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How to Write Nursery Rhymes


Writing nursery rhymes may seem like child’s play, and certainly children are capable of writing them. But the popular nursery rhymes that are familiar to English-speaking children date back to the poets of 19th-century England. Writing a nursery rhyme can be an engaging activity for students of many ages.

Reading as Prewriting

Teaching nursery rhymes often falls under reading standards related to poetry, but they also can be taught to introduce students to writing rhymes of their own. Read a variety of nursery rhymes to become familiar with their style, components and rhyming patterns. Reading in general helps writers become better authors. Some types of nursery rhymes to read include finger rhymes such as “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” clapping rhymes such as “Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake” and counting rhymes such as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.”

Review Word Families

Most students learn to create rhyming pairs of words in kindergarten and continue to practice this skill throughout elementary school. Even early writers will have some knowledge of rhymes and can learn to write a short nursery rhyme with assistance. Review rhyming word families or patterns to illustrate how to rhyme pairs of words. Use a rhyming dictionary or create a list of possible rhyming patterns to use.

Short Rhyming Story

Traditional rhymes often had less than cheerful origins, but they were adapted to amuse children. Today’s nursery rhymes are short, rhyming stories meant for children and written in simple rhyming patterns that children enjoy repeating. The words often contain some repetition. Decide on a topic for your rhyme that includes an animal, an action and a setting. Brainstorm rhyming pairs of words to structure the rhyme. Write a few short verses that tell a story with a simple rhyming pattern.

Write Another Version

Writing may not be an easy task for every young author. For those having difficulty or to provide an alternate activity, have students rewrite a familiar rhyme with a different or modern element. The new version of the nursery rhyme might, for example, contain a new character, plot or setting but keep the same rhyming pattern. Alternatively, only the rhyming words might change and everything else might stay the same.

About the Author

Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."

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