5 Ways to Use Nursery Rhymes During Library Time

Nursery rhymes – the beloved lyrical stories of childhood. But there is so much more to these rhyming stories and songs than just entertaining children. These timeless rhymes and melodies are instrumental in laying the groundwork for literacy by introducing young learners to language patterns, rhythms, and rhyming structures. But the fun with nursery rhymes doesn’t stop there! We can continue to use nursery rhymes as the starting place for a variety of reading, language, and creative activities with students of all ages. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you how you can infuse the magic of nursery rhymes into your library sessions!

Use these 5 ways to use nursery rhymes during library time to engage your students in the magic of reading.

Benefits of Using Nursery Rhymes

Including nursery rhymes in our school libraries gives us a wealth of educational benefits that span early childhood development. There are the obvious benefits connected to pre-writing skills like learning to rhyme and developing an understanding of language structures. But the benefits go far beyond these.

Using nursery rhymes in the library can lead to increased cognitive engagement, memorization, and help give fine motor skill practice to students of all ages.

We all know that kids love to learn nursery rhymes and even more so if we can give them some actions or hand motions to accompany the words. The cognitive engagement required for memorization and hand-motion coordination significantly enhances memory, concentration, and motor skills. Plus, nursery rhymes’ inclusive and multisensory nature accommodates diverse learning styles, providing a holistic educational experience.

Nursery rhymes can play a vital role in fostering social and emotional development. There are the obvious lessons learned from the nursery rhymes themselves, and also those that come from interacting with nursery rhymes with others. Collaborative activities associated with these rhymes, such as group recitations or performances, strengthen teamwork and social skills. Many rhymes’ vibrant and imaginative qualities establish a positive and nurturing atmosphere within the school library.

Aside from these benefits, nursery rhymes are just plain FUN! Younger students love the rhythmic nature and silly stories. Older students remain connected to them as they trigger great memories from the past. Students, young and “old” can all benefit from the whimsical fun that comes along with nursery rhymes!

If you need some creative ways to use nursery rhymes in your library, you’re in the right place! Let’s dive into some of my favorite activities.

Activities for Nursery Rhymes in School Libraries

1. Rhyme Remix Center

As a librarian, I am sure you are familiar with all the amazing books that take classic tales and turn them on their head. Books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, by Jon Scieszka, take a new perspective on an old story.

Include a rhyme remix center in your nursery rhymes activities to help students think creatively to rewrite familiar nursery rhymes.

One of my favorite activities to do with my students is helping them to recreate classic nursery rhymes. This activity is great for students of all ages. In fact, I think my older students like this even more than the younger ones.

I write out creative prompts to encourage them to add a modern twist to rhymes like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Jack and Jill.” An example of a prompt could be to create a story where Little Star is traveling through the galaxy. Another example could be a prompt to rewrite the rhyme sharing Little Star’s view on air pollution. A couple of prompts for “Jack and Jill” include, instead of going up a hill, rewrite them to be heading to a bustling city. Or, your students can describe their quest for water as if they were in a school setting. The more creative, the better!

I give students the choice to write new verses, create modern scenarios for characters, or even incorporate current events into the rhymes. We end by sharing their new nursery rhyme creations. The students love to listen to each other. The library is always filled with excitement and some laughter at the new takes on classic nursery rhymes!

2. Visual Nursery Rhymes

For most kids, nursery rhymes start as an auditory experience. They are listening to the rhyme or song and possibly adding movements. However, those first exposures don’t often include books or visuals. For this center, I set up a table with a few books that have been written to tell the stories of nursery rhymes. This is often the first visual experience with nursery rhymes that students have.

Books like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and Hey Diddle, Diddle are great to include in your nursery rhyme activities in your library this year.

At this station, students have the chance to read the story and look at the pictures to see the scenes of the nursery rhyme come to life. I have also seen it where the pages of the book have been enlarged and posted around the library as a book walk. These book walks then included elements from the nursery rhyme to enhance the experience, such as gold stars leading to each page for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

When students are done exploring nursery rhyme books, I like to challenge them to do their own illustration of a favorite nursery rhyme. You can include plain paper and crayons, markers, and colored pencils, or you could include pages with the nursery rhyme already printed on them. It’s so easy to set up but kids love it.

It’s also a great activity to use when teaching about visualization. Choose a couple of books on the same nursery rhyme and show students how the illustrator visualized it differently. Then challenge students to do their own illustrations.

3. Rhyme-Based Crafts

Adding some crafts to your nursery rhymes is a great way to flex the creativity muscle and work on fine motor skills too.

With my younger students, I like to introduce them to nursery rhymes one or two at a time. This way we can learn and practice the words and motions together. We can also talk about what some of the funny-sounding lines in the nursery rhymes mean. Once we have that clear understanding, I bring it all the way home with a fun, hands-on craft inspired by the nursery rhyme.

I pull out all the materials to let their creative inner artist come out to play! I make sure there is plenty of colored paper, glue, coloring supplies, and scissors. Don’t forget the trusty recycling bins for scraps! Once they have their supplies, they’ll start in on their craft! Not only is this a fun way to bring our rhymes to life, but it also helps foster creativity and strengthen fine motor skills!

Some inspired craft ideas I have done in the past included making a spider with movable legs for “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Another craft was making a scene of a hill with a well on top for “Jack and Jill.” We made shooting starts with streamers for the tail for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” For Hickory Dickory Dock, we have made a paper mouse with a clock. There are honestly endless options to choose from when it comes to crafting. The main thing is to encourage them to be imaginative and creative as they bring the nursery rhymes to life!

4. Interactive Nursery Rhymes Display

A simple nursery rhyme display can become the background for interactive with the nursery rhyme at new levels.

As school librarians, we all have a weakness for a memorable display, especially one that is interactive! Think of it like a cross between a bulletin board and a dramatic play center. With some simple supplies, like colored butcher paper, you can create a scene from a favorite nursery rhyme.

For example, a simple scene for “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” would include a tall grandfather clock and a few mice. Trust me when I say this can be very simple. Think long skinny brown rectangle, a large white circle, handwritten numbers 1-12, and black cardstock hands attached with a brad so they could be moved. For the mice, you can use stuffed animals or create some simple ones by folding a paper plate in half (this makes it 3D) and adding ears, eyes, and a tail.

What happens next is nothing short of magical. Students interact with the display and in turn the nursery rhyme at a new level. You will hear them saying the rhyme again and again. They work together to bring the scene to life and in doing so are developing some great social skills and collaboration skills too.

And. . . you can use this simple technique to create scenes from books too! Students of all ages love the chance to step inside a favorite nursery rhyme or book and bring it to life.

5. Collaborative Nursery Rhyme Projects

This last activity is another students of all ages love. However, I love to do this with my older students and have them perform for the younger students.

I split the students into small groups and assign each group a different nursery rhyme. Then I challenge them to brainstorm ideas on how they can perform their nursery rhymes. I don’t put a lot of parameters beyond that because I want them to tap into something they love. In the past, I’ve had skits, songs, lyrical dances, puppet shows, and even stop-motion animation movies.

A puppet show is a fun way to bring a nursery rhyme to life.

Once they have their idea, then it is their job to plan out their nursery rhyme performance. I do check in and give guidance on where they should be in the protoer to meet the goal. During this project of my favorite things to do is just talk with each group and find out what they are doing and how they are preparing. Their creativity and ideas never cease to amaze me.

If I was doing this project with younger students I would take a more structured approach, and possibly even give set choices like a readers’ theatre, puppet show, or song with motions.

Once they have their plan, they focus on gathering and making props, rehearsing, and performing. I usually give them a couple of weeks of library time for this. You can also make this a collaborative project with their language arts teacher so they have some class time too.

I like to do a “dress rehearsal” where they perform for their class before sending them on to perform for our younger students. These performances can happen in the library, in the K-2 classrooms, or even in the gym assembly style. The younger students love these performances!

There are so many wonderful skills that students are using and strengthening through this project. From planning and organization skills to public speaking and working with others. It’s a winner of a project for everyone!

Nurture Learning Through Nursery Rhymes

In our school libraries, nursery rhymes transcend the pages of books. The laughter, creativity, and collaboration that accompany these activities create an environment of joy and knowledge. They foster a love for learning that will stay with our students for years to come. Let’s continue to spread the joy of learning through the timeless magic of nursery rhymes. That way, we can ensure that our library remains a space where imagination knows no bounds, and gaining knowledge is an enchanting adventure.

Make sure to check out this post on using songs in the library to add more rhythm and rhyme to your lessons.

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