Posted in Writing Ideas

Get Your Class To Write Nursery Rhymes For Grown-Ups

Here is a great idea for you to try out with your class. Take a simple Nursery Rhyme and make it ridiculously long-winded and complicated!

What Makes A Grown-Up Nursery Rhyme?

Read this poem out to the children or have it on your whiteboard. Can they work out which traditional nursery rhyme is buried under all this language?

The traditional nursery rhyme is ‘Hush-a-bye, baby, on the treetop’. Have the two nursery rhymes side by side so that the children can see where the changes were made.

Tell the children that while the traditional version is fine for younger children, grown-ups need something a bit more grown-up.

Grown-ups like complicated sentences and long words. And now it’s their turn to write like grown-ups. Even though the end result might seem a bit strange!

They will need some examples of nursery rhymes, a dictionary and a thesaurus.

Let’s try another one and we are going to choose the nursery rhyme, ‘Little Jack Horner’.

Did you know one of the first versions of this rhyme was recorded in a chapbook from 1764, titled “The History of Jack Horner, Containing the Witty Pranks he play’d, from his Youth to his Riper Years, Being pleasant for Winter Evenings”

Here are the words from the traditional nursery rhyme:

To write their own grown-up version, the children need to work carefully through the original. Tell them to focus on the important words and leave the unimportant ones alone.

Look back at line 1 of Hush-a-bye, baby, on the treetop. Point out what has not been changed? That’s right, the words, ‘on the’.

They will be looking for synonyms, so use a thesaurus to find them will be essential. Tell them that a word they have never used before is probably a good pick.

Remind them also to look up the words in a dictionary and sometimes use the dictionary’s definition of the word, as a synonym for the word in the original rhyme.

So, the first two lines of ‘Little Jack Horner’ might look like this:

Get the children to finish this one off. Maybe as a whole class, in pairs or individually.

Tell the children there is no need to worry about rhyme. Most poems for grown-ups don’t.

Here is another one they might like to complete, or even rewrite in their own way.

When they have finished they will undoubtedly have increased their word power and be ready to impress those grown-ups!

It is taken from David Horner’s latest book, ‘Cracking Creative Writing’ from Brilliant Publications. The book contains 100+ tried and tested activities which will inspire Key Stage 2 children to write creatively.

We hope you and your class have great fun with this.

Mike and David from Goodeyedeers.


A writer of short stories.

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