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Learn to rhyme, it is sublime

Andy Croft continues our summer series of creative writing challenges

If you are reading this on a hot beach or by a cool pool, be careful. You could be surrounded by some very dangerous rhymes: Never go to Spain or you'll go insane, Don't go to France or you'll lose your pants, Never go to Rome or you won't come home, Don't go to Australia, or you'll come back a failure And don't even think about going to Sri LankaI Rhymes are everywhere. You don't have to think about them. All you have to do is listen. Poems don't only happen in books; you don't need to write in order to be a writer. Rhyme is a fantastic way to encourage reading and writing, speaking and listening in children. It encourages a sense of the magic of words, of the poetry of everyday subjects, of the power of learning by memory and anticipation.

If you are a teacher, rhyme is a good way to pitch in with your pupils as an equal. Rhyme is equally easy and equally hard for everyone.

Here are two rhyme games I use a lot in schools, not least because they always generate a lot of laughs. Try them in class yourself.

The first is a special poets' I-spy, which begins, "I hear with my little ear, something that rhymes withI" In most classrooms you can see something that sounds like a bear (chair), a hen (pen), a war (door), a sword (board), a fight (light), a bunch of squids (the kids) and so on.

This can be developed to include two syllable rhymes, such as a scooter (computer), a fable (table), a stencil (a pencil) a feeling (ceiling) and so on.

Once pupils have the hang of the game they can say what they can hear in the classroom. Second, it is usually possible to find a funny rhyme for most first names; if not, then for a nickname, a middle name or a surname.

For example: Jon who's number one Safia from the mafia Craig who has the plague Nicola the tickler Liam from the museum Alice who lives in a palace Tom who goes like a bomb Amanda the panda Sayeed the weed Nadeen the beauty queen Once you have given rhymes to half a dozen pupils, you can ask the rest to invent name-rhymes for themselves or each other. By combining both games you can easily make a whole-class poem about all the hidden rhymes in the classroom, including the horrible creature (guess who).

Andy Croft's many books include 32 LivewireHodder information books for children. His most recent book of poems is Comrade Laughter (Flambard Press). Contact him at andy.croft@ntlworld.comNext week: Gillian Allnutt's 10-minute book

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