1. Overview

Identify the “mistakes” in a variety of altered nursery rhymes and songs. Through this the child will learn to pay attention to differences between what she expects to hear and what she actually hears.

silly songs stories
A8: Silly Songs

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2. Materials

We have prepared several nursery rhymes and songs to use in this activity, arranged in order from easy (#1) to difficult (#5). Each line has links to PDFs of the original rhyme as well as an altered version with various “mistakes” added.

  1. Old MacDonald Had a Farm: original version and altered version
  2. The Wheels on the Bus: original version and altered version
  3. Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush: original version and altered version
  4. I’m a Little Teapot: original version and altered version
  5. Five Little Monkeys: original version and altered version

You can also use other nursery rhymes that your child is familiar with.

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3. Activity

Select one of the nursery rhymes in the Materials section above, starting with #1, and recite or sing it along with your child. Start out with the correct lyrics, to make sure she knows what the words are supposed to be.

Video: How to play Silly Songs

Remind the child to listen carefully to the words, and then go through the altered version we have provided. Each altered nursery rhyme contains one or more “mistakes” that your child must catch. When the child hears a nonsense mistake, she should say “stop.” Ask her to explain what the mistake is. Then ask her what the words should be.

Revisit this activity multiple times, gradually working your way through the list of nursery rhymes. As you go through the list of poems, the “mistakes” become more subtle, and therefore more difficult for the child to notice.

NOTE: Be sure to use poems that your child is already very familiar with. She won’t be able to catch the “mistakes” if she doesn’t know how the rhyme is supposed to go.

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4. Confidence Builder

Spend extra time on the rhymes at the top of the list, which feature “mistakes” that are pretty obvious and should be easy for your child to catch. Your child may still need a little prompting at first to understand what she’s supposed to be listening for:

Adult: …And on that farm he had some chicks, E-I-E-I-O.
            With a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there…
[finish out the verse]
            Does that sound right to you?
            I think there might be something wrong there.
            What animals did we say Old MacDonald had?

Child: Um…chicks?
Adult: And does a chick make a moo-moo sound?
Child: No! The chicks go cluck-cluck!
Adult: That’s right. So how do we sing the verse the right way?

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5. Extension

This is a game that you should repeat with your child numerous times. In the batch of poems below, the “silly” changes are more subtle, pushing your child to pay closer attention to what she is hearing, as opposed to what she expects to hear. These nursery rhymes are great for kids who are at least four years old.

  1. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: original version and altered version
  2. Itsy Bitsy Spider: original version and altered version
  3. Sing a Song of Sixpence: original version and altered version
  4. London Bridge: original version and altered version
  5. Row, Row, Row Your Boat: original version and altered version

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6. Small Groups

Lesson Objective: Children will identify changes in familiar rhymes and songs.

GELDS (Georgia Early Learning & Development Standards): CLL4.3a (Activities for this standard will be increased in difficulty to match the children’s age group.)

Adaptation: Read the main activity, watch the video, and follow the instructions above, with the following changes:

Recite “One Two, Buckle My Shoe.” For each line, substitute a different word that rhymes with the correct word but is not the correct one. For example: “Three, four, shut the floor.” Have the children say “Boo!” when the incorrect word is used.

Use the correct word sometimes: “Three, four, shut the door.” Tell the children they can cheer quietly (“Yay!”) when the word is correct.

Reinforcement: Let the children select a song to modify and repeat the activity above. Here’s an example with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm“:
            …And on this farm he had a gorilla (“Boo!”)
            …And on this farm he had a duck (“Yay!”)

Use this Reinforcement at Home form to tell parents and guardians how they can reinforce lessons outside the classroom.

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