Editor’s Note: Dr. Jodi Tommerdahl has held several academic posts in England, France and the US. Her research focuses on typical and atypical child language development and she is the author of the children’s rhyming book, The Day the Letters Flew, which is designed to support children’s phonological awareness. www.booksfordyslexics.com
Increase Students’ Ability to Learn to Read
Phonological awareness has to do with our ability to recognize and to manipulate combinations of language sounds. These skills include different areas such as rhyme, stress patterns in words, syllable counts and more. For this lesson plan, we will focus on rhyme.
Even before children are recognizing written letters and attaching them to sounds, important pre-reading skills are being developed based on their awareness of spoken language. Working on these skills in the first years of life will help to ensure that students are prepared to learn to read.
With a variety of rhyming activities, you should be able to interest and challenge children of different ages and abilities. Below is a list of activities, going from easier to more difficult, which should suit children in pre-K and kindergarten classes.
Five Rhyming Activities for the Classroom
1. Which Two of These Words Rhyme?
Give examples of rhyming words and explain how the words sound alike. Then present groups of three words and ask the class which two of the three sound alike (ex. tall, ball and hole).
2. Do These Two Words Rhyme?
As a slightly more demanding exercise, present two words to the class and ask whether or not they rhyme (ex. mouse and house, sun and book). In the beginning, stick with words that are very different from each other for non-rhyming words and work up to words that start with the same sound such as ‘stick’ and ‘stone’.
3. Reading Books with Rhymes
Rhyming books can be used in different ways depending on the class you’re working with. When children are already familiar with a rhyming story, hesitate before saying the rhyming word and see if the children can say it before you. This way, they’re using both their memory and their rhyming ability to find the word. A more advanced version of this is to ask them to find a potential rhyming word the first time you read a book. (ex. You read aloud, “He went to the giant red door, but they slipped and fell down on the ______” and the children find the word “floor”).
4. Find all the Words you can That Rhyme With ….
You offer the first word such as “bat” and ask the class to find all the words they can that rhyme with it. A harder version of this is to offer up a non-word as the first word (ex. rit) or to ask them to find nonsense words that rhyme. This is also a great exercise for vocabulary as children often come up with words that they think are nonsense words but that actually exist.
5. Make up Your Own Rhymes
The most advanced use of rhyme is making up your own rhyming sentences. Ask children to find two rhyming words of their choice (or that you give to them) and ask them to make two sentences that end in those words to make part of a rhyming story.
As a final note, if a child in the classroom stands out as being unable to recognize rhymes while the others of the same age are managing, speak to other teachers and administrators to determine whether the child should be tested for a possible language impairment. Children with poor phonological skills often have difficulties in learning to read (Bird, Bishop and Freeman 1995) and the earlier that problems are discovered, the earlier support can be put into place.