There Was a Little Turtle

When I introduce this chant, I sometimes tell the children that the turtle is a snapping turtle. When I come to the“snapped at the mosquito” section, I ask them if they know what a mosquito, flea and minnow are. They all know what a mosquito is, but rarely know the others. I say that a flea is a bouncy bug that can jump very high, and I illustrate it by bouncing a finger from knee to knee. A minnow, I explain, is a very small fish.

There was a little turtle                  show fist
Who lived in a box                           cover fist with other hand
He swam through the puddles     hands together, wiggly motion
And he climbed on the rocks        walk fingers over fist

He snapped at the mosquito          clap
He snapped at the flea                    clap
He snapped at the minnow            clap
And he snapped at me!                   clap, then point to self

He caught the mosquito – and he ate it up!    (see below)
He caught the flea – and he ate it up!
He caught the minnow – and he ate it up!
But he didn’t catch me.

Just before the “He caught the mosquito” section, I pretend my finger is a mosquito, and I have it fly through the air in circles while buzzing. “Can you catch it?” I might ask, then say, “He CAUGHT (clap like you’re catching it) the mosquito.” I might peek inside my closed hands and remark, “There it is — eat it up!” and pretend to eat the mosquito, then rub my belly and say, “Delicious!”
Then I bounce my finger from knee to knee, maybe saying “Boing, boing” before moving on to the next line, repeating the above procedure.
I move on to the minnow in the same way, then waggle my finger and shake my head for “But he didn’t catch me,” and point to myself.

Eventually I add “condiments” to the mosquito, flea, etc. Once we’ve “caught” the mosquito (etc.) I say, “and he put a little ketchup on it” and whack my fist with the palm of my hand like I’m getting ketchup out of a bottle, “and a little mustard . . .” whacking the other fist, “and he ate it up! Mmmm, delicious!” This gets more and more silly as the children will suggest anything from pizza to birthday cake with candles to add to it.