Twelve Of The Best: Songs Of Action

Often when I go to new workshops in primary schools or galleries, or wherever, I’ll start with an action song. Some of these have become so popular in places I’ve worked that they’ve used regularly while I’m there and also after I’m gone. Here are twelve action and dancing songs that are designed to break the ice, warm up the voices and bodies, and get things moving in a cheery and creative way. For full recordings and more action info, see the list below the video!

1. Rhinoceros Rumba. A song with a Latin feel, originally composed for “R” week in a Year 1 class. The verse 1 actions I used, merely illustrate the story, including the falling over and getting back up again. It has proven incredibly popular with classes up to Year 3 since then. I wrote verse 2 later for a primary school choir. There’s a backing track available too – if you ask me for it, I’ll send!

2. I Like To…. An introduction song. I’ve provided four verses on the video, but you can substitute any action or phrase. I’ll often ask the children to suggest their own actions or phrases. If I start a session with this, I’ll often end it with it too…I like to say “Goodbye!”

3. Dance With Me Minuet. Originally composed as part of a Cinderella-type production where everyone danced with a partner in an elegant manner at the ball. The whole school sang it while they danced, and it comes with piano and flute accompaniment – or a backing track if you prefer – just ask!

4. Yo Ho Yo Ho Ho. A pirate song with actions – very energetic and lots of fun. The video vaguely shows the actions which mostly involve pumping your fists on “Yo ho yo ho ho”, and pointing one index finger in the air in a dramatic and menacing manner on “Ah, me hearties”! other actions can be invented to suit the lyrics! I have mostly used it with early years up to Year 3, but it was requested at one school by Year 6 leavers at their final assembly!

5. Hop About. An exceedingly lively and energetic (and exhausting) action song. Just do the actions described in the lyrics to wear out a lively class – trouble is, it wears the teacher out more than the class, I’ve found!

6. I’m Scared To Skip. A song with four verses composed to help with the letters S, H, J and W. There are places in the song, between the singing, for the action described, but I’ve been known to encourage other actions in amongst the singing too!

7. Zebra Zig Zag. Another from my alphabet collection and possibly the most popular song I’ve ever written. It’s used all over the place, and again has been requested at assemblies by much older children than the original intended target groups. The actions involve making zigzags with whichever limbs are mentioned in the song – increasing the number for each verse (left arm, both arms, two arms and left leg, both legs and both arms) and thereby increasing the energy expended! I usually encourage a freeze “in a zigzaggy shape” at the end of each verse.

8. High Low. A gentle warm-up for a children’s choir using stretching and glissandi to limber up the bodies and vocal chords ready for something more tuneful or complex.

9. My Musical Pencil Case. A song using found sounds. The song builds from one sound to several in an accumulative way, if you like. All the sounds in this version use items you might find in a pencil case, but other found sounds work just as well.

10. Spring Burst. An energetic song. It can be sung just as a song, but it also lends itself well to dramatic bursting shapes and movement.

11. Three Billy Goats Gruff Is A Noisy Story. This song makes much use of dynamics with loud and soft singing and tells of many of the sounds you might hear in the well-known fairy story.

12. Wobbly Waltz. A letter W song. Once a group knows this song well enough, I get them to waltz along with it, and every now and then, as part of the dance, everyone wobbles. The accompaniment indicates this, and this accompaniment is on a backing track which I will send to you if you ask me for it!

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