Little Miss Muffet

Steady beat, dramatic play, vocabulary, cross-curricular connections, racing games…what more could you want from a rhyme?! While I have it listed that the suggested grade levels for Little Miss Muffet are kindergarten and 1st grade, I use the speech version with all of my K-4 students. The younger kids love the creepy crawly spider bits while the older kids love the circle game that goes along with it.

Please notice that there are two different versions of this rhyme listed here: a speech version and a melodic version. Prior to this project, I did not know there was a melodic version of Little Miss Muffet at all. If you do an internet search, you will find many, MANY different versions of the rhyme as a song.

Suggested Grade Levels: Kindergarten, 1st Grade

Analysis:

History:
The first recorded version of Little Miss Muffet dates back to the 19th century in England. As with many nursery rhymes, the exact details of its origins are lost to history. We will focus on two different speculations that are still discussed today.

Speculation 1: This song does not refer to a child who is frightened by a spider while eating curds and whey; instead, Miss Muffet is actually representative of the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. The spider represents the Presbyterian reformer John Knox. Historically these two never got along, so it would make sense to have them metaphorically represented in this rhyme. Despite the reasoning behind this speculation, it is usually dismissed as not being true.

Speculation 2: Miss Muffet in the rhyme represents a girl named Patience Muffet who was the daughter of a 16th century entomologist, named Thomas Muffet. Many would like to believe that Thomas wrote the rhyme for his daughter to humorously depict her disdain for his line of work. While this thought is rather charming, it is likely not the case as due to the rhyme surfacing 200 hundred years after the Muffets were alive.

Game:
Kindergarten & 1st grade: With my younger students, we like to keep a steady beat using our “spider” fingers. To create “spider” fingers, the children link their thumbs together to create their own creepy crawly arachnid. We talk about how some spiders can jump, which is how our “spider” fingers are able to keep a steady beat. Kindergarten and 1st graders also use this rhyme as an opportunity to reenact a dramatic play, where they are either Miss or Mister Muffet who is frightened away from their lunch.

2nd, 3rd, & 4th grade: To play this game, students make a circle while sitting down. They speak the rhyme while a student, who becomes the spider, walks around the circle. The spider sits down at the end of the rhyme and the 2 students sitting on either side have to stand up and race in opposite directions around the circle. The first one to get back to their spot, not their classmate’s spot, gets to be the next spider. When the students are racing, they have to shake each other’s hand as they cross paths to prevent a collision. This is a game that students can play without any extra prompting from the teacher. Please make sure to supervise at all times to prevent cheating and/or any unsafe situations.

Classroom Applications:
–Increasing vocabulary (ex. curds and whey = cottage cheese, tuffet = a low place to sit)
–Dramatic play and expression
–Steady beat practice/performance
–Cross-curricular connections to science (my students discuss spiders, their habitats, how they help the environment, etc.)
–Great game to play at the end of a class period
–Experience with 6/8

Musical song version in 4/4 with ASL component

Resources:

–Durlacher, E. (1945). The play party book (pp. 37-38). The Devin-Adair Company.

–Howard, J. (1997, June 11). The realities behind the rhymes. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/1997/06/11/the-realities-behind-the-rhymes/9fbd7d36-4bb9-4fc0-af38-58fbe3fb7e43/

Little miss Muffet. (n.d.). All Nursery Rhymes. Retrieved April 3, 2021 from https://allnurseryrhymes.com/little-miss-muffet/

–We Play Along Kids. (2017, February 4). Little miss Muffet – Mother Goose nursery rhyme ASL song [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0yI9XWa-RU

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