Perhaps in a community-building class meeting, have the class brainstorm a list of positive adjectives that they could use to describe their classmates, or that they would like to have their classmates use to describe them. Write the adjectives on the board so students will know how to spell them. Then, give each child one or two pieces of paper (or tagboard strips, index cards, etc).
Each child will then write choose one adjective from the list to write on each paper in large, clear print. (The children do not put their names on these papers.) The teacher collects the student-generated words strips. These papers will be used as word strips in the main portion of this lesson.
The teacher can also prepare a generous number of adjective word strips ahead of time to use in the game.
You know your students. If you have concerns about some children intentionally choosing adjectives that might hurt feelings (such as “pretty” to describe a boy), remove potentially hurtful adjectives from the pile of word strips before playing the game.
Sing or play a recording of the first verse of the song, Paw Paw Patch. (Play 1 has words of all three verses, which are not useful for this activity. Play 2 has no words, so you can sing the first verse three times in a row for practice.) Invite the students to sing along with you as soon as they are comfortable. In keeping with the style of the music, have the children move to the beat of the music and as they listen to, learn, and sing it. Help the children find patterns in the lyrics and melody as you sing the song with them again.
Create a body percussion pattern for everyone to perform each the class sings “Way down yonder in the paw paw patch.” The rhythm of the body percussion pattern should match the rhythm of the words of that phrase. Create something that is fun and that everyone can do fairly easily.
One possibility might be, to pat hands on knees on each syllable of “Way down yon-der in the”, then snap (or pretend to snap) fingers of one hand and then the other on “paw paw,” and clap on the word “patch.” Create a pattern that is works and is enjoyable for you and your students. Perform this pattern each time you sing the last phrase of a verse.
If you need to teach this lesson in short, separate segments, this is a good place to pause the lesson before resuming the activity later.
For this section the class should be sitting in a circle. The word strips should be in the middle of the circle, spread out and face up so they can be read.
The teacher brings out the stuffed animal (or toy or puppet) to “lead” the singing. You might choose to call it “Suzy” and use the traditional words of the song. Or you might give the stuffed animal a different name and change the words of the song to use the animal’s name. For purposes of this example, the animal will be named “Suzy.”
While the whole class sings the first three phrases of the song (“Where oh, where is pretty little Suzy? three times) the teacher plays with the animal, perhaps pretending it is hiding or running away. However, during this process, the teacher and/or animal picks up an adjective from the center of the circle and places it on the floor in front of one of the children in the class. This needs to occur rather quickly so this process is completed during the first three phrases of the song.
By the time the song reaches “Way down yonder in the paw, paw patch” the teacher/animal has set the adjective on the floor in front of a child and hands the animal to that child. While singing the last phrase, the whole class performs the body percussion pattern they practiced when first learning the song.
For the next verse, the class sings the song using the name of the child who just received the stuffed animal, and the adjective that has been placed on the floor in front of the child. If the child were named “Ben” and the adjective were “thoughtful,” the child would play with the animal, pick up a word strip, and place it in front of another child while everyone in the class would sing:
Then, on the final phrase, the child would pass the animal to the new child while the whole class sings and performs the body percussion to:
Continue this process until all children have had a turn. Because children who have had a turn will have a word strip on the floor in front of them, it is not necessary to have turns proceed from one child to the next directly around the circle. The word strips make it clear who has or has not had a turn, so turn-taking should usually run smoothly even when children are free to choose any child in the circle who has not yet been chosen. This element of unpredictability tends to help children stay more fully engaged in the game.
Create and enjoy one final verse about something important to the class, perhaps about an adult in the school or the stuffed animal that was used to play the game.