Now Sing This! Ella Jenkins
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As the “First Lady of Children’s Music,” Ella Jenkins has spent more than 50 years working with children and teachers, helping educators incorporate music, diverse cultures, games, and movement into their early childhood programs. Her songs are spirited, interactive, and fun!
Call-and-response is a hallmark of Ella Jenkins’s music. Children are active participants, performing key roles in musical experiences as they sing along. They practice phonemic awareness, revel in rhyme and repetition, and engage in other elements of literacy and learning—chanting, singing, listening, copying rhythms, and following directions. Positive and upbeat, Ella’s songs promote children’s love of music.
Ella’s songs invite listeners to move, clap, jump, play games, sing in different languages, and accompany her with musical instruments. Join in!
Get Moving with Ella Jenkins
2013. Smithsonian Folkways.
Combine active play with musical play! The songs on Get Moving pair motion with singing. Children follow Ella’s directions, using large and small muscle groups. The lyrics to “Hop, Skip, Jump to My Lou” guide children in taking specific actions, while “Jumping with Variations” encourages them to experiment with moving their bodies. No matter which songs you play, children will listen, learn, and be active.
Try this: Introduce music from Get Moving during circle time. Once children are familiar with the words and actions, they can try them out in a larger space during outdoor play.
Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins and Children from the LaSalle Language Academy of Chicago
2003. Smithsonian Folkways.
Using this multicultural album, children will sing, chant, and dance to songs in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and some African languages. They will join in singing songs from other cultures, including familiar tunes like “Frère Jacques” (“Are You Sleeping?”) from France, “Qué Bonita Bandera” (“What A Pretty Flag”) from Puerto Rico, and “El Gatito” (“The Little Cat”) from Mexico. The music will give children from different cultural backgrounds a sense of pride and a feeling of belonging.
Try this: “My Name Is Ella” offers a wonderful way for children to play with the letters and sounds in their names. Ella adds a B in front of her name and it becomes Bella. With I-S-A at the beginning, Bella changes to Isabella. Print the letters E-L-L-A, B, and I-S-A on three index cards. Point to the letters as you and the children sing the song.
Have children add different letters to their names, and talk with them about how their names change. Sing Ella’s songs during transition periods to keep fidgeting and restlessness at bay.
Find members of children’s families who don’t speak English as their home language. Invite them to sing songs, read books, or lead dances from their home cultures with the class.
You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song
1992. Smithsonian Folkways.
In call-and-response style, adults sing the first phrase of a lyric and children repeat it back. Children may also accompany the beat with instruments. In “Miss Mary Mack,” children can pick out the rhyming words and say them back to the teacher.
Try this: Have children make music or instruments using everyday materials in interesting ways: put rubber bands around empty tissue boxes (play like a guitar) or add pebbles to plastic water bottles or paper towel tubes and seal tightly (play like a maraca). They can play the instruments while they sing along! Children can take their instruments home and teach call-and-response to family members—the children become the leaders performing the “calling.”
Welcome to the Website of Ella Jenkins and Adventures in Rhythm!
Artist Spotlight: Ella Jenkins, the First Lady of Children’s Music
An Interview with Children’s Musician Ella Jenkins
This article supports the following NAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation Standard and topic areas:
Standard 2: Curriculum
- 2J: Creative Expression and Appreciation for the Arts
- 2E: Early Literacy
Covers: Courtesy of Smithsonian; Photo: Courtesy of Ella Jenkins