With the colder weather hitting New England this past weekend, I made a timely discovery among my set of teaching papers. Quite some time ago, I taught a pronunciation lesson using Chicken Soup with Rice, Maurice Sendak’s popular story in ryhme. The book about a boy and his love of chicken soup in every month of the year was published in 1962. A little over a decade later, singer Carole King set the lyrics to a jazzy tune, and since then hundreds of American school children have sung along.
It’s quite easy to find the text online, and most copies give the option of downloading an mp3 file. On YouTube you can watch videos based on Sendak’s illustrations and see the lyrics King sings in large text or small text. You can also find an exceprt from the TV version with no text. I also found it amusing that an American grandmother posted her dramatic reading of the book, which was recorded in her kitchen next to a bowl of chicken soup with rice.
What can you do with all these resources?
- Review the months of the year with beginners. Share a set of the lyrics and leave a blank for each month. As students listen to the song, have them write in the months. Check their spelling before showing them a complete copy of the lyrics. Later play a recall game. Read the final two lines of a verse and have students call out the month: “Sipping once. Sipping twice./ Sipping chicken soup with rice./” – January.
- Practice /l/ in medial and final positions as well as in blends. In January alone, students will encounter while, slipping, and sliding. Create a gapped text with key words with /l/ missing. Allow time for the completion of the text as well as for an oral reading and/ or sing-along.
- Practice /r/ in initial, medial, and final positions. In the second verse, for instance, students will read February, anniversary, for, and rice. Again, you can use a gapped text to test their listening first, and then use the completed text for student production.
- Practice rhythm with attention to thought groups and linking words, such as the two S’s in the first line: “In January it’s so nice… .”
- Practice /ŋ/ in the final position. Six out of twelve months present words ending in -ing: sipping, slipping, sliding, blowing, concocting, selling, cooking, and spouting.
- Encourage creating writing and oral presentations. Challenge more advanced students to work in pairs and produce at least one verse for a day of the week. Through division of labor, the whole class should be able to create a new version of this poem based on the seven days of the week. Here’s a sample verse I jotted down: On Monday it’s so nice / To fix some chicken soup with rice./ Sharing those bowls would be so nice./ Sharing once. Sharing twice. / Sharing chicken soup with rice.
- Encourage creative writing to practice use of prepositions. Similar to the previous activity, students can create their own verses using the same rhyming pattern. To groups of twos or threes you should assign days, holidays, and/ or times of the day. Students will have to recall the use of prepositions in phrases like in January, on Sunday, on Halloween, at midnight, in the morning, on the weekend, etc.
Happy Chicken Soup with Rice!