Day 4 World Nursery Rhyme Week: Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and Lemons

This is a traditional English nursery rhyme and singing game about church bells close to the City of London. This rhyme dates back to around 1744 and may have been written about the poverty that was around London at the time (or more sinister topics!).

Oranges and Lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement's;

You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin's;

When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich, Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney?

I do not know, Says the Great bell of Bow.

Here comes a chopper to light you to bed!

Here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Chip chop chip chop the lasts mans dead!


Before singing

This rhyme is quite a long one so with very young English learners (3 to 7 years), concentrate on just a few words an orange/oranges, a lemon/lemons, a bell/bells, a bed, a head, to chop (use an axe). When introducing or revising vocabulary I try to use real objects where possible. I know flashards are big in ELT but with small children they really need the tactile element.  I have noticed that there are some children who only speak when they are touching or manipulating something (especially boys).

Put the objects into a basket or a feely bag. Put your hand in and grab an object, describe it without looking "It's round, it's not smooth, it's bumpty. What is it? Allow the children to guess, then take a peek, "It's orange" Bring it out of the bag "it's an orange" Pass it around so all the children have a chance to feel it and repeat the word if they can. You can ask question as they are holding it "Do you like oranges?" "Can you see anything else that it orange?"Continue with the other objects. With head, point to the doll's head and use the axe to chop.

To revise the vocabulary, put the items in the bag and encourage individual children to feel but not look. They may say the word or you could help them "Is it an orange?"

oranges and Lemons feely bag
oranges and Lemons feely bag


I mentioned in a previous blog that I don't often play CD's, but here I would use the music as I can't remember all the words!! Play the nursery rhyme and encourage children to tap their knees, click their fingers or sway in time to the music.  Play it several times singing along and encouraging your children to sing when they can. With the older ones (6 and 7 year olds), hand out the objects and as they hear it they hold it up.

Some after singing activities to try

Oranges and Lemons Playground Game

"Oranges and Lemons" is also a playground and singing game that I loved playing at primary school. There are various versions, but the one I remember is this: Two children face each other and make an arch by raising their hands over their heads and holding hands. In pairs, the other children pass through the arch. On the final line of the rhyme "Chip chop, chip chop, the last man's dead". the archers move their arms down and up to capture and release the runners but on the word "dead" the archers catch a pair of children and don't release them, instead these runners form another arch. The game continues until there are just two players who are passing through the tunnel of arches. They in turn are caught and become the new arch.

Play Kim's Game. This is a oldie but a goodie, and  pre-schoolers really enjoy it. Put the items on a table and cover with a cloth. Have your children close their eyes and take one item away from under the cover, then remove the cover. Children open their eyes and guess what is missing. Replace the item and play again. Children can take turns to remove the objects too.

Play Fruit Basket. This is a favourite circle time game from my primary school teaching days but I have adjusted it a bit to fit in with the rhyme. Sit your children on chairs in a circle. Go around the circle naming children either orange or lemon (for younger ones, hand out oranges and lemons). When their fruit is called they swap places but when you call out "Bell" and ring it at the same time, ALL children need to change places. You will be surprised how hard they find this but they really do get to enjoy it! I am such a fan of circle time games.

Food Tasting Cut up the fruit together and taste them "Do you like lemons?" "No!!"

Play Bell One child stands in the middle of the circle blindfolded. The other children pass the around the circle. When the child in the middle thinks they know where the bell is they shout ‘stop!’ Everyone chants "who's got the bell?" and the child point in that direction.



Oranges and Lemons basket props
Oranges and Lemons basket props

What activities would you try? I'd love to hear all your suggestions

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