Educational CyberPlayGround





Use Music in the classroom to teach reading.

Integrate Domino into your Classroom 1997

Learn How to Use Music in the Classroom to Teach Teading.



Thoughts about what "PLAY" means

I believe that the core relationship children have with the oral tradition and play is transformative. Children will take the thing or space they are playing with, do something new with it, and feel a sense of ownership. It will now become theirs.

Cyberspace is the new space, is the new playground. As children get familiar with the technology, they'll find that it has no fences, no walled yards. This space is wide open. Cross-Cultural communication will be inevitable. It is only natural to expect the kids of the next century to adapt their games and folksongs to this new space and thereby claim it as their own. It will be the next step in the natural progression of our culture.


This paper was invited by the Kennedy Center of Preforming Arts in Washington DC to be part of their first Virtual Conference on Music Education and Technology copyright 1997 ; Original Link No longer available.

Children's music starts with sound - shhh the sound of blood rushing through your mother when you are in the womb. Why everyone will shhh a baby to comfort them. It is one of the the first music sounds we know. Out of the womb we are still comforted by shhh sound and the lullabye that are sung to us. We hear and process all language / speech as music at first. Some languages are tonal and use pitch to give meaning to words - not just words alone.

Rhythm of Speech is the beginning of formal language. We progress from the rhythm of the music to recognizing patterns - the patterns of words then understanding what they mean.. Every culture has its own indigenous music. I am sure you have heard people say that music is the universal language. I think all cultures are hard-wired for the language of music.

Music is Language, Language is Music.

Music is a language, and standard English is a language. To enhance one is to work with the other. The children's indigenous music that we call folk song is a culturally diverse national treasure. Check this out: Virtual Music Classroom Teaching "Whole Music" Literacy - Part 1 (by J. Kit Eakle from Research Forum, 1994, Langley School District, Langley, BC).

internet and Technology help to dissolve the boundaries between the meet space and cyber space. Technology allows people with common interests to play together and share their collective knowledge on the CyberPlayGround.


The oral tradition begins with playground chants.

All cultures have this in common. This is where you will find the children's living poetry. Yes, it is alive; changing daily as kids move into the neighborhood and bring their repertoire with them. But, partly because of urbanization and violence on the streets, children don't have access to each other anymore. Games are disappearing. The oral tradition of folk song is also a collection of stories that children tell to each other, that help them to make sense out of their circumstances and their world.


Ring Around The Rosie

Ring around the rosie,

pocket full of posies,

ashes, ashes,

we all fall down.

I thought this was a story told about the plague in Europe the symptom was a red circular rash, people carried posies to the grave site for the funeral, the prayer says ashes to ashes, we all fall down (death) see "Ring around the Rosie" Variations
The game and song of "Ring a Ring o'Roses" has been tainted by a legend that the song is a relic of the Great Plague of 1665 "The Black Death" that affected Britain in the 14th century was probably not the modern disease known as bubonic plague, scientists claim.
Yet this legend itself, linking the singing game with the plague, is relatively new. Lady Alice Gomme never mentioned it in her 1898 work, and the Opies are certain that she would have, should it have been known at all. As they tell it, no link was mentioned by 'any commentator before the Second World War' (p. 222). This discussion is contained in their Chapter VIII, The Downfall of the Ring. Still, rings were sung and played long before the plague, and are documented from the early Medieval period. See more about In the Oxford Encyclopedia of Nursery Rhymes, by Peter & Iona Opie and

Origins of Folksongs, Nursery Rhymes, Play Parties, Indiginous Playground Poetry

Mother Goose's Tales"Examples from Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784) ed. James Ritson. The title refers to an old women telling tales to young inspired by Charles Perrault fairy tale collection with the frontispiece and image of old woman “Contes de ma Mere l'Oye” (c. 1697). This title was used by John Newbery in the Original Mother Goose's Melody (1760) and published in America by Isaiah Thomas. Thereafter, in America, mother goose refers to nursery rhymes. Illustrator Dr. Alexander Anderson

But it still makes me think about what other stories are being told . . . and what is the child's view?

Four White Horses:

Four White Horses on a rainbow

Hey Hey Hey up tomorrow

Up tomorrow is a rainy day

Come on out and let's shadow play

Shadow play is a ripe banana

Hey Hey Hey up tomorrow

This is very beautiful imagery. I can just see four white horses on a rainbow. What I can't ignore is the subtle reference to sex in the shadows. So innocent and unlike the blunt story told next in "Kiss Kiss."

Kiss Kiss:

Down on the carpet I go

Like a black girl in the air

Rise and stand up on your knees and

Kiss the one that you love the best

When I'm married, I'll give you joy,

First a boy and second a girl

He this boy, she this girl,

Kiss, Kiss and say goodbye.

I must mention one of my personal favorites:

In Came the Doctor

In came the doctor,

In came the nurse,

In came the Lady with the

Alligator purse.

I was so fascinated with the Lady as a child; what a wild creature she must have been. I always thought she could have been a little like the character of "Lucy" on the "I Love Lucy" show. What did you think she looked like?

See the Music and Hear Audio of "Down In the River" or "Ding-Dong"
From the children of St. Croix as recorded in my book and cassette "Domino."
Read and hear DING DONG
- Read and Hear Down In The River


Folk songs also have an amazing tactile component. Children clap, snap, stamp, and move in dozens of syncopated patterns to dozens of chants, circle games, and songs. Interestingly enough, these tactile pathways seem to help people learn best, especially if they are learning differently. Think about it. What you see, hear, and feel, you never forget.

A Chinese Proverb Says:

"Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand."

When is the last time you learned one of these chants and the accompanying clapping pattern, especially a complicated one? Most adults don't do very well. Try it. This will give you a new respect for what children can do and know -- "below the neck." What a repertoire they have!

The most successful way to teach a cognitive and objective awareness is to start working from what's known "below the neck." The beauty of this approach, in both singing games and technology, is that in this mode children already often know more than the teacher. How refreshing! It is your job as teacher to assign labels to what they already know and bring their awareness up "above the neck" -- it's natural this way -- instead of the other way around. Once you can name it, you can claim it!


I am most interested in the power of creativity that comes from the intersections of the playgrounds of life. Where play and learning intersect and overlap they produce the epiphanies of understanding that sustain our wonderment of learning throughout our entire lives - not just in the classrooms of our youth.

Internet, Computers and Technology provide the newest playground. Brought into the classroom it will help the music and classroom teachers intersect in learning and play.


The indigenous playground poetry was collected in 1978 and 1979 then copyrighted by the Library of Congress when Joe Hickerson was the Head of the Folklore Archive.

Joe Hickerson Library of Congress Folklore Archivist [p] 202-707-5510 Now Retired Since 1953, Joe Hickerson has performed over 1000 times at concerts, festivals coffeehouses, folk clubs and societies, colleges and universities, community groups, and radio programs (including “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1976) throughout the United States and Canada as well as in Finland and the Ukraine. He has been referred to as the “folksinger's folksinger.” Pete Seeger has called him “a great songleader.” His wide ranging repertoire of English-language songs and ballads includes occupational and labor songs, children's songs, humorous songs and parodies, Irish-American songs, sea songs, religious songs and chorus songs which he sings with guitar and unaccompanied. Although he is not known as a songwriter, Joe is the author of the 4th and 5th verses of “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”(in 1960).

In 1963, Joe was appointed Reference Librarian and in 1974, head of the Archive of Folk Song (later called the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress which was directed by Folklorist Dr. Alan Jabbour) while there he directed an intern program and compiled and edited numerous reference and finding aids. He retired from that position in 1998 after 35 years of service. One of the founding members of Folklore Society of Greater Washington (1964), Hickerson has been it's President, Program Chair, and Book Review Editor. He has also served as Bibliographer (for 22 years) and secretary for (8 years) of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Chair of the Committee on Archiving of the American Folklore Society, and on the advisory boards of Sing-Out!, John Edwards Memorial Foundation and Foxfire. Joe received the Southeastern Massachusetts University Eisteddfod Award in 1973, was Special Honoree at the 1986 Summer Solstice Dulcimer and Traditional Music and Dance Festival, and was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 New Jersey Folk Festival.
Presently, besides presenting concerts, Joe frequently lectures on such topics as “Treasures from the National Folk Archive” and “The History of Folksong Collecting and Archiving in the U.S.,” The Folksong Revival,” and “Folksongs of Washington DC.


The synergistic power of both music and classroom teachers, intersecting on the road to language fluency.

With technology the boundaries fall away. Language fluency can be achieved.

LITERACY Indigenous children's music is a natural source of material for combining their music and their language experience. Teachers from different disciplines can easily work together to enhance language fluency skills using the oral tradition.

National Childrens Folksong Repository

In summary, I believe that the core relationship children have with the oral tradition and play is transformation.

Children will take the space they play in, the games and songs they are playing with, and create something new with them. This act gives a feeling and sense of ownership. Old traditions are now transformed and given new life. Examples of Children's Songs Collected from old timey times :-)

Remember -- we don't "work" music, we "play" it! Music as "word play"!


  • word play -- (playing on words or speech sounds)
  • pun, punning, wordplay -- (a humorous play on words; "I do it for the pun of it'' )
  • looseness, play -- (movement or space for movement; "there was too much play in the steering wheel'' ) wiggliness slack, slackness
  • play, child's play -- (play by children that is guided more by imagination than by fixed rules; "Freud believed in the utility of play to a small child'' )
  • house -- (play in which children take the roles of father or mother or children and pretend to interact like adults; "the children were playing house'' )
  • doctor -- (children take the roles of doctor or patient or nurse and pretend they are at the doctor's office; "the children explored each other's bodies by playing the game of doctor'' )
  • fireman -- (play in which children take the roles of firemen and pretend to put out a fire)
  • maneuver, maneuver, play -- (a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity and skill; "he made a great play'' )
  • play -- (a theatrical performance of a drama; "the play lasted two hours'' ) musical, musical comedy, musical theater
  • play, drama -- (a dramatic work intended for performance by actors on a stage;
  • playlet -- (a short play)
  • morality play -- (an allegorical play popular in the 15th and 16th centuries; characters personified virtues and vices)
  • turn, play -- (the activity of doing something in an agreed succession; "it is my turn" or "it is still my play'' )
  • play -- (the act using a sword (or other weapon) vigorously and skillfully)

"The Educational CyberPlayground" ©1997

I have dreamt of making my thematic reading curriculum available since 1977 when I taught second and fourth grades on St. Croix in the American Virgin Islands. The school provided reading materials that were in standard English without resources that would allow teachers to acknowledge the children's dialect, Creole.

As a result, the children were routinely left back and thus my fourth grade class included students from 10 to 16 years old. Motivated by frustration and concern, I combined my music training in the Orff-Schulwerk technique (learning music through body movement), and my elementary teaching degree with the children's playground songs chants and games which I learned in their dialect, and then asked them to learn Standard English.

Dialect Speakers and Music -- What does this have to do with LITERACY?

Motivation was the key to our success, and the desire to share was the door we opened together. I used this material very successfully for what was to become their "Indigenous Folksong Reading Curriculum," copyright 1997. I published the compilation of traditional children's playground poetry in the work titled DOMINO. It is the only live-sound field recording from this area of the world, in the Library of Congress Folklore Archive.

Integrate Domino into your Classroom Make Your Own Rubric Tool for Classroom Use

I hope to give teachers and students in the nation a reason to use a computer, learn to use the World Wide Web, -- integrate technology, literacy and music into the classroom curriculum. My own thoughts are that if students can memorize all the words to long rap songs they can learn to memorize anything, but they need teachers who can teach without ditto sheets - teach to the other intelligences and learning syles. We need better teaching tools for reaching visual, oral, and kinesthetic learners. This is what I consider part of the multiple intelligences -- USE THE ARTS.

Literacy Statistics

1. 50% of all Americans over 65 years old are functionally illiterate (maybe that's why the majority of the people don't vote).

2. 60% of the Urban School Children do not graduate High School of the 40% that do they are only reading at 4th grade level.

What are the key principles of the "Multiple Intelligences Theory." How do we assist educators in understanding their attitudes toward the idea of "intelligence" and exploring the ways in which a wider family of intelligences can be recognized and encouraged.

For more info on this topic let me refer you to Drs. John Rickford, John Baugh, and Robin Sabino who are experts in the field of linguistics, and familiar with my work. I consider this a problem of epidemic proportions that consequently puts the nation's health at risk. Policy makers would be advised to treat this as a public health issue.