Cap O'Rushes - A Folkloric and Literature Resource for Teachers and Librarians

Dramatize and Play

Look for opportunities to dramatize a rhyme. For example, Little Boy Blue is a conversation between someone, perhaps the farmer, who is looking for the boy who is supposed to be working, and a friend, who knows where he is but is reluctant to disturb him. Divide the class into two parts, as follows:

Little Boy Blue

Farmer (calling):

"Little Boy Blue come blow your horn.

The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn.

(to Friend)

Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?


He's under the haystack, fast asleep.


Will you wake him?


No, not I. For if I do he's sure to cry."

Note that "corn" refers to grain, not maize. It's clear you wouldn't want the cow in the grain field, but I don't know why the sheep shouldn't be in the meadow.

Some Rhymes can have more complicated parts. The Three Little Kittens allows for solos (The Mother Cat) trios (Kittens) and chorus. With four verses there's a part for everyone.

The Three Little Kittens

Chorus: The three little kittens, they lost their mittens, and they began to cry:

Kittens #1: Oh Mother dear we sadly fear our mittens we have lost.

Mother #1: What lost your mittens, you naughty kittens, they you shall have no pie.

Kittens #1: Meow, Meow, we shall have no pie.


Chorus: The three little kittens, they found their mittens and they began to cry:

Kittens #2: Oh Mother dear, see here see here, our mittens we have found!

Mother #2: What found your mittens you good little kittens, then you shall have some pie.

Kittens #2 Purr, purr, we shall have some pie.


Chorus: The three little kittens put on their mittens and soon ate up the pie.

Kittens #3: Oh Mother dear, we sadly fear, our mittens we have soiled.

Mother #3: What soiled your mittens you naughty kittens, and they began to sigh.

Kittens #3: (sighing) Meow, meow, and they began to sigh.


Chorus: The three little kittens, they washed their mittens and hung them out to dry.

Kittens #4: Oh Mother dear, see here, see here, our mittens we have washed.

Mother #4: What washed your mittens, you good little kittens, but hush, I smell a rat close by.

Kittens #4: Hush, hush, we smell a rat close by.


Hickory Dickory Dockand Jack Be Nimble can be done in two parts while playing with the rhythm. With Hickory Dickory Dock we will exaggerate the rhythm and syncopate it. Explain to the children that syncopating the rhythm means putting the beat in an unexpected place, making it jazzy. Say the rhyme with the following beats:

Hick or y,dick or y dock (silent beat)

The mouse ran up the clock

The clock struck one and down he run

Hick or y,dick or y dock (silent beat)

(Note: Use the slightly archaic "down he run" version because the line scans better that way and it preserves the rhyme). Now divide the class into two parts, the mice and the clock. The mice say the jazzy version above while the clock says "Tick (breath) tock (breath). The clock's rhythm is regular. Get the clock going for 8 beats, then bring in the mice. When the mice are saying their accented word ("Hick") the clock is saying "Tick"; while the mice say the two beat "or-y", the clock says "tock". The clock ends the rhyme alone by saying "tock" in the silent beat. As follows:

Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock (clock alone)

Hick or y,dick or y dock (silent beat)

Tick          Tock          Tick     Tock  

The  mouse  ran up the clock (silent beat)

        Tick        Tock       Tick     Tock

The   clock  struck  one   and   down   he  run

        Tick             Tock            Tick         Tock 

Hick or y,dick or y dock (silent beat)

Tick          Tock          Tick     Tock

It sounds complicated but it really works very well. This is a little difficult for Kindergartners, but first graders can do it beautifully. It's fun to tape record it so the children can hear themselves.

Along the same idea you can do Jack Be Nimble in two parts. I call the parts the Jacks and the Accelerators. The Jacks begin by saying Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack, very slowly. The job of the Accelerators is to speed them up. The Accelerators say the rhyme four times, starting very slowly, matching the first slow pace of the Jacks, then repeat it faster and faster, with the fourth repeat as fast as they can say it. The Jacks have to match their beat. After the fourth repetition everyone explodes with one loud "Jack". The pattern looks like this:

Jack, Jack, Jack, Jack (very very slowly)

Jack be nimble


Jack be quick


Jack jump over


The Candlestick


(Repeat 3 more times, each time faster, then everyone says JACK!)

Look for other ways to dramatize and play with nursery rhymes. The key is to take the rhyme seriously, respect it, understand it, and then see how you can play with it.

Nursery rhymes