The why and how of teaching nursery rhymes will help in making classroom teaching enjoyable, motivating and effective. Children learn best when they enjoy what they are doing. The objectives of teaching nursery rhymes specify the need for including them in the repertoire of communicative activities in the classroom, development and integration of language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing).
The objectives to be kept in mind while teaching nursery rhymes are…
1. For enjoyment : An activity or task which a child finds amusing and entertaining motivates him to learn, practice and remember. A wide range of sensory experiences, emotions and thoughts along with the elements of fun and humour are the sources from which enjoyment is derived. Thus, nursery rhymes should be taught primarily for enjoyment.
2. Training in listening : Listening skill is important because on it depends effective speech, development of the thinking process and comprehension of the topic. It also involves auditory perception as well as understanding the message.
3. Training in the rhythm pattern of English : Nursery rhymes have well defined patterns of stress and rhythm. Material for teaching features connected speech (contracted forms, strong and weak forms, intonation, word accent, sentence stress, linking, assimilation and elision).
4. Practice in the pronunciation of English Speech sounds : Mechanical drilling in the production of consonants and vowels both in isolated words and in sentences becomes boring and meaningless. Nursery rhymes, on the other hand, give contextualized practice in all the elements of effective speaking with appropriate intonation patterns, correct pronunciation and clarity of diction. In spite of a limited vocabulary the pupils gradually acquire a mastery over the phonological systems of English.
5. Practice in intonation : Nursery rhymes give practice in meaning – appropriate intonation patterns which include falling, rising - falling, rising and rising – falling tones. These tones are used to convey different meanings through different utterances in specific contexts for particular functions .
6. Development of fluency of speech : Fluency refers to smoothness of continuity in oral interaction. It includes an understanding of how sentences are linked through meaning, structure and variation in word order and ellipsis i.e. substituting or leaving out elements. Nursery rhymes give enjoyable practice in learning to speak confidently, without hesitation and at different speeds.
7. Development of intelligibility of speech : Speech must be understandable. Distinct crisp articulation and clarity of expression contribute to a speaker’s message being nderstood as well as understanding of what others say. The message is well received if words and sentences patterns of the spoken form can be aurally recognized.
8. Learning to appreciate rhythm, meter and music of poetry : Every language has a distinct rhythm of its own. A child is exposed to these as soon as he is born and acquires them unconsciously. Nursery rhymes is raw data of the rhythm and meters of the English language and thus, excellent practice material.
9. Used as a source material for conversation practice in different contexts and for different languages functions : For example, making personal statements to convey purpose and attitude, asking for and giving information, agreeing and disagreeing etc. Though the style and subject matter make them suitable for young children, they offer interesting and stimulating material for practice of spoken English for adult learners too. Describing characters and events and discussing themes in terms of their socio-economic and cultural background as well as moral and ethical concerns leads to the development of spontaneous, natural conversation.
10. Reinforcing syntactic structures that have already been learnt in class : These include structures of increasing complexity, that is, from one word to short simple sentence and then progressive to complex sentences with visible or embedded clauses. Sentence types includes affirmative, negative interrogative, exclamatory structures and sentences with nouns, adjectives infinitive or adverb clauses among others.
11. Increasing vocabulary, both active and passive : The rich vocabulary of nursery rhymes stimulates language development in general and facilitates learning of new words in particular in a variety of contexts and provides languages material for reinforcing grammar rules already learnt. Singing games and nursery rhymes help children explore meaning in a playful and enjoyable manner.
12. Helping children reading easily and quickly through early recognition of sounds, word and patterns : Rhymes help develop the skills needed for reading (aloud and silently ) and learning spellings.
13. As part of preparation for writing short compositions in the second or third year of English : Ideas in nursery rhymes can be used for short and simple compositions that could be descriptive, narrative or in the form or short dialogues.
14. Help the child cope with concepts, prepare for sensory experiences : Nursery rhymes are invaluable because they have a tremendous developmental influence on early learning.
15. Stimulates Creativity : The rhyme and rhythm patterns of nursery rhymes along with the inexhaustible word-play and word-invention possibilities help develop the child’s linguistic creativity. He could be encouraged to make up rhymes with various sound patterns on various themes.
16. Helping integrate cognitive, language and communication skills along with body language through role-play and language games based on rhymes : The variety of rhymes offers practice in developing the mentioned skills as the child participates mentally, emotionally and physically in joyful singing of rhymes. Numerical development, concept elaboration, logical connectivity and language usage which is socially and culturally sensitive and acceptable will be developed here.
Thus, it is important for the teacher to understand why teaching nursery rhymes is important to children. An informed pedagogy helps in the productive use of time, energy and other resources. It facilitates the learner to use the language in a natural , spontaneous and enjoyable manner as much as possible. It helps lay the foundation for a more complex, nuanced use of language in the ever widening circles of the learner’s overall development and the demands put on him by the various roles he performs in real life.