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Time to rhyme

It's never too early to get children reading poetry. If they like 'Humpty Dumpty' then they're ready for more, writes Gervase Phinn

When they first arrive at their infants' classroom many children will have had some experience of poetry. They will have heard television jingles and know some of the popular nursery rhymes. At playgroup or in the nursery some will have been introduced to poems with lively rhythms, strong rhymes, choruses and repetition, and been encouraged, as they sit together on the carpet, to take part, often adding actions and mimes.

The teacher will draw on this experience, and those children who have learnt rhymes by heart will delight in performing them. Many will know the popular nursery rhymes - "Humpty Dumpty", "Jack and Jill", "Georgie Porgy", "Simple Simon" and "Little Bo-Peep" - but be unfamiliar with such nursery verse as "Good King Arthur", "Jack-a-Nory", "As I Was Going to St Ives" and "They That Wash on Monday". The teacher might introduce the children to some of these old and unusual rhymes, encouraging them to join in with the chorus (see right).There Infant teachers might then introduce young children to new and inventive poems full of engaging humour, lively language, catchy rhymes and strong rhythms. Poems such as: * I Wish I Was an Infant. By John Cunliffe in Standing on a Strawberry. Andre Deutsch

* Wet Playtime. By Peter Dixon in Big Billy. The Sarsen Press

* Bored. By Bernard Young in Doin Mi Ed In, Rap Poems. chosen by David Orme and Martin Glynn. Pan Macmillan. * Red Boots On by Kit Wright in Lizard Over Ice edited by Gervase Phinn Nelson

Children should be introduced to non-rhyming verse at an early stage and come to appreciate that not all poetry rhymes. There is an enormous range of rich, colourful and appropriate poetry collections available for young children. The following small selection includes poems which are witty, sad, lively, moving, magical, arresting, clever, many of which do not rhyme: * Of Caterpillars, Cats and Cattle chosen by Anne Harvey Viking Kestrel

* Big World, Little World compiled by Sue Stewart Nelson

* Word Spells chosen by Judith Nicholls Faber Faber

* Puddlemuddle Jump In edited by Beverley Mathias Methuen Books

* Shout, Whisper and Sing, 101 Poems to Read Aloud compiled by Beverley Mathias Bodley Head

* Is a Caterpillar Ticklish?

by Adrian Rumble Robert Royce * Near the Window Tree by Karla Kuskin Harper and Row

* Ask a Silly Question by Irene Rawnsley Methuen

* Next week writing poetry in the infants


A farmer went trotting, Upon his grey mare, Bumpety, Bumpety, Bump!

With his daughter behind him, So rosy and fair, Lumpety, Lumpety, Lump!

A raven cried: "Croak!" And they all tumbled down, Bumpety, Bumpety, Bump!

The mare broke her knees, And the farmer his crown, Lumpety, Lumpety, Lump!

Mischievous raven, Flew laughing away, Bumpety, Bumpety, Bump!

And vowed he would serve them The same the next day, Bumpety, Bumpety, Bump!

The teacher could supplement the nursery rhymes with other popular repetitive verse, such as:


Not last night but the night beforeI Twenty four robbers Came a-knocking at my door, I asked them what they wanted, And this is what they saidI H...O. ..T... hot peppers!!!

The full poem, by Audrey Wood, is published by Child's Play International IN A DARK, DARK WOOD !

In a dark, dark wood There was a dark, dark house.

And in that dark, dark house There was a dark, dark room.

And in that dark, dark room There was a dark, dark cupboard.

And in that dark, dark cupboard There was a dark, dark shelf.

And on that dark, dark shelf There was a dark, dark box.

And in that dark, dark box There was a..

David Carter gives this old rhyme a new twist in his version, published by Orchard Books

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