Worl War II-era (1943) Buffalo, New York nursery school children react to Mother Goose during morning play period.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Children of all ages enjoy listening to bouncy rhythms and reciting catchy rhymes. Poetry provides us with a rich vehicle for helping children explore how language sounds and works. Such exploration helps develop skills related to language usage, listening, vocabulary acquisition, and auditory memory, while also fostering an understanding of thematically related concepts. Most important, a study of poetry helps promote a warm, relaxed classroom atmosphere that's conducive to learning.
In this lesson, students will use their senses to experience poetry. Students will listen to poems and rhymes, clap out syllables, and sing along with familiar tunes. They will also use puppets and crafts to help recall and retell favorite poems. Finally, students will experience the joy of crafting their own original poems.
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to
This lesson will require you to access various poems through EDSITEment-reviewed websites. You may share these poems with students in several different ways: at individual computer stations; by assigning small groups to share a number of computers; by means of computer-projected images displayed to the whole class; or by printing out the images and distributing copies of them to students. You will need to decide which format will work best for you depending on the availability of computers and Internet access in your classroom. Directions for accessing poems that do not have direct links are provided throughout the lesson.
See Activity 6 for a list of materials you will need to teach this lesson, plus a selection of books of poetry not available online.
Printed copies of the following books, if used (not available online):
Most youngsters are familiar with authors Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Bill Martin Jr., and John Archambault. Even if they don't know these authors' names, they are probably familiar with their books, stories, and poems. Their children's classics, like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Green Eggs and Ham, are perennial favorites. Choose two or three books from the list below to read aloud. Also, invite children to bring in their favorite rhyming books and poems. When you have finished reading, reread the same selection again. This time, as you come to a word that rhymes with one that's already been read, pause long enough to allow children to supply the correct rhyming word.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 1998)
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle (Henry Holt & Company, LLC, 1997)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault, Lois Ehlert (Illustrator), and Bill Martin Jr.
A Giraffe and a Half, written by Shel Silverstein et al. (Harper Collins Children's Book Group, 1964)
Green Eggs and Ham, written by Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2001)
Hop on Pop, written by Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Random House, Inc., 1994)
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, written by Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2001)
The Cat in the Hat, written by Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1999)
Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, written by Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1966)
This activity will strengthen students' auditory perception and discrimination skills, while readying them for the poetic activities that follow. Begin by telling students that while some words rhyme, all words have one or more beats, depending on how many word parts they contain. Demonstrate how to clap out the beats, or syllables, in your first name. Clap your name out a second time, but this time ask students to count the number of times you clap. Tell students that the number of claps they counted is the number of beats, or syllables, in your name. Invite students to join you in clapping out the beats in each of their first names. Repeat the activity using their last names. Another time, have children use rhythm instruments or body parts (such as thigh slapping or feet stomping) to beat out the number of syllables in a favorite rhyming poetry selection.
Variation: Tell students you are going to read some word pairs, and they should decide if the words rhyme or not. Provide each student with an index card that has the word YES printed in green on one side, and the red NO printed in red on the other. Explain to students that if the word pairs you read rhyme, like bat and cat, they should place their cards on the table with the green YES facing up. If the word pairs you read do not rhyme, like bat and dog, they should place their cards on the table with the red NO facing up. Then read aloud the following three-letter rhyming and non-rhyming word pairs:
Watch to see which children hesitate or guess incorrectly. Make a note to repeat this activity with these children. If children can do this activity easily, try choosing nonrhyming words that begin and/or end with the same consonant letter or sound, for example, bit/bat and mop/map.
Poetry is an excellent way to introduce and teach word families. Begin the lesson by reading a poem, such as, "Catch a Little Rhyme" by Eve Merriam (available on EDSITEment through The Academy of American Poets website). Copy the poem onto a piece of chart paper. Have students take turns using a contrasting color marker to circle each set of rhyming words. For example, for "Catch a Little Rhyme," students would circle rhyming word poems that include time/rhyme, door/floor, bicycle/icicle, etc.
Use a separate piece of chart paper to write each pair of rhyming words. Have students use markers to underline the word endings that rhyme in each pair. Guide students to notice that sometimes word endings that rhyme are spelled the same and other times they are spelled differently. Encourage the discovery that word endings that look different sometimes sound the same.
Repeat this activity with other poems and stories that rhyme. As you discover more rhyming words, add them to the list of words that share the same word ending sound. (If you wish, you may use a separate piece of chart paper for each family of word endings.) Use the lists of rhyming words you generate to help students write their own rhyming poems.
Activity Extension: As children explore poetry and rhyming selections, they are bound to encounter nonsense rhyming words. Use this as an opportunity to have students add their own nonsense words to each list of word family words. They should select a color marker different from they one used for the rest of the list to record these nonsense words. That way, the nonsense words will be easily discernible from the real words on the lists. For now, let students enjoy the auditory sensation. Display the word charts around the classroom.
Review each of the word family lists that students have made (see Activity 3) and draw attention to the nonsense words. From experience, students should realize that silly, or made up, rhyming words are often used to construct poems. Next, read "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll and "Bleezer's Ice Cream" by Jack Prelutsky (both available on EDSITEment through The Academy of American Poets website).
You can also read a book by Dr. Seuss, such as There's a Wocket in My Pocket!: Dr. Seuss's Book of Ridiculous Rhymes. Have students explain the selections in their own words. Ask students to explain why—even though the authors used silly, meaningless words—we have no trouble figuring out the meaning of the story or poem.
Tell the students that they are going to write their own silly poem. Begin by writing a familiar poem on large chart paper. Leave out the rhyming words located at the line endings and replace each with a blank line. (Tip: If the poem includes more than one rhyming family, color-code the blank lines accordingly.) Next, tell the children they are going to use the nonsense words on the list to fill in the blanks. When the activity is finished, let the children read the poem in groups.
The poem should look something like this:
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son _______,
Went to bed with his stockings _______.
One shoe off, and one shoe _______;
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son ________.
Most children are familiar with nursery rhymes, some of which have even been put to music. Almost every child can sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.
Choose a few nursery rhymes to read to and sing with your students. You can use a book from your school library for some of the better-known nursery rhymes and children's poems. You can also find selected Mother Goose nursery rhymes for students to listen to and sing along with at The Real Mother Goose, a site linked through the Internet Public Library youth division.
Print each rhyme on chart paper and read it aloud, running your fingers beneath the print as you go. Then, sing each rhyme (making up a simple tune if none exists). As you did before, ask children to take turns using a contrasting color marker to circle each rhyming set of words. Transfer each to the word family charts as described in the activity above. Ask students to use a show of hands to vote for their favorite nursery rhyme from the ones you have shared. Help students memorize the one voted class favorite. (Repeated group recitations will aide memorization.) Be sure to use song, physical movement, or puppets to help students act out and learn the rhyme. Then, offer students an opportunity to perform their rhyme for other classes or class visitors.
Explain to your students that a haiku is a traditional Japanese poem that usually describes something in nature. Three of the most famous Japanese haiku poets are Basho, Buson, and Issa. For more on haiku see Teacher Resources.
Print each haiku on chart paper and read it aloud, running your fingers beneath the print as you go. Examine each poem as you explain that when writing haiku, there are a few easy-to-follow rules.
Re-read some haiku. This excerpt is taken from EDSITEment's partner site, ARTSEDGE. For each haiku, guide students through the rules to show them how haiku works.
Practice and review syllables. Remind students that syllables are parts or pieces of words. An easy way to practice recognizing syllables is to have students clap when they hear a syllable. It works like this: Begin with single-syllable words. The teacher says the word. Students repeat the word and clap simultaneously. Next, move on to two-syllable words. Repeat this activity for three- and four-syllable words. To help students become proficient, practice by mixing one-, two-, and three-syllable words. For added interest, perform this activity like a game of "Simon Says."
Write a collaborative haiku. Follow the three basic rules. First, divide large chart paper into three boxes. Label each box with one of three categories: Season, Animal, and Habitat. Next, using free association, ask the children to supply words describing each season. The chart might look something like this:
Have students choose a word from each category. On a new piece of chart paper write each word on a separate line. Have students fill in the rest. Your haiku may look something like this:
Frog quietly sits
Pond so cool shimmers blue
Lazy summer days
Have children draw pictures to illustrate their haiku.
Consider broadening students' poetic repertoire by reading poetry from other countries and cultures.
We are interested in your assessment of this lesson! Tell us how it worked for you. Add a suggestion or share an innovative way in which you used these activities. Send your comments to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can reinforce rhyming-word concepts by playing a memory game with rhyming-word cards. Inspiration for these words can come from any of the recommended books of poetry listed in this lesson. For students who are ready to write poetry, ask them to write a brief poem using the five senses.
Additional EDSITEment lesson plans on poetry:
Can You Haiku (3-5)
Students learn the rules and conventions of haiku, study examples by Japanese masters, and create haiku of their own.
The World of Haiku (6-12)
Explore the traditions and conventions of haiku and compare this classic form of Japanese poetry to a related genre of Japanese visual art.
The Academy of American Poets
Poems and images from Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic.*
*NOTE: The New York Times on the Web is free of charge. However, it requires a password to access materials.
Victorian Women's Writers Project
6-8 class periods