Wriggly Rhythms, by Ailsa Betts

Community, Guest Bloggers
June 28, 2012 11:36 am
Photo of Wriggly Rick

Wriggly Rick, onstage at Wriggly Rhythms

Even the smallest E17ers deserve to rock and roll!

On a Monday morning, Wriggly Rick the Octopus (pictured above) makes his way around assembled children to sing “Hello, hello, it’s good to see you”. They take turns to shake one of his tentacles, give him a stroke, a hug and in some cases an almighty snog! For the next 45 minutes, with their parents and carers, they sing, dance, shake listen and learn through a variety of happy, child friendly songs.

My name is Ailsa and I am a local teacher and a mum to two little girls. I work part time and I have a real passion about the way music helps children learn and grow. I love to see children learn to count, point to parts of their bodies, make animal noises and generally get a continuous thrill when they learn to anticipate what is coming next. Moving on from this, the simple rhyming patterns in children’s songs and nursery rhymes have a direct and profound impact on their progress when they begin reading. The ability to learn or make up a song about something has helped children to learn their times tables, the difference between odd and even numbers, historical facts, spelling patterns…the list goes on.

The current economic climate has seen a reduction in provision of resources for under fives and I feel quite strongly that this is going to have a long term damaging effect on education.

Wriggly Rhythms is my attempt at trying to address this to some extent in my little corner of Walthamstow.

There are currently two groups meeting on a Monday morning. The first takes place in the hall of St Michael’s and All Angels Church on Northcote Road at 9.30am. From there I go up to the Salvation Army on Forest Road and run a second group at 11.00am.

The format is very simple and relaxed. We start with a lively piece of music to listen to and shake something along with. After welcome and wake-up songs, we’ll sing a few songs based around a theme that changes every half term. After this there are some counting songs then a quiet listening moment (not always hugely successful but worth a try!). We finish with familiar and traditional nursery rhymes before Wriggly Rick comes back to sing the ‘Goodbye’ song. [Like an encore? Spot the rock star! – Stow Scene]

I use visual aids to help children remember actions or see the effects when numbers are changed. When one monkey falls off the bed, for example, the children can see the two that are left and begin to make the connection with the numbers. The laminator in my house works over time on a Sunday evening!

It’s not terribly technical and nor is it rocket science but I think the beauty of Wriggly Rhythms for some is the chance to get together and sing with other people. Of course we could all do this at home with our children but there is something special about music in a community – even at a very young age. For others it is the chance to revive old rhymes that have been buried in the past. I hope that as the group grows it will meet the needs of people who are new to English and want to see their children have as great a start as possible when they go to school and learn to read a language other than their mother tongue.

Taking away from the musical side of it, Wriggly Rhythms is a chance to get out of the house for a little while and meet some other people. Being home alone with a small child can get lonely at times. The shortness of the session means it doesn’t eat into the day too much – you could pop into Northcote Road on your way to the market or on your way back from the school run. At the Salvation Army group, you can bring your lunch and hang around and eat it and have a chat at the end of the session.

There are plans to add another day – hopefully a Friday – from September. Anyone wishing to be kept in the loop about this can follow me on twitter (@wrigglyrhythms) or ‘Like’ me on Facebook.

Thank you!

Ailsa Betts runs Wriggly Rhythms in Walthamstow.

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