"We're glad you're here today/We're glad you're here today, Give a CHEER 'cause Tracey 's here/We're glad you're here today!"

Much like the Pied Piper, Ms. Adams, the teacher, clapped and chanted the rhyme above, as one by one the children heard their names and happily came to group time.

As you know, it can be especially difficult for children to gather for group time at the beginning of the year. There are so many things to do, and, for some, the group can seem so overwhelming!

Ms. Adams had a great technique. Instead of waiting to start the song or fingerplay once children were settled in the group, she used it to bring children to the group. Think of fingerplays as a magic trick you keep up your sleeve. Whenever you want children's attention, you can slip one out and voila!-you have a sea of eager faces looking right at you. Keep in mind that, in the early months of school, it's best to use familiar fingerplays that children may have heard before.

Off to a Good Start

Fingerplays can also be great classroom management tools. They gently guide children's actions in a positive and productive direction even when they are involved in an activity that is noisy or very active.

Here is a great welcoming fingerplay to use when children are especially active on their way to group time.  

Two little hands go clap, clap clap.

Two little feet go tap, tap, tap.

Two little hands go

thump, thump, thump.

Two little feet go jump, jump, jump.

One little body turns

around and around.

And then sits quietly down.

Learning classmates' names is big business for little ones. You can use chants and fingerplays to help children get to know each other and feel comfortable in the group. These rhymes also help children build vocabulary and expressive language. The following rhyme can be chanted or sung to the tune of "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush":

Fingerplays for Terrific Transitions 

Where, oh, where is _____ (child's name)?

Is _____ (child's name)?

Is _____ (child's name)?

Where, oh, where is _____ (child's name)?

Peek-a-boo, I see you

Besides helping to get children to meeting time, fingerplays are an effective tool to transition out and on to the next activity. You can change the words to a familiar fingerplay or song to fit the situation. Change the words to the traditional chant "Engine, Engine Number Nine" to include the names of each child. Invite children to use their hands and arms to make train motions as you say the chant. As each child's name is spoken in the fingerplay, she joins the train of children heading to the next activity. 

Engine, Engine Number Nine

Going down our classroom line.

Ashley and Jed get on line.

Engine, Engine Number Nine!

Change the words to "If You're Happy and You Know It" into a line-up chant. "If you're wearing pants with pockets ... go line up" or "If you have brown hair ... go line up."

Fingerplays for Toddlers Too!

While we normally don't think of a long, organized group time as appropriate for toddlers, they do tend to gather whenever something is interesting! Keep your fingerplays simple and short and do them over and over again. Here is one of my favorites for the littlest fingers:

These are (Betsy's) fingers.

These are (Betsy's) toes.

This is (Betsy's) tummy button,

'Round, round it goes!

Other Toddler favorites include: "Open, Shut Them", "I'm a Little Teapot", and "This Little Piggie".

Fingerplays Throughout The Day

As you well know, fingerplays are not just for group time or transitions. You can use them for everything from washing up to snack time. Here are a few of my favorites.

Washing up Rhyme  

This little hand is my right hand

(Hold up right hand)

This little hand is its brother.

(Hold up other hand)

Together, they wash and they wash and they wash.

and they wash and they wash.

(Pretend to wash hands)

One hand washes the other!

Snack Time Rhyme

Bend them, stretch them.

Give a little clap.

Bend them, stretch them.

Put them in your lap.

First I sit in my chair.

Now I put my hands in the air.

I lower them slowly to my lap,

And then sits quietly down.

Now I'm ready to eat my snack!  

You can end the day with a fingerplay too!

Departure Time Rhyme

Now is the time to say goodbye,

To all our friends at play.

Some will walk and some will ride,  

But we'll see them all (day of the week

you'll see children again!)

All fingerplays and songs in this article are from The Great Big Book of Classroom Songs, Rhymes & Cheers * (Scholastic Inc.; $21.95) or Terrific Transitions * (Scholastic Inc.; $9.95), both by Ellen Booth Church.