There are several possible uses of rhymes in the language classroom. You can choose one suggestion or a combination of ideas listed below depending on the skills you need to cover with your students. Keep it fun and keep it focused.
Suggestion 1: [pronouns and possessive adjectives] Create a cloze exercise with your choice of rhymes.
- [Complete the rhyme with her, they, them, or their.]
Little Bo Peep has lost ____ sheep and can’t tell where to find ____. Leave ____ alone and ____‘ll come home, wagging ____ tails behind them.
- [Complete the rhyme with he or his.]
Old King Cole was a merry old soul. A merry old soul was he. ____ called for ____ pipe, and ____ called for ____ bowl, and ____ called for ____ fiddlers three.
- [Complete the rhyme with her or he.]
Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater had a wife and couldn’t keep ____. ____ put ____ in a pumpkin shell, and there ____ kept ____ very well.
Suggestion 2: [articles] Create an error correction exercise with your choice of rhymes.
- In the following rhyme, “a” is missing in two places. Where should the indefinite article be used?
Old King Cole was merry old soul. Merry old soul was he. He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his fiddlers three.
- In the following rhyme, “a” is missing in one place, and “an” is missing in another. Where should these two indefinite articles be used?
There was old woman who lived in shoe. She had so many children she didn’t know what to do. So she gave them some broth without any bread, then scolded them soundly and sent them to bed.
- In the following rhyme, “the” is missing in four places. Where should the definite article be used?
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full. One for master, one for dame, and one for little boy who lives down lane.
Suggestion 3: [verb tenses] Create an exercise with recognition tasks.
- Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and can’t tell where to find them. Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.
- Old King Cole was a merry old soul. A merry old soul was he. He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his fiddlers three.
- Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater had a wife and couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well.
- Read the rhymes above and identify the one with a series of actions in the past. What tense is used?
- Which rhyme tells of something which happened in the past and has an effect on the present? What tenses are used?
- Which rhyme gives direct advice? Which verb form is used?
- Which rhyme expresses ability in the past? In the present?
Suggestion 4: [conversation] Discuss the meaning and value of a particular rhyme.
- Some recently published collections of nursery rhymes don’t include “Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater” and “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe”. Why do you think this has happened? In what way or for what reasons would these two rhymes be considered outdated?
Suggestion 5: [pronunciation/ spelling] Teach letter-sound correspondence by making students responsible for completing a rhyme.
- Complete the rhyme with the best choice of words: wool, tool, bull, drain, lane, vein.
Baa baa black sheep, have you any ____? Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Three bags full. One for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy who lives down the ____.
Suggestion 6: [listening/ speaking] Use a rhyme in a pronunciation lesson to teach rhythm (stress and thought groups) and linking.
TIP: You can find many online readings of these rhymes. Try a search on YouTube for a performance you find suitable for your students.
Back in August of 2007, I made two pronunciation videos based on nursery rhymes:
Any ideas of your own? Please share them.