Recognizing and producing rhyming words is an essential part of phonemic awareness. To develop the concept of rhyme, teachers use nursery and other rhymes and take advantage of all the wonderful rhyming books.

Do Nursery Rhymes

One of the best indicators of how well children will learn to read is their ability to recite nursery rhymes when they enter kindergarten. Since this is such a reliable indicator, and since rhymes are so naturally appealing to children at this age, kindergarten classrooms should be filled with rhymes. Children should learn to recite these rhymes, sing the rhymes, clap to the rhymes, act out the rhymes, and pantomime the rhymes. In some kindergarten classrooms, they develop "raps" for the rhymes.

Once the children can recite many rhymes, nursery rhymes can be used to teach the concept of rhyme. The class can be divided into two halves—one half says the rhyme but stops when they get to the last rhyming word. The other half waits to shout the rhyme at the appropriate moment:

First half:  There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.  She had so many children, she didn't know what to
Second half:  do.
First half:  She gave them some broth without any bread,  and spanked them all soundly and put them to
Second half:  bed.

Nursery and other rhymes have been a part of our oral heritage for generations. Now we know that the rhythm and rhyme inherent in nursery rhymes are important vehicles for the beginning development of phonemic awareness. They should play a large role in any kindergarten curriculum.

Do Rhymes and Riddles

Young children are terribly egocentric, and they are very "body oriented." In doing rhymes and riddles, therefore, have children point to different body parts to show rhyming words. Tell children that you are going to say some words that rhyme with head or feet. After you say each word, have the children repeat the word with you and decide if the word rhymes with head or feet. If the word you say rhymes with head, they should point to their head. If it rhymes with feet, they should point to their feet. As children point, be sure to respond, acknowledging a correct response by saying something like, "Carl is pointing to his head because bread rhymes with head." You may want to use some of these words:

meet  bread  led    sleet     seat    red    sheet  fed
bed    beat    sled  thread  dead  greet  heat    shed

Now, ask the children to say the missing word in the following riddles (the answers all rhyme with head):

On a sandwich, we put something in between the . . .
When something is not living anymore, it is . . .
To sew, you need a needle and . . .
The color of blood is . . .
We can ride down snowy hills on a . . .

Here are other riddles, the answers to which rhyme with feet:

Steak and pork chops are different kinds of . . .
On a crowded bus, it is hard to get a . . .
You make your bed with a . . .
When you are cold, you turn on the . . .

If children like this activity, do it again, but this time have them listen for words that rhyme with hand or knee. If the word you say rhymes with hand, they should point to their hand. If it rhymes with knee, they should point to their knee. Some words to use are:

sand    band  land  see     me    bee  stand
grand   we     free   brand  tea  tree  and

Here are some riddles for hand:

At the beach, you dig in the . . .
To build a house, you must first buy a piece of . . .
The musicians who march and play in a parade are called a . . .
You can sit or you can . . .

And here are some more that rhyme with knee:

You use your eyes to . . .
You could get stung by a . . .
If something doesn't cost anything, we say it is . . .
You can climb up into a . . .

To challenge your class, have them make up riddles and point for words that rhyme with feet, knee, hand, or head. As each child gives a riddle, have the riddle giver point to the body part that rhymes with the answer. Model this for the children by doing a few to show them how.

Sing Rhymes and Read Lots of Rhyming Books

There are many wonderful rhyming books, but because of its potential to develop phonemic awareness, one deserves special mention. Along with other great rhyming books, Dr. Seuss wrote There's a Wocket in My Pocket. In this book, all kinds of Seussian creatures are found in various places. In addition to the wocket in the pocket, there is a vug under the rug, a nureau in the bureau, and a yottle in the bottle! After several readings, children delight in chiming in to provide the nonsensical word and scary creature that lurks in harmless-looking places. After reading the book a few times, it is fun to decide what creatures might be lurking in your classroom. Let children make up the creatures, and accept whatever they say as long as it rhymes with their object:

"There's a pock on our clock!"
"There's a zindow looking in our window!"
"There's a zencil on my pencil!"

Once you have found some wonderful books with lots of rhymes, follow these steps to assure your children are learning to recognize and produce rhymes:

  1. Pick a book with lots of rhymes that you think your children will "fall in love with." Read, enjoy, and talk about the content of the book, and let children become thoroughly comfortable and familiar with the book. Remember that children who are lucky enough to own books want books read to them again and again.
  2. After the children are very familiar with the book, reread it again, and tell them that the author of this book made it "fun to say" by including lots of rhymes. Read the book, stopping after each rhyme, and have children identify the rhyming words and say them with you.
  3. 3. For the next reading, tell the children that you are going to stop and have them fill in the rhyming word. Read the whole book, stopping each time and asking the children to supply the rhyming word.
  4. The activities in steps 2 and 3 have helped children identify rhymes. We also want children to produce rhymes. Depending on the book, find a way to have your students make up similar rhymes. Producing rhymes was what children were doing when they made up rhyming items such as "the zencil on the pencil."

Recognizing and producing rhymes is one of the critical components of phonemic awareness. Children who engage in these kinds of activities with wonderful rhyming books will develop the concept of rhyme.