Let’s begin by saying that I am aware that when we think of nursery rhymes, we think of little cute children in Head Start, Preschool, or Kindergarten with pigtails and runny noses. Nursery rhymes are these little poems written to engage our toddlers in learning to help them in mastering the first steps of reading. Just to give a quick tip, there are 5 components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Nursery rhymes primarily focus on phonemic awareness and phonics, which basically teaches us the relationships between letters and sounds. Once our teachers believe that we’ve shown mastery in these two components, we really don’t use nursery rhymes again until we have our own children. This blog post will provide ways to implement them back as a resource to developing your child’s critical thinking skills.

Critical thinking skills are very important skills to have at some level to survive daily as adults, either in our jobs or homes. Developing critical thinking skills early in our children will have an impact on their problem-solving skills, reading and comprehension skills, and their whole educational journey including higher education. This process of developing critical thinking skills is referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives or Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Refer to images for further insight.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Depth-of-Knowledge-Wheel.png

Now, let’s use one classic nursery rhyme. “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.”  Here’s a question you can begin asking, “Why do you think Jill tumbled after him?” I asked family and friends from ages 8 to 72, and the responses were unbelievable and funny. Some responses were that Jill tripped over a rock, Jill was trying to help Jack, Jill was following Jack to Jack’s fall representing the fall of his kingdom, and Jill fell because she was Jack’s queen. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer, but make sure that your children are able to point out evidence to support their answers. What I loved most about this exercise was that the participants began asking questions and having an open dialogue.

Asking Questions

  • My nephew, who’s a 7th grader asked, “Why did Jack and Jill have to fetch water on a hill?” Of course, there may be various answers, but I suggested that there was a well on the hill. He actually didn’t know about a well that was used to attain water. When I asked him if he knew what a well was, he replied that he knew a whale and a wishing well. This is a good example of how we should fill in the gaps in our children’s education.

Open Dialogue

  • This exercise is a way to get our children away from the electronics and social media and getting them to communicate with us more. Here you can use open-ended questions, which encourages conversation, and these questions can’t be answered by yes or no. And don’t forget, we are activating prior knowledge (schemata), which is the nursery rhyme that they have learned, and developing new knowledge with it.

It’s a good time to get those nursery rhymes off the bookshelf and dust them off to use them to build and develop critical thinking skills. Another classic nursery rhyme is Humpty Dumpty. Begin the conversation by asking, “What made Humpty Dumpty fall?” or “What’s the significance behind the name Humpty Dumpty?’ These are just 2 classic nursery rhymes that can be used for learning beyond Preschool.

Dr. Z’s Helpful Hints: Don’t use google all the time (because all references and opinions pop up); it can potentially take away from the learning experience. Also for educators, create an essay assignment comparing and contrasting Jack’s fall and Humpty Dumpty’s fall. You can begin teaching your students how to cite sources.

If you have other ideas, please share them with us at socialbridgesinc@gmail.com or leave a comment below. For educational consulting, literacy coaching, small business setup, non-profit setup, dissertation coaching, and family educational guidance, please contact me, Dr. Z. at thelingofactoryllc@gmail.com or visit my website at www.thelingofactory.com.

Editing by adaryllmoore@amooreenterprises.org


photo credit: pankaj.0020 Nursery Rhymes For Kids via photopin (license)

photo credit: hoyasmeg Humpty Dumpty_3037 via photopin (license)


Dr. Zwila Martinez

3 thoughts on “How Classic Nursery Rhymes Can Develop Your Child’s Critical Thinking Skills at any Grade Level including Higher Education

  1. Very interesting blog this week, Dr. Z – as always it was very informative.

    Thank you.

    Very Respectfully,

    – The Moultrie Family

  2. Nursery Rhymes are also easy to recall and recite for lower elementary students. They also provide nostalgia for those of us who do not fit the description for an elementary student. I always appreciate your blog post Dr. Z as they provide a rigorous level of critical thinking towards elementary content and subjects.

    Way to raise the bar! Keep the blogs coming!

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