Monday, November 19, 2012

Let's Use Chants and Rhymes with Kids

Let's Use Chants and Rhymes with Kids
by Susan Stephenson,

Chants and rhymes are a wonderful thing to share with  kids right from when they're babies. By listening, then repeating them, kids are internalizing rhyme, rhythm and language, and unconsciously developing many of the skills they need to read and write successfully.

I believe chants and rhymes are great for the classroom too. Rhyming is something that we humans just love to do, so capitalising on this when we're teaching kids to read is a great idea. Look how proud children are when they learn a Dr Suess book by heart! Kids can also learn something tricky by inventing a rhyme to help themselves remember. And the repetition involved in so many rhyming games really helps language stick, a boon for young learners. Rhythm comes naturally to we humans (well, okay, maybe not Book Chooks on the dance floor!) So if we can combine rhyme and rhythm in the form of songs, dances, poetry, chants, nursery rhymes, clapping games, skipping games etc, then let's do it!

When I'm introducing a picture book to kids, I often pair a rhyme, song, chant or finger play with it. Perhaps one with the same theme, although sometimes the connection is tenuous! If I want kids to learn the rhyme, I make sure I am very clear and distinct in my words and movements. Lots of kids find it difficult to sit still, so a rhyme is a great opportunity to have kids move and unleash some of their pent-up energy. With very young kids, I like to bounce them gently on my knees to reinforce the beat of a rhyme. Read more about making up little rhymes with babes in Creative Prompt - Innovate on Something Else.

Here's a short rhyme kids can skip to. When they start counting, they turn the rope faster (peppers) and see how many fast jumps the skipper can do before she must stop.

Dressed in yella
Went upstairs to
See her fellah
How many kisses did she get?
One, two, three...

This rhyme can be sung, chanted or skipped to, with actions.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, 
Turn around (turn around)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, 
Touch the ground (touch the ground)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, 
Tie your shoe (hit your shoe)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, 
That will do.

With older primary aged kids, I use nursery rhymes a lot too. Why? Well, nursery rhymes are something most kids know. If I need a short story with a recognisable plot for kids to use in a writing or drama activity, I'll suggest a nursery rhyme. Perhaps I might be asking them to reinvent Humpty Dumpty as a soap opera or The Three Pigs as a Western. Or we can analyse and change the plot of a nursery rhyme with everyone having shared knowledge of it.

Chants are something kids use quite naturally in their games. You only have to watch kids jumping rope or playing clapping games to see rhythm and rhyme in action. The games are not only good for children physically, they also help with memory training. And of course, the social advantage of turn-taking and being part of a group is beneficial.

Kids love playing with known rhymes and changing them.

Hickory Dickory Dock, 
The mouse ran up the clock

could become

Hinkery Dinkery Dig, 
The dinosaur danced with the pig.

When next you're waiting in a queue at the supermarket, why not try to make up new words to a well-known tune like Frère Jacques?

Here's my try:

Leaping lizards
Leaping lizards,
I had two
I had two,
Jumped into the saucepan
Jumped into the saucepan,
Lizard stew
Lizard stew!

Now it's your turn!

If you'd like your children to learn/read some skipping games, claps and chants, take a look at Literacy in the Playground, available at my website on the free PDFs page. If you're interested in learning kids songs and rhymes from around the world, check out the wonderful Mama Lisa's World.

(Image credit, top, Little Boy Blue from Graphics Fairy, and below, Book Chook at ToonDoo.)

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