Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nursery Rhymes

I am student teaching first grade. Friday I was to teach a lesson on "Little Miss Muffet," and then give the students a four page test on this nursery rhyme. I said to the mentor teacher, "Don't the students already know "Little Miss Muffet?'" She said, "a couple of them might."

I sat the children down and told them that today we were going to read a nursery rhyme. I asked them if they knew what a nursery rhyme was...blank stares. They are old make-believe poems in which we don't exactly know who wrote them and so we often say they are written by Mother Goose. Often they have meanings that tie into something that happened in history and they are often mentioned in other books that you will read later on. Has anyone heard of "Little Bo Peep," or "Jack and Jill?" Aah, three eyes flickered, the other sixteen remained bewildered. I asked if anyone could tell me either nursery rhyme. One boy tried, "Jack and Jill went up the hill ... um, then ... there's a picture of him upside down ... and a spider, I think." Well at least he has seen a book of nursery rhymes.

I am concerned that children who don't know their nursery rhymes are missing a very valuable connection to the past, a source for rich language, strong meters, and an understanding of allusions in later quality texts. I had always taken it for granted that people still read these to their children.

I have several very thick collections of nursery rhymes, my favorite is the first book in the "My Bookhouse Series." . It is several hundred pages long has all of the traditional English nursery rhymes and has many nursery rhymes from dozens of other countries. It is also absolutely beautifully illustrated. I begin this book when my children are one, reading a couple pages a day and often going back to the most familiar in the beginning. I then read them "The Real Mother Goose," and the second one in this series, of which I have forgotten the name. I also have a couple smaller collections which I read in one sitting to the children. It must work because I just asked my five-year-old to tell me "Jack and Jill" and then "Little Miss Muffet," and with a hint on two words he said both and then my daughter began rattling off several more.

Our history studies start back at creation again this year. As we go through history this time I'd like to incorporate the history of many of these rhymes as we come to their spot in history. I did this study myself a couple years ago, and was fascinated by it.

To close my rant on nursery rhymes, may I say read them to your children, because the three they will have read to them in public school, simply does not cut it.

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