Recipes for Chicken Soup with Rice: Using a classic children’s book in the classroom

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!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ирина Репинская says:

    Уважаемая Дженнифер
    спасибо Вам за прекрасный материал “Куриный суп с рисом”
    Как понятно из Ваших уроков у Вас есть дети, если Вам нетрудно, напишите пожалуйста, какие книги Вы им читаете ( самые популярные в Америке для детей, как для России популярны Колобок,очень хочется узнать об английских сказках в стихах таких как Пушкинские Золотой петушок,Сказка о Попе и работнике его Балде, Руслан и Людмила).
    Я думаю, заучивание стихов, понимание ритма стихотворения дает возможность глубже понять любой язык.
    С уважением к Вашему великолепному труду и прекрасным урокам
    Ирина

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Hello Irina,

      Thank you for writing. For the benefit of other readers, I’ll share my response in English. (И надо признаться, что я медленно печатаю когда я пишу по-русски!) You can find many sites with children’s poetry, but not all of them are really what American parents are reading to their children at bedtime. Most Americans know the works of Dr. Suess and Shel Silverstein. From my post you also know that Maurice Sendak is a favorite. Others who have enjoyed popularity thanks to their works in rhyme include Bill Peet and Margaret Wise Brown. For the little ones, nursery rhmes (Mother Goose rhymes) are still favored. Newer hits include Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, for which you’ll find many clips on YouTube. I discover new authors each time I take my kids to the library. It was by chance, for example, that we found Window Music. They love it, and it’s easy for me to remember all the verses, so we can recite the poem while riding in the car.

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