First, why do rhymes with kids anyway?
True, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, and rhymes can sound very trite in a thoughtful, atmospheric verse. But I’m looking at rhyme for rhyme’s sake, and all that rhymes offer in themselves. Children love rhymes, especially funny ones, so I’ve put a stack of my own in my shop here for any teachers looking to get their kids laughing and engaging.
The satisfaction and comfort of a rhyme
The tidiness of a rhyme offers a kind of comforting reassurance, as does the regular, punchy rhythm that tends to go with it, and many children welcome that reassurance. The world is a baffling, challenging place, and the simple, solid logic of a rhyming couplet provides an anchor or stepping stone.
The bonuses of humour
As for humour, that generates laughter, and laughter relaxes both mind and body, sweeping worries away and promoting mental well-being. Everyone needs a giggle a day – and preferably more! – including children. Laughter is a great leveller, too – children of all academic abilities can share a laugh about a funny joke or rhyme.
The magic of rhyme and humour together
So the two jewels together – rhyme and humour – make a winning combination for young readers, especially hesitant or struggling ones. With just a few lines to read at a time (4 per rhyme in my Funny Rhymes collection), humorous verse offers a great way into reading for pleasure.
What’s more, the pleasure of reading rhymes can inspire children to write them too, and composing rhymes is another excellent way to boost literacy skills. It’s fun and mind-stretching, sending thoughts and language in all sorts of directions, with humour-tickling results.
Tricky, sticky, and sometimes icky
But rhyming is tricky, and can cause frustration and disappointment without a simple method in place, so I’ve established a little warm-up system for getting my classes started. I’ve set out a summary below in case handy.
Yes, if you’ve not done rhymes with a class before, you may be surprised how even your ablest writers can forget to put the rhyme at the END of the line, or think they have to get it in the middle as well, twisting the structure out of shape. Meanwhile, others may go off on a tangent with some totally different rhyme, or stick so rigidly to a particular rhyme idea that they abandon the verse’s subject and end up with a rag-bag of unconnected phrases.
Teaching the tricks of forming a rhyming couplet
Set a starter rhyme-word
Start by nominating a simple, one-syllable word, such as sea. (Some colours work well, too, such as red, green, blue, black, brown and white, but we’ll have sea here, in keeping with summer, and the lovely seaside holidays we’re all probably dreaming of in our coronavirus lockdowns!)
Write your word, big and bold, at the top right side of the board, an say it out loud.
Demonstrate a rhyming word and invite more
Immediately, point out a word that rhymes with sea, ideally with infectious excitement, as if you’ve just discovered it (at least, that’s what I do, and it seems to work!):
“Sea – hey, that rhymes with bee! Sea, bee! What else rhymes with Sea, I wonder?” Lead a thrilling, fascinating search for treasure (or rhymes) and dash down the findings as if catching flying gems.
Write the volunteered words (correct ones only) directly beneath your top one, in a column. Prompt for a few to get everyone on board and ideas flowing. For sea rhymes, your class list might include: me, tea, tree, free, three, knee, she, he, glee, flea, flee, TV and key. Ask children to count them up, and write the figure up to show what a wealth of words they have to play with. Some congratulations may be in order too, setting their sense of word-power building from the start.
Fill in the two lines
Now present a starter line with your starter word, e.g. “As I was swimming in the sea”.
Point to one of the volunteered rhyming words and fill in the line leading up to it with a linking phrase. For example, rhyming word – me: “I saw a monster looking at me.” Recite the two lines together, clapping and stamping the rhythm. Point out that the rhyming sea and me come at the ENDS of the lines, one above the other.
Now for a new verse, or couplet, with the children choosing everything this time. Repeat your two lines – “As I was swimming in the sea,/I saw a monster looking at me”, and let them pick a word from the list for a third line. Remind them again that it has to come right at the end of it. Chant and clap the rhythm – dum-dum-dum-di,-dum-dum tea (or whatever the rhyme), to highlight the rhythm and timing required. Let them physically feel that rhythm – get them tapping and swinging it, with their chosen rhyme word at the end.
Fill up line 3
Okay, now to fill up that line, while they’re all focused. They’ll probably need a mix of spurs and reins from you to produce a workable line. Suppose their chosen rhyme word is tea, you might guide them towards some possibilities like – “He was drinking seaweed tea”, “She was bubbling like hot tea” or “He gave me a cup of tea”.
Now you have three lines – hmm, very untidy! Chant and clap them through and you’ll all sense the need of a fourth line to even it up.
Round off with a 4th line
Go through the same process again to find a satisfying last line, perhaps with a joke or twist in it. Here are some examples:
“But she spilt it on my knee”, “He was swaying like a tree,” “He said, ‘Buy one, get one free’,” “With a scream, I turned to flee,” “He was watching Sea TV”. (Let them decide the monster’s gender.)
Repeat your four-line rhyme, perhaps with a tambourine or improvised drum to add to the fun. But stress that this outcome was just one of countless possibilities and let them try writing out their own, individual versions. Set double lines for them to fill, with the last bit of each line underscored to remind them that’s where the rhyming words go.
Allow time for everyone to read out, and celebrate all efforts.