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Children's games. Chosing the middle 1

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Mo the caller 14 Jan 07 - 03:52 AM
ragdall 14 Jan 07 - 04:01 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 07 - 07:05 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 07 - 08:03 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 07 - 08:05 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 07 - 08:53 AM
Mo the caller 14 Jan 07 - 11:07 AM
Mo the caller 14 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM
Azizi 14 Jan 07 - 12:31 PM
Azizi 03 Feb 07 - 08:04 AM
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Subject: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Mo the caller
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 03:52 AM

On the
mr rabbit
thread we drifted onto childrens games, and the question of how to choose the person in the middle of the ring. (The thread is back on target now.)
Azizi says that the middle person shuts her eyes , spins round and points.
We always had the middle person chosing someone, with a little bit of manipulation by the adults around to give everyone a turn.


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: ragdall
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 04:01 AM

We always had the middle person chosing someone, with a little bit of manipulation by the adults around to give everyone a turn.

Same here.


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 07:05 AM

Hey ladies!

This is a great thread topic, thanks for starting it, Mo.

May I respectfully request that folks include demographical information as to where they live [city, state, if in the USA or province, region, nation or some other identifying but not too identifying info] and when they or children they observed performed these types of circle games?

From my memory, observation, readings, and from information I have collected through emails sent to me and through additional communication with folks I know and don't know, there have been different ways the middle person has been/is selected in circle games depending on where you lived in the USA and depending on when you're documenting this play activity.

For instance, in 2006 an African American woman told me that when she was growing up near Atlanta, Georgia in the mid 1980s, the person in the middle purposely walked toward the child she wanted to choose to take her place. [Note the "her"; according to her recollections, girls [5-12 years or so] were the only ones who played these types of games.This was also true in Pittsburgh area in the 1980s-at least it appeared that way to me.

However, I remember from my childhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1950s that African American girls and boys played "show me your motion" circle games together-at least a few boys would play though it was mostly girls games even then. And, even way back then the next middle person was always chosen at random. The middle person never sung the song that accompanied the game. At a specific part of the song, the middle person [how 'bout using this abbreviation "tmp"?] would close her [or his] eyes, cover her eyes with her right hand [I think this takes the place of a handkerchief or scarf over the eyes] and then standing basically in place, she would turn around with her left arm outstretched. In this manner tmp [the middle person] would be pointing to people making up the circle. The person who tmp was pointing to at the end of the song became the new middle person.

This is exactly the way that taught my children how to play these games in Pittsburgh, PA in the 1980s [which is understandable since it's the way I know]. But this is also the only way that I have observed other [African American] children playing these games throughout Pittsburgh area to date [2007].

Unfortunately, I haven't formally/informally collected examples from and I haven't observed from non-African American children in Pittsburgh, PA are or elsewhere. But it would be very interesting to see if the same patterns held true [not to mention if these children played the same games with the same words].

All this to say, in my opinion, adding demographical information along with the information about how the middle person is chosen, would be interesting, and would add to the folkloric 'record' about children's games.

**

Also, Mo, may we add the words to game songs to this thread along with the information about choosing the middle person [tmp]?

Pretty please with sugar on top?

I'm gonna assume that you said yes, and I'll add an example in my next post to this thread.

Thanks!

:o)


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 08:03 AM

Here's a repost from

GOING ROUND THE MOUNTAIN,TWO BY TWO
Going round the mountain, two by two.
Going round the mountain, two by two.
Going round the mountain, two by two.

Tell me who loves sugar and candy.
Let me see your motion, two by two.
Let me see your motion, two by two.
Let me see your motion, two by two.      

We can do you motion. two by two.
We can do you motion. two by two.
We can do you motion. two by two.
Tell me who loves sugar and candy.
-Traditional African American game song, various sources;
posted by Azizi, 2004

Editor:
"Going Round The Mountain, Two by Two" is a traditional African American "show me your motion" ring game (circle game). From my reading it appears that the way this game was played traditionally was that girls and boys of different ages (and sometimes adults) form a circle without holding hands. One person stands in the middle of the circle. The group chants in unison, claps their hands and moves to the song's rhythm. On the words "let me see your motion", the person in the middle performs a dance step or some other movement. The group then tries to exactly imitate that movement. The song usually continues with the group saying "Who do you choose?" Traditionally, the middle player would purposefully choose another player (usually if the middle player was a boy, he would choose a girl or vice versa).

I don't recall this song from my childhood {Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1950s}. I also don't recall ever observing it being played in Pittsburgh, PA where I've lived since 1969. I'm curious to know if this game has survived elsewhere, and how it is played then & now.

However, it's interesting to me to note that the middle person was always chosen at random when I was growing up, and playing "show me your motion" circle games. And, from my observations, African American children in Pittsburgh, PA in the late 20th century to date {2007} are still choosing the next middle person, at random, the same way that my friends and I did way back in the 1950s in New Jersey.

Here's how I recall and have seen the next middle person being selected: At a specific point in the song, the middle player closes her or is or her eyes, covers her eyes with one hand, and while still in the center of the circle, turns around pointing at random to the other players making up the circle. The person who the middle player is pointing to at the end of the song is the new middle person. The former middle person then re-joins the other players and the song begins again. Traditionally, these types of games don't end until everyone has had a turn in the middle of the circle. But currently, when the children get tired of playing that particular song, they move on to another song-this is if they are even playing these games at all...and-with very rare exceptions-I believe that very few children know and play "show me your motion" and other singing circle games. The game song "Going to Kentucky" [listed below] appears to be a rare exception.

**

I'm wondering if the change from purposeful to random selection of the middle person reflects a change in values, and in parenting/community raising children, and other heavy duty psycho-social dynamics. For instance, in my experience from 1997-2005 facilitating after-school and summer groups for {predominately} African American girls and boys, ages 5-12 years old, in Pittsburgh, and some neighborhing Pittsburgh communities, there's no question that most of the children were almost totally unfamiliar with show me your motion games {the only exception was "Going To Kentucky". This game is including in some school music textbooks. Maybe that's the reason why it is known to these children}.

Many children who attended the game song groups I facilitated where afraid of being selected as the middle person. They were unused to being the center of attention, and they were afraid that they would be teased. This fear of being teased was well founded. However, my groups had a "no teasing" rule. One of the best outcomes of those groips was that over a period of time [two of these groups met once a week for three years], some of the shyest, most fearful of being teased children were eager to be selected to be in the middle. These children not only reinforced their self-esteem and self-confidence but learned that they could count on their peers to treat them respectfully.

Maintaining an attitude of expectant readiness and being able to think quickly and creatively are cognitive skills and survival skills that are important skills for children to develop and reinforce today. I believe that random selection of the middle person can help children develop and reinforce these skills.

When the middle player is chosen at random, players never know when they will be picked to go into the middle of the ring. Therefore, every player has to be ready to quickly take his or her turn as the middle person. The middle person is also expected to perform a different 'motion' or perform the same motion slightly differently than anyone else has done before him or her. Therefore children learn that they need to think ahead and have a "Plan A" and a "Plan B" in case someone 'takes their move'.

This practice of selecting a different movement [often a dance step with older, or more confident children] lives on in various foot stomping cheers that I collected from the 1980s, but that's a whole 'nuther subject.

[Note: In the children's groups which I coordinated, with smaller children and some older ones, this 'rule' that the new middle person had to select a different movement' was largely suspended].


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 08:05 AM

Sorry, that repost is from my website:

http://www.cocojams.com/games_children_play.htm


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 08:53 AM

It occurred to me that even if those points I made above are valid [regarding teasing etc], they don't explain why choosing the middle person changed in some communities from a purposeful act to a random act.

I think that this may have occurred because
1. the game was at one time a way of signaling to the community and your peers who you liked romantically [middle girl choosing boy and vice versa] Of course, this theory would hold true if these games were played by teens and young adults, the same population which played 'play party' songs.

and

2. the random selection may have helped to put a stop to favoritism that occurred when the person in the middle only selected those children who were the most popular. When you never know who is going to be picked and when, this puts all children on an equal footing...

I'd love to 'hear' your views on these theories.


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Mo the caller
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 11:07 AM

Yes you may.
Oh, you have already. Well I didn't think it was my thread anyway, I just kicked it off, let it wander where it will.

I'm thinking back to the late 40s, early 50s, but also as part of the group of adults I've not seen your way of chosing.
I agree that it's fairer, children tend to chose their friends.

I found most children wanted a turn, I think if I did something like that at Playgroup (3 -5 yrs) I'd ask who hadn't been in who wanted to, and tmp would choose from them. Most did but some newcomers were shy, and I wouldn't push them, - being away from Mum for 3 hours could be enough to cope with.


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Mo the caller
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 11:17 AM

GOING ROUND THE MOUNTAIN,TWO BY TWO

Do you sing it to "She'll be coming round the mountain"?
It says 2 by 2, do you promenade round in mixed pairs?

If you chose the boy you liked, then he chose you no-one else would get a look in; could this be why it changed.
Or adult influence when teach the games to young children?


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 14 Jan 07 - 12:31 PM

Mo, re the song: "Going round the mountain, two by two," I found this song in a book-sorry can't remember the name-something like "Children's Games From Many Lands"...

And even though the book said that "Going round the mountain etc" was a circle game, I believe it had evolved from a partner {two people} promanade {walking or strutting} around the yard or room.

This makes better sense to me because of the words. But also there was a drawing with the song of a vertical line of couples {two children a boy and a girl, or two boys, or two girls walking outdoors. I can't remember if "the couple" held hands or not.

**

Clearly, I should have selected another "circle, with a person in the middle" song then Going Round The Mountain".

Here's a song that African American girls {5-12 years or so} still know -still meaning 1997-2006-last time I checked:

GOING TO KENTUCKY
We're going to Kentucky
We're going to the fair
To see the sister Rita *
With the flowers in her hair **
[Oh] shake it sister Rita
Shake it all you can
Cause all the boys ***
Are watchin you
So do the best you can

Rumble to the bottom
Rumble to the top
Turn around
And touch the ground
Until you holler
S-T-O-P
Speeells
Stop.

This soung comes from various sources, including girls and boys ages 5-12 years old Alafia Children's Ensemble, Braddock, PA 1997, and Alafia Children's Ensemble, Pittsburgh, 1998

* for a boy in the center, the group was directed to say "brother Rico" [that the group didn't know what to say for a boy is a reflection of the fact that -outside of adult directed organized play activity such as Alafia Children's Ensemble- boys don't usually play this game.]

** for a boy in the center, the group was directed to say "flowers in his hand"

*** for a boy in the center, the group says "cause all the girls are watching you" etc

**** On the words "S-T-O-P", the person in the center 'closes' her eyes , covers her eyes by putting her right hand over her eyes, extends her left arm and points while she twirls around in the center of the circle. The person who she is pointing to on the word "Stop" is the new center person. The new center person quickly goes to stand in the center, the old center person quickly rejoins the circle, and the game immediately begins again .

-snip-

Throughout the years since I've been collecting children's rhymes, I've seen this 'game' played by African American girls in various Pittsburgh African American neighborhoods. I've heard the girl referred to as "Sister Rita", "Sister Reena" and rarely "Senorita". "Sister Rita" and "Sister Reena" are folk etymology versions of "senorita", as Spanish word meaning "little woman" that these African American girls didn't know.

By the way, I'm not saying that this song is of African American origin, or that African American girls are the only ones who sing it and play it this way. I'm just sharing what I observed. Fwiw,I don't recall playing or singing "Goin To Kentucky" [or "Goin 'Round The Mountain"] in my childhood.


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Subject: RE: Children's games. Chosing the middle 1
From: Azizi
Date: 03 Feb 07 - 08:04 AM

I just came across this article on the song "Skip to My Lou", and thought it might fit this thread-as well as any Mudcat thread that might be archived on that specific song:

Skip to My Lou
In early America, respectable folk in Protestant communities have always regarded the fiddle as the devil's instrument and dancing as downright sinful. Faced with such a religious prejudice for socializing, young people of the frontier developed the "play-party," in which all the objectionable features of a square dance were removed or masked so that their grave elders could approve.
   
No instruments were permitted - the dancers sang and clapped their own music. In time, the play-party acquired a life of its own. It became an ideal amusement for teenagers and young married couples. In many a frontier community, the bear hunters, Indian fighters, the rough keelboat men and the wild cowboys could be seen dancing innocently with their gals, like so many children at a Sunday school picnic.

"Skip to My Lou" is a simple game of stealing partners. It begins with any number of couples hand in hand, skipping around in a ring. A lone boy in the center of the moving circle of couple sings, "Lost my partner what'll I do?" as the girls whirl past him. The young man in the center hesitates while he decides which girl to choose, singing, "I'll get another one prettier than you." When he grasps the hand of his chosen one, her partner then takes his place in the center of the ring and the game continues. It's an ice-breaker, a good dance to get a group acquainted to one another and to get everyone in the mood for swinging around.

It's interesting to note that 'loo' is the Scottish word for "love." The spelling change from "loo" to "lou" probably happened as our Anglo ancestors, and the song, became Americanized.

Source: The Folk Songs of North America, by Alan Lomax, Doubleday.
Recordings on file by: Carter Family, Lead Belly, Mike & Peggy Seeger, Pete Seeger.

https://www.oldtownschool.org/resources/songnotes/songnotes_S.html
Song Notes: A Companion to the Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook
Compiled and edited by Mark Dvorak


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