Why teach traditional rhymes in a multi-cultural classroom?

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Australian Standard English readily lends itself to playing with rhyme.  Playing with language is a lot of fun and this builds confidence in students who are learning English as an Additional Language in an English speaking classroom.  We have a great supply of traditional rhymes in the public domain which we can use.  They are simple, easy to remember, often have a story with a message and even have a tune!  Well, some of them!

Familiarity with traditional rhymes has the following benefits …

  • Development of memory, linking words together in phrases and sentences
  • Development of the ability to anticipate the possible
  • Sharpened listening skills help students to focus on sounds in words
  • Development of the skill of identifying and analysing the sounds in words
  • Exposure to the quirkiness of English when sounds match but spelling does not, for example ‘high’, ‘sky’, ‘pie’
  • Improves articulation with careful pronunciation, emphasis on the correct syllable and maintaining the beat of the rhyme which are all enjoyable aspects of language learning, especially when embedded in a melody
  • The development of a sense of humour through the ridiculous, the obvious and the unexpected
  • Extension of vocabulary as unknown words are encountered and discussed
  • Familiarity with rhythm and rhyme is the easiest form of poetry
  • Evokes emotional responses to texts
  • Enjoyment of the social group context for communal recitation and singing, particularly relevant to many students whose home culture is saturated with rhythm and song
  • Understanding of the different purposes of language and the connection between print language and spoken language
  • Rhyme and rhythm used as a conveyor of a message make it easy to remember
  • Historical research is possible with older students