In the first few weeks teacher could choose rhymes that are short and popular. Structure and lexical items should be simple. Themes and topics are familiar, that is, relevant to and based on the pupil’s personal experiences and interests. Start with rhymes that are easy to learn to recite. Try not to teach a rhyme in one lesson unless it is very short. A longer rhyme must be spread over three to four lessons. In the weeks that follow, longer and more difficult rhymes could be taken up. There are different ways of teaching rhymes.
The teacher could introduce a rhyme through simple recitation, without any comment or explanation. This first recitation should be vivid and dramatic enough to catch children’s attention. Use mime and gestures wherever appropriate as well as audio–visual support materials if available. Do not forget to mark words to be stressed, intonation, meaning and pauses in the text. Practice reading it before you say and teach it. However, while rendering a rhyme in class do not look at the text. The teacher can ask pupils to listen carefully to what she is going to say and do. Then she recites the rhyme using appropriate facial expressions and suitable gestures.
TEACHER SAYS : Jack and Jill ‘went up the hill’
TEACHER DOES:(looks up and extends her right arm upwards towards an imaginary hill )
TEACHER SAYS: To ‘fetch a pail of’ water
TEACHER DOES : (extends right arm and closes her hand as if holding a bucket, expression is as if she is carrying heavy object)
TEACHER SAYS : Jack ‘fell down’
TEACHER DOES : (falls down; expression shows pain )
TEACHER SAYS : And ‘broke his crown’
TEACHER DOES : (clutches head and expresses intense pain )
TEACHER SAYS : And Jill came ‘tumbling after’
TEACHER DOES : (does rolling movement with hands)
Having recited the rhyme, teacher could briefly explain the theme. She asks simple questions regarding characters, actions, time, place and related information.
Most rhymes can be effectively dramatized and the teacher could begin to do this after reciting a rhyme few times. She could first tell the rhyme as a story using simple language and imagery and ground these in the learner’s experience by asking questions.
For example, the story of jack and Jill could be narrated in the following way.
Once upon a time there was a boy called Jack. He lived with his parents and his sister in a beautiful house. His sister’s name was Jill. One day Jack’s mother asked him and Jill to get some water from a well which was on a hill. In those days, there were no taps. People used to fetch water in pails from wells. Jack and Jill took a pail and went up the hill. They got water but as they were coming down the hill Jack fell down and hurt his head. Jill fell down and rolled after Jack down the hill. The bucket fell down and all the water flowed out. Oh dear, oh dear!
The teacher can now ask some questions.
QUESTION : What is the boy’s name?
ANSWER : Jack \ The boy’s name is Jack.
QUESTION : What is the girl’s name?
ANSWER : Jill \ the girl’s name is Jill.
QUESTION : Where did they go?
ANSWER : Up the hill. \ They went up the hill.
QUESTION : Did they take a pail with them?
ANSWER : Yes, they did.
QUESTION : Why did they take a pail with them?
ANSWER : To get water.
QUESTION : Do you take a pail to get water?
ANSWER : No, I don’t.
QUESTION : From where do you get water?
ANSWER : From the tap.
This step elaborates the crucial objective of teaching a nursery rhyme, that is, teaching the child to speak clearly, coherently and intelligibly in English and is a necessary element for both the first and second procedures. The pupil learns to say the rhyme, initially after the teacher, with relevant facial expressions, gestures and appropriate body movements. It is this point in the learning of nursery rhymes that the child says the rhyme, expressing various emotions. He also uses his head, torso and limbs to make expressive, accompanying gestures and body movements. In the actual recitation of the rhyme, the class as a whole repeats each line after the teacher.
For example, the recitation of the rhyme, Jack and Jill could be taught in the following
TEACHER SAYS : ‘Jack and Jill’ went ‘up the ‘hill.
TEACHER SAYS : (look up and extends her right arm upwards, towards an imaginary hill)
Pupils say : ‘Jack and ‘Jill went up the hill.
Pupils Do : (look up and extend their right arms upwards, towards an imaginary hill)
And so on till the end of the rhyme. It becomes an enjoyable process of learning watching, listening, speaking, doing and acting. Individual participation, group participation and full class participation provide variety in speaking aloud a rhyme and ensures enthusiastic participation in a layered, sequential manner.
The same could be said in the following way.
Pupil 1 : Jack and Jill
Pupil 2 : Went up the hill
All : To fetch a pail of water
Boys/ Group 1 : Jack fell down
Girls 2/Boys 2 : And broke his crown
Girls/ Group 2 : And Jill came tumbling after
Pronunciation and the features of spoken English which include word and sentence stress, strong and weak forms, linking, assimilation elision and intonation should be corrected gently and directly if need be. For example, the teacher could say. "Well let’s say that line again. Listen to me carefully. Speak clearly. Repeat after me".
The teacher could now give an explanation in the mother tongue if necessary (especially in non-English Medium schools) and through questions and illustration point out words or structure (s) which are familiar to the pupils. She can then teach new language items and patterns, for example, a few common nouns (hill, pail), one or two prepositions and a simple sentence pattern. This outline of teaching a rhyme can be used effectively in teaching other rhymes. It can be summarized the teacher introduces the rhyme in a vivid manner, dramatizes it and make the pupils say the rhyme with correct pronunciation, stressing on weak forms, linking devices and intonation. Also remember that if a teacher enjoys saying rhymes with emotion and enthusiasm, the pupils enjoy listening and learning them.