Writing a Nursery Rhyme

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Smartboard or LCD projector for showing the nusery rhyme on zelo.com. Students need their writer's notebooks and a pencil.


Student need no particular preparation. Some familiarity with nursery rhymes is helpful.


1. Using a Smartboard, or an LCD projector, open this link: http://www.zelo.com/FAMILY/NURSERY/. If you do not have these resources, you'll need a volume of Mother Goose tales, and to write out several nursery rhymes where child can read and comment on them.

2. The first writing activity is based on "Hickory Dickory Dock." The second is based on "Baa, Baa Black Sheep."


Hickory dickory dock
The mouse ran up the clock
The clock struck one
The mouse ran down
Hickory dickory dock

4. Read "Hickory Dickory Dock." Point out that it has a mouse that climbs a surprising object, a clock. "In your notebooks, write down the name of an animal, and the name of something the animal climbs."

5. "Now, take the object you've written down and name something it does. "In Hickory Dickory," the clock strikes one. If you used a horse who climbed a rock, the rock could break, or it could fall, or it could tumble, etc.

6. Write down what the animal does in response to the object. For example, if the rock broke, the horse could fly.

7. Now, ask students to write a nonsense phrase similar to hickory dickory dock.

8. Students share their animal, their object, what the object does, what the animal does, and their nonsense phrase.

9. Give the students 8 to ten minutes to compose a nursery rhyme with the information they have written down.

10. Students share their writing.

During the same period, I move on to a second prompt, "Baa Baa Black Sheep."

1. Visit zelo.com, or write Baa Baa Black Sheep on the board.


Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full!
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.

3. Read the rhyme. Note that this nursery rhyme is about having a gift (the wool) and sharing it with three others: the master, the dame, the boy.

4. Have students write down the name of an animal.

5. Write down the name of the animal's gift. If your animal is a horse, the gift can be surprising, like "speed."

6. Write down the "amount" of the gift. The sheep's gift is "thee bags full." The horse's gift might be, "a sky full of speed."

7. Now, have students write down three receivers of the animal's gift.

8. The nursery rhyme can start with the animal's characteristic sound, or a made up sound, along with a question.

9. Give students five minutes to compose a nursery rhyme, given the information they have assembled.

10. Students share a few of their nursery rhymes.

Suggestions for student work: Students can compose freely. See "Editing and rewriting a nursery rhyme," for a followup lesson.

Control Of Error

Teacher needs to check notebooks while students are writing, helping as necessary.

Points Of Interest

Nursery rhymes are perfect for early reading. A whole lanuage approach to reading depends on students knowing the material by heart before they read the words.


Direct Aim: Writing a nursery rhyme.

Indirect Aim: Preparing students to revise for rhyme and sound.


Choose any nursery rhyme to your liking.