Not on the ceiling
Not on the door
Everybody find a seat on the floor.
Over the years I’ve added some of my own verses:
Not on your feet
Not on your knees
Everybody sit on your bottoms please.
Not on your back
Not on your tummy
Everybody sit right on your bummy.
Not on your head
Not in a bed
Everybody sit on your bottom instead.
Keep your hands to yourself
Sit in your own self-space
I expect everyone to stay in one place.
Raise your hand
If you’ve something to say
You don’t get to talk any other way.
There are more verses, and they change over time, but each one was created in an ever-escalating effort to focus an unruly group of kids. It's a moving target because, let’s face it, unless constantly refreshed the novel silliness of not sitting on the door wears off rather quickly, and is soon not nearly as entertaining as Henry’s efforts to turn a summersault or Sophia’s hot whisper in your ear. Each time I introduced a new verse, I bought myself a couple of days of attention focused where I want it at Circle Time – on me – but it never lasted and I was forced into creating newer and newer verses until one day I hit on this one:
Not on your fingers
Not on your toes
Everybody sit on a thorny rose.
When I realized what I’d sung, I spontaneously stood up slightly, hands on my bottom, and said, “Ow!” And the kids laughed. The next day, several of them requested, “The thorny rose,” so I did it again, and this time a bunch of them imitated me. By the third day, most of the children were raising their little bottoms in unison, saying, “Ow!” and even the ones who didn’t physically participate were focused on Teacher Tom.
I was onto something. Instead of shouting at them to “Shut up!” or even striving to entertain them with my clever rhymes, I’d accidentally stumbled upon a way to involve the children in their own group focusing exercise. The whole point of Circle Time is to get the entire group engaged in activities together, and that’s exactly what this did.
We’ve now added dozens of “Ow!” verses and they never fail to pull a rowdy, fragmented group of preschoolers together.
Not on a reef
Not on some beef
Everybody sit on a shark’s teeth.
Not on a snail
Not in the jail
Everybody sit on a rusty nail.
Not on a mass
Not on the grass
Everybody sit in some broken glass.
Not on a wire
Not on a tire
Everybody sit right in a campfire.
Last year, we discovered a new wrinkle:
Not on a dud
Not with a thud
Everybody sit in a puddle of mud.
I can’t wait to expand our “Ew!” repertoire in the coming year.