Nursery (Folk) Rhyme

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A short rhymed verse, poem, or brief tale for children from the oral tradition of a culture that survived because of the language experience and rhythm of the chant rather than the meaning conveyed. Nursery rhymes are simple, skillfully composed, exhilarating, or dramatic (e.g. Hey diddle, diddle! / The cat and the fiddle / The cow jumped over the moon; / The little dog laughed / To see such sport, / And the dish ran away with the spoon, or Baa, baa, black sheep, / Have you any wool? / Yes sir, yes sir, / Three bags full; / One for the master, / And one for the dame, / And one for the little boy / Who lives down the lane.) Nursery rhymes (e.g., Mother Goose) help children (through hearing them spoken or sung) acquire a love for poetry.


  • To engage the listener in oral traditions (proverbs, riddles, street cries, chants) of the culture
  • To create images
  • To emphasize similarity between sounds
  • To emphasize the musical quality of rhythmic and poetic language
  • To provide a beat or rhythm for everyday chores



  • Aligned to interests of young children
  • May be “pure nonsense”


  • Simple
  • Focus on one character trait
  • Likeable or intriguing personalities


  • Insignificant


  • Simple
  • Frequently incorporates cause-effect
  • “Good story” with quick action

Author’s craft:

  • Speech play
  • Varied language patterns (e.g., alliteration, rhythm, rhyme)
  • Imagery

Grade Level Instructional Scope for COMPREHENDING the Genre and Text of Nursery Rhymes:

Grade K

Opportunities to Teach:

  • Rhythm/cadence
  • Words/performances related to classic or cultural rhymes
  • Illustration of characters
  • Students respond to nursery rhymes through drawing, performing (singing/clapping), and by approximating written language (letters, letter clusters, beginning vocabulary)


Access to the Documents:

Complete K-8 Genre Project
From the Michigan Department of Education

Complete K-8 Genre Booklist
From Kent Intermediate School District

Page last modified on September 10, 2010, at 03:15 PM