Teaching nursery rhymes have been a part of my primary classroom for many years now, it is how I begin each school year! Reciting nursery rhymes help to bring us closer together as a class in the beginning of the year, to share in the fun of reciting rhymes and singing together. Nursery rhymes are not just for toddlers, they can be used for children of all ages! They are important for young children because they can help to develop their language base. The rhyme and rhythm found in nursery rhymes help kids hear the sounds and syllables in words, this will help lead to stronger readers!
The language benefits of using nursery rhymes in the classroom are many. When children hear nursery rhymes, they are hearing the sounds that vowels and consonants make and how to put these together to create meaning. They learn to use rhythm, pitch, volume, inflection and animated voice. In nursery rhymes, children hear new words that they would not hear in everyday language (like fetch and pail in “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water”).
Cognitive Development will also benefit from the use of nursery rhymes. Since nursery rhymes are patterns, they help children learn easy recall and memorization. When children are familiar with a nursery rhyme or rhyming book, they learn to anticipate the rhyming word. This prepares them to make predictions when they read. Also, when listening to rhyming songs and poems children create a mental picture, expanding the imagination.
One last benefit that I will address, is the impact nursery rhymes have on writing. They teach a beginning, middle and ending sequence. Spelling is impacted as children understand that words that share common sounds often share common letters. For example, the rhyming words cat and bat both end with –at.
While we begin our year with nursery rhymes, we also end our year with them. Each child is assigned a nursery rhyme to learn, and focus on voice, rhythm, inflection and pitch. We dress up as our character and perform for our parents and the kindergarten classes. I have never had a child struggle with these rhymes and they all feel successful. It is also a great segway for the kindergartners to end the year seeing our nursery rhyme performances and then begin their first grade year with nursery rhymes!