I got a Basketball Train

For Sixties kids it was a huge event if your mom or dad went to a seminar, convention, or bridge club. This is when we would get totally cool stuff like cocktail swords and parasols, or bridge tallies. You could be the momentary envy of the neighborhood with a tiny paper umbrella. Your Barbie was desperate to have new magazines on her coffee table, so bridge tallies were da bomb. Girls traded Barbie bridge tally "magazines" the way boys traded baseball cards.

Remember, this is an era when having a doll cake at your birthday party showed you were in the social elite with big spender parents. A teacher friend reports that the elite first grader girls were picked up in a magenta limousine on the last day of school Wednesday, then whisked off for a manicure spa party, leaving the uninvited classmates crying on the sidewalk. Scary!

Bridge club... in-crowd... tallies ... tally marks ...////

Counting and taking turns are goals of every prekindergarten teacher. A million years ago, I taught a weekly kindergarten readiness class at the local rec center. This game was created more by desperation than inspiration. It certainly wasn't part of a lesson plan, but it was one of the most successful and best-loved segments of Kindergarten Countdown.

Basketball Train

Materials--one miniature Playskool-type basketball goal, one ball, chalk, blackboard or sidewalk, chairs arranged in a line or squares marked on the floor with tape, and a copy of The Little Red Caboose.

Set up chairs or squares in a row leading up to a basketball free-throw line. (One less chair than the number of kids) Have a blackboard nearby or other surface for recording tally marks. Introduce the idea of trains, engine, and caboose. Explain the concept of making a tally mark when a basket is scored.

Play--Kids "ride" the train, moving up one car at a time until they reach the engine. The engineer hops out of the engine to take a turn shooting a basket from a line on the floor. All the other kids move up to the train car ahead of them. When the "engineer" shoots a basket, he/she runs to the blackboard and makes a chalk tally mark, then runs to the caboose chair or square. The new child in the "engine" chair hops out to shoot, and all the kids move up.

Enhancements--Add a rhythm band instrument at each train car/square so kids have turns ringing a bell, blowing a whistle, and rubbing the sandpaper blocks, etc. Other positions can say, "clickety-clack," "chug-chug-chug," "woo-A-woo!" Begin grouping the tally marks into fives and tens.

I always remember Basketball Train fondly, and to the tune of the mid-Seventies Cheech and Chong song, "Basketball Jones". I'm thinking it's time to tie some shoelaces and set up a Basketball Train on the summer school playground! If you don't want to play, you can read bridge tally magazines with Barbie.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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