I’ve begun using nursery rhymes for my first graders due to recent monthly reading tests showing their need for vocabulary. Having heard before that songs and rhymes are a potent way to build vocabulary, I decided to try a classical technique here — memorized recitation of high quality, “classical” texts.
The method is simple. I chose four rhymes and each day I begin our circle time by reading them to the students. I chose Old Mother Goose, Hey Diddle Diddle, The House that Jack Built, and This Old Man. I wondered: would they get confused? Be bored? Nothing of the sort. Right away the word music got their attention. Soon they were decoding the meanings (“Wait! A cow cannot jump over the moon!”) and after that they began to apply their minds to memorizing the words. The routine went quickly, taking only 5 or 6 minutes a day.
Now, about two weeks later, the better part of the class is reciting large portions of the rhymes with me. We do the rhymes in the afternoon before the math lesson, which can be a hard time for students to get focused. But now the students immediately calm down and focus when they hear “our” familiar rhymes.
As for the vocabulary progress — we will have to see. On the first of December, we will take another monthly reading assessment, and I will report back.