now I’ve learned my ABC, next time won’t you sing with me


Anyone out there who learned their alphabet in groups of three like this, hands up.

Not me. That’s why I was so taken with this picture. I learned my abc the British way.

This alphabet was written on a public wall. A tunnel. No school near or far. Does that make it graffiti?

What I can’t know:

is this an example of sticking to the rules or of breaking them?

surprise, that’s the great thing, it keeps the old tissues open (Donald Barthelme)

So many ways to learn your abc. Chalk to the wall (above). Nose to the page:

16-12-2001alphabet 16-12-2001alphabet at school

Eyes on the ceiling (jump! maybe you’ll catch one!):

and song:

some quick notes (from my preparation for an article entitled A Song A Day: Work, Rest or Play?):

a) oral dimension to literacy is more than mere talk;

b) primacy of oracy over literacy (we even listen to songs prenatally); young children often learn to sing their abc before they learn to write it;

01-07 songmusic

A BCD E FG HIJ K L MN OPQ R ST UVW the notes written (composed?) by a 5-year-old show us how to sing the alphabet

c) song = less sensitive to social class thus a fairer/more egalitarian means of knowledge transmission, tho;

d) to which extent is the choice of song class sensitive???

e) songs with young children often involve kinaesthetic elements (i.e. using your body as a tool for making signs and thus creating an awareness of space/directionality in the run-up to writing);

f) harness the emotive component to learning;

g) may sensitize the learner to diverse (and simultaneous) semiotic means, e.g. music, writing, verse, picture;

h) may involve a host of interactional partners and break/interrogate the parent-child dyad so prevalent in the West;

i) oral texts like abc in nursery school are sensitizers: if the children were able to read them, they’d probably be beyond the cognitive level the texts were trying to train;

k) song = collective as opposed to collaborative learning encounter for young children;

l) constitutes a situation in which language is not only the vehicle but also the goal of learning. i.e. it is both means and end;

m) frequently belong to a cultural canon, i.e. they are the songs you should know in order to identify with the dominant culture;

not forgetting:

n) domestic teaching strategies (song generally being first encountered at home) are relegated and marginalised when transferred to an institutional setting, as are;

o) the socio-cognitive implications of such (domestic teaching) strategies. Songs tend to disappear from the classroom once real school starts;

p) song, as is true of any form of talk, in its multifaceted nature, does not lend itself readily to closed categories such as work, rest or play;

q) question: How admissible are canonical texts in today’s multi-ethnic classroom?

r) uncritical transmission of the values of the dominant culture have those transmitting the skills acting as mere cultural dopes, perpetuating existing thought patterns and discourse, thus ultimately missing an opportunity to

s) jump? maybe you’ll catch one. Better still, let’s make/wake/shake up?

04-03-20 tutti frutti fun script. IIJPG

t) and take the lesson with us long into life:

u) ‘I’m tone deaf.

Mum and Dad would read and sing to me. I used a snippet from one of Dad’s in Darklings. At the end of the Starman scene, p.35 – ‘would you like to swing on a star’. Records were a big deal in our house, there was always music playing… I’ve still got my Giant Golden Mother Goose – 367 illustrated nursery rhymes and I used to read it over and over. I revisited them when Bibi was a baby and toddler. We had two old nursery rhyme videos playing constantly, we’d sing and dance for hours. My writing owes a lot to all of this:

i imagined myself & i was sugar basin meat muffin gutted hamster hidey hole moose knuckle mother of all souls

& i loved the leather lollipop

& i wore the three inch fool


he imagined himself & he was lady dagger lizard lobster apple-headed melon baster x-rated cannon supreme

& he loved the gutted hamster

& he wore the velvet glove


i cut my teeth to find you & i found blood

i crawled in circles in the garden & i found mud

i looked up at the sky & i saw more sky

i crept outside myself & i did not die’

(Penny Goring)

v) as I was saying:

w) jump;

x) maybe you’ll catch one;


z) … surprise, that’s the great thing, it keeps the old tissues open (Donald Barthelme)



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