Do your students all have rhyme mastered? Teaching children to rhyme can be a very difficult thing when working with children that have not had many literacy experiences at home. Without a doubt, the very best way to teach a child to rhyme is in the lap of a parent who has read books that rhyme and pointed out those rhyming words to the child since birth! But teachers are expected to teach all of the students the standards, whether or not they come with a firm foundation of language and literacy experiences, whether or not they went to preschool, whether they speak a different language at home, or even if many of the children are not even five years old yet! In this blog post, I am hoping to give you my best techniques for teaching children to really MASTER rhyme, even when you are up against all of the obstacles I just mentioned.
1. Rhyming Bingo and Practice Cards
The thing that helped my kids the most in the past years was practicing with the Rhyming Bingo and Practice Cards Set that I have. I used the cards for my initial instruction for all of the children whole group, and then used the bingo game in small groups. I would simply put all of the cards in a large zip bag and pull out only the top half of the card, showing just one picture. Then the kids would guess as many rhyming words as they could before I would pull up the rest of the card to show my “answer.” I always explained that there were MANY correct answers, though.
To really drive home your point about “many correct answers,” I really recommend that you start by having them come up with NONSENSE words first! Have them come up with LOTS of rhyming nonsense words for just that one word, and that will help.
I came across some of the best advice for teaching rhyme on the Teachers.net Kindergarten Chat Board many years ago. Unfortunately, I have no idea who wrote it because I didn’t write the author down! But here it is:
“They get it faster using “silly words” than if you use pictures and real words. I had one girl who just did not understand how her name rhymed with weather (Heather) but jeather, beather, deather, peather, she understood. The real words just throw them sometimes. Once they tune in to the sound rather than the meaning of the word, then you can switch to real words. Don’t make them come up with their own rhyme right away. Use the same word family for a whole list. Don’t switch on them after one rhyme. For example cat, fat, dat, lat, rat, gat. Don’t just say cat, bat- goat, boat- hot, got. Kids who have trouble will have less if you stick with it for longer than 2 words.”
So when we played the bingo game, I would say the question word, and ask the kids to tell me as many rhyming words as they could think of, and especially NONSENSE WORDS in the beginning! THEN I told them which one of those words was the answer they were to look for on their bingo cards. Because it was a game, they stayed happy and engaged! Playing this little game in small ability groups also helped a lot, because then my high kids were not always calling out the answers. Otherwise, the lower ones had no reason to even TRY to think- the quicker thinking children were always shouting out every rhyme.
2. The Rhyme Song Book
We also always make that Rhyme Song Book, which is a “Singable Book” from Little Songs from Language Arts. It’s a lift the flap book, so someone has to glue the flaps down ahead of time. BUT, you could always just have the kids put one object on the left side of the paper and one object on the right side, rather than under a flap. That will reduce the amount of prep time you need. So rather than having the goat under the boat, you could have the boat on the left and the goat on the right, or the boat on the front of the page, and the goat on the back.
Making this book seemed to REALLY help my little ones that were English language learners! I think that the main reason is that it gave me a real reason to re-read and review the book and those pairs of rhyme in song every day that we worked on the project! And, when the children put the book together, the continually practiced re-reading it and singing it themselves as well. Of course, this didn’t solve the whole “rhyming issue” for a bunch of the children with limited language skills or that really never had had anyone read to them at home. It did, however, give them a foundation for knowing a few sets of rhyming words, and some confidence that they could eventually learn to rhyme. It also gave a few of them some much needed vocabulary!
3. The Rhyming Opposite Songbook
Another good book to read for and sing for practice with rhyming words is the Rhyming Opposite Songbook. This book has lots of opposites that are paired up in such a way that they rhyme. So for example, it says, “The opposite of wet is dry; the opposite of laugh is cry.” And so it goes from there! For more information on this book, read my blog post here.
4. Michael Heggerty’s Phonemic Awareness Book
The Michael Heggerty Phonemic Awareness book really helped the kids master rhyming as we worked our way through the year, because they learned, little by little, to identify middle sounds, ending sounds, and do sound substitution. These are all skills necessary for producing rhyming words. We did one fifteen minute lesson per day from this book about 4 times a week all year long last year! It’s not a quick fix to help kids learn rhyme quickly by any means, but by the end of the year, all of my kids got it except for one child who was not only an English language learner but also a speech and language special needs child, so there were other issues at play there. I’ll be honest with you- after a while, both me and the children got really TIRED of doing these lessons! But they were required- and they really paid off! We were supposed to be doing them daily, and I think we really accomplished it an average of four times per week.
Anyway, my point is that once we got the end of the Heggerty book, the questions were things like, “Pan, Pam. Do they rhyme?” And “Pan, pen. Do they rhyme?” At first, I was puzzled by the simplicity of these questions! But then I discovered that many of my kids were a bit confused about what truly makes a rhyming word. Most of them knew rhyme on an instinctual level, but not an intellectual level. But that wasn’t enough for at least half of them to be able to tell me if words with subtle differences like those above were really rhyming words or not.
So we reviewed the song from the Rhyming Song Book that says, “Rhyming words, they sound the same in the middle, and at the end, end, end!” I had the kids decide if the word had the same middle sound AND the same ending sound. (The word also had to have a different beginning sound, obviously, or we would be listening to the very same word!) This is what the Heggerty book suggests to help kids learn to find the ending sound of a word:
This is what the Heggerty book suggests to help kids find the middle sound of a word:
The Heggerty book is designed to be done whole group, but when I started getting at least 30-50% of the class calling out wrong answers, I started pulling name sticks to have children answer those questions about rhyming words individually. THEN I made them explain WHY the words rhymed or did not rhyme- and THAT was the key! Once they had to explain, “The words don’t rhyme because they don’t have the same middle sound,” or, “The words don’t rhyme because they don’t have the same ending sound,” etc. we really turned a HUGE corner in our understanding of rhyming words! So I guess what I am saying is that the kids really need to be able to explain why words DON’T rhyme, as well as why words DO if they are going to understand it. In order to really master rhyme, children must know what it is not! For more information on teaching kids middle sounds, you may wish to read my blog post here.
5. Sound Substitution Practice with PUPPETS!
Another way to go about getting kids to rhyme is to focus on sound substitution with puppets! To rhyme, kids need to be able to take a beginning sound off of a word and put a new one on to make another word, and making up rhyming nonsense words are best of all! The Heggerty book works on this, but I think the most effective way to do it is with puppets! I had a monster puppet, and I told the kids, “Mr. Monster says everything with an M sound in front of it. How would Mr. Monster say the word ‘chair?'” (mair.) “How would Mr. Monster say (all of the names of the kids in the class)?” This REALLY helped the kids, and they caught on to it immediately. So “John” becomes “Mon,” etc. You can do the same thing with other puppets and sounds, of course. I even started calling out “nonsense names” at dismissal using puppets, and letting kids guess whose parent or caregiver had arrived! If you leave the puppets out for a literacy center, along with pictures of your class, the children can practice saying their friends names by using sound substitution, and they will be rhyming!
Once, one of my little students was looking less than confident when it was getting near testing time for rhyming words. So I just said, “How would Mr. Monster say it?” That was all he needed, and off he went! Whatever works! I guess most of us would probably stand on our heads if it would help our kids learn, wouldn’t we?
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