry about not getting a turn. On the contrary. Instead, the kids play with unbelievable joy. The motivation to catch the other student never dies, even after many failures, and each time we play they have fresh hope that they will be chosen. It is simply about the delight in the moments of the game.
When I saw virtually the same game being played alongside a river in Spain, I was pleased. A few minor variations occurred within the game, and the words were different, but Zapatilla Por Detras is nearly the same as Letter. And the delight and motivation were the same as well. No cheating, no complaining, just fun.
It is pure and simple proof that good games, with sound structure and fun, are teaching tools that cross continents and decades.