You probably know the American folk song, "Chicken on a Fencepost". My students LOVE this simple song and the accompanying game. In this post we'll talk about some great activities to use with this song.
First, you probably know this song in a format similar to this one:
I teach this song by rote and often use it to introduce 16th notes. During our first class period with this song we just learn it by rote and I tell them that the next time they come we'll use our detective skills to figure out the rhythm of the song and perform a play party game if we have time.
The next class period, we review the song. We pat the steady beat while singing and practice clapping "the way the words go" or the rhythm. Next, we use a visual aid to help us notate the rhythm. In the picture below, you see a Smartboard file in use.
I don't have this file available for download, but it would be easy enough to replicate. Create a 4x4 table and put a chicken in each square. As students figured out the rhythm, they dragged the correct note and dropped it on top of the chicken.
In addition to projecting the file and figuring out the rhythm this way, I've also projected a plain page with the 4x4 chicken grid and had students draw over them onto the board with a dry erase marker. We've also done it on paper when technology wasn't available. You can download this farther down in this post.
As time allows (and I usually make sure we have just a few minutes) we get into concentric circles and practice walking and singing the song. I never actually plan to teach the entire game the first time. I know. I'm such a meanie. What I want to do is build anticipation. Before we leave on day 2 I introduce them to my friend, Captain Cluck.
Captain Cluck is a rubber chicken that I bought from Oriental Trading. There's nothing really special about him, except he is the Captain of the "Chicken on a Fencepost" game. Okay...he is totally special and sits at a place of honor on my shelf and sometimes on really bad days I'll talk to him like he can hear me, but I try not to share that with the kids. They already think I'm crazy.
So, the kids leave singing this fabulous folk song, excited to come back to music to learn the rest of the play party game and play with Captain Cluck. Music teacher win!
I think there are probably several variations of this game out there, but this version is my favorite. The starting formation is to have students in two concentric circles. I tend to make the center circle much smaller than the outer circle. In the middle of the center circle is where Captain Cluck resides.
In addition to the two concentric circles, I pick two foxes to stand on the outside. Basically they are "it" and try to get through the gates that will pop-up during the song and grab Captain Cluck.
I have students join hands (Always say "join hands" not "hold hands" when talking to your students. Trust me on this one.). I have the foxes cover their eyes or step outside the room if the setting allows while I walk through the circle and touch a place for the gate to open on each circle.
The foxes come back and we begin singing and walking in our circles. When we sing the last "OH!" the students' hands that I touched raise them high to create an open gate in each of the circles. The foxes race to get through each gate and grab the chicken. I usually let each fox them pick someone to take their place and we play repeatedly until they are delirious or their classroom teacher comes to pick them up.
Here is a great video of a group of educators playing this game.
It is great fun and I know your students will love it! I use "Chicken on a Fencepost" with 4th, 5th and 6th graders. You can download the worksheets that I use with my students for deciphering the rhythm of "Chicken on a Fencepost" HERE.