A Musical Story in the Montessori Room: "The Old Grey Cat!"

PLAYING AROUND ON THE "THE OLD GREY CAT SONG" WITH FUN MUSIC CONCEPTS IN THE MONTESSORI EARLY LEARNING ENVIRONMENT! The images in this post are great for hanging up on the wall or making into a book for the children to read and sing from throughout class time. The Preschoolers are learning the song sequence by looking at the images!

All photos in this post were created by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company with images from Dollar Photo Club

Young children seem to really enjoy when music changes tempo and especially when it gets faster! "The Old Grey Cat" is a great song for exploring tempo with lots of ways to explore!

In the Montessori way, we offer children experiences on a concrete level first, and I have found that in music class this works best by providing a movement activity that illustrates the musical concept that I want to emphasize. 

There are many versions of the old grey cat song, and I use the one from the music curriculum for early childhood from Bushfire Press, called Music Room. Here's that website with lots of wonderful free downloads and great curriculum resources: Music Room from Bushfire Press.

You can click on this link for a great introduction to the old grey cat song with the lyrics, sheet music and you can even listen to the melody: The Old Grey Cat Music

The following are downloads you can find at iTunes.

~ I like this version of the old grey cat song as it changes the tempo in the song to match the actions: John Sarta from his album, Preschool Music Time.

Lynn Kleiner has a lovely version with some great instrument play for the children in her album, Kids Make Music, Babies Make Music, Too.

Another interesting version of the song features a low voice (man) singing the parts for the cat and a higher voice (woman) singing the parts for the mice. And it also changes tempo: From the Little Hands Album titled, Sing Me A Story. 

Now, getting back to our music class...!
I introduce this song as a movement activity with the children standing at the circle. First they pretend to be sleeping, by making their bodies really still and being very quiet. Then when it is time for creeping, I show the children how to go up on their toes and pretend to be creeping very slowly and quietly so as not to wake up the cat. The tempo of the song gets faster when the little mice are "nibbling" and I show the children how I pretend to hold a little piece of cheese in my fingers and "chew" on it very quickly. (You might have to explain the word nibbling---that is, taking tiny bites quickly!)

Then, the children get very still & quiet again, this time for the little mice who fell asleep after all that nibbling. The old grey cat enters again and the children "creep" around on their tiptoes. And, finally the little mice wake up and "scamper" away! (I usually have to explain the word scamper--- that is, running quickly!) Here the children run in place as if they were "scampering."

At the next music class, we sing this song in a circle time when the children are all sitting in their places around the rug. If you have a smaller group and you have the space, the children can actually lay down to "sleep", and "crawl" slowly around for the creeping part, and then even "scamper" quickly around the room. 

In my music classes, there are large groups of children and we have limited space for moving all around the room. So, we "move" to this song by sitting very still for the first part of the song when the old grey cat is sleeping. 

The old grey cat is sleeping,  
The old grey cat is sleeping 
In the house.

I show the children how I make a "pretend pillow" with my hands together, closing my eyes, and resting my head on my "pretend pillow" while singing this first part of the song. I ask the children to be very still so we don't wake up the cat. As you probably already know, little children really like to pretend like they are sleeping! And, this is great practice at using their strong muscles to control their movement. (Body coordination skills!)

Then comes the little mice part of the song. I show the children how to move their hands & arms very slowly on the floor in front of them as if they are creeping. 

The little mice are creeping, 
The little mice are creeping  
In the house. 

During the next part of the song, I show the children how I pretend to be "nibbling" on the cheese and we sing this part at a faster tempo. The change in tempo is what the children really enjoy and this is where the concept of fast & slow in the music comes into play. So when you are singing, be sure to sing this part faster so that you are changing the tempo!

The little mice are nibbling, 
The little mice are nibbling 
In the house.

Well, of course, the little mice need a nap after their nibbling feast and so they fall asleep. Once again, I show the children how to make their little "pillow" with their hands together to rest their heads upon! We sing this part of the song at a very slow tempo.
The little mice are sleeping, 
The little mice are sleeping  
In the house.

Now, the plot of this little story-song thickens! The old grey cat happens to wake up and begins to creep around looking for the little mice! Once again, the children move their arms slowly in front of them in a creeping motion. 

The old grey cat is creeping, 
The old grey cat is creeping 
In the house.

By this time, the mice are awake and don't want to get caught by the old grey cat, so they start to scamper! I show the children how to move their hands quickly along as in a "scampering" motion. And, this is done at a fast tempo, of course. 

The little mice are scampering, 
The little mice are scampering 
In the house.

This little song is great for so many fun music activities. It is wonderful for playing rhythm instruments and the children love the changes in tempo. Because they have practiced this song as a movement activity while sitting at circle, it is easy for the children to transfer the idea to a rhythm instrument that is held in their hands.

I always help them get ready for the song by saying: "See if you can make a little pillow out of your instrument...I know it's not the softest pillow!"

This helps the children keep still and not play their instruments during the parts of the song when the cat or the little mice are sleeping. This also makes the other sections of the song more dynamic as they speed up in tempo (from NOT MOVING while sleeping, to SLOWLY creeping, to QUICKLY nibbling and scampering!)

Later, it is fun to introduce the children to  some musical terminology for the sections of the song that are slow and fast. I use the word "Largo" for the slow parts and the word "Presto" for the fast parts. You can read more about "Presto & Largo" games at my past post here: 
Presto & Largo with Metronome.

The old grey cat song is one of those that lends itself well to little performances. You can present it as a dramatic performance with a child designated as the cat and the other children playing the roles of the little mice. Click this link for an adorable youtube video of a dance performance of the Old Grey Cat song: Youtube Old Grey Cat Performance.

Or, you can take it a step further and have the children sing and perform it using rhythm instruments. Triangles, finger cymbals, and tambourines work well since they can easily be played slowly and then quickly. And, the children (and audience) can hear the difference when performing the slow parts & fast parts of the song.

"The Old Grey Cat" is actually an old Irish fiddle tune and the melody is lovely...but a little different from the way the children's song is usually sung. I discovered a youtube video of this wonderful fiddle song that I found very enjoyable. It also changes tempo and that is the fun part!  Here it is:

Thanks very much for visiting my Blog and I hope you got some fun ideas for music with your group! I just posted on a Link-up at Music a la Abbot. There are lots of great music posts with resources and ideas for decorating your classroom musically at this link-up: Music A La Abbot, What's On Your Wall! 

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