Sunday, 30 March 2014

7 Nursery Rhyme Secrets Every Teacher Should Know



Nursery rhymes.  A staple in many classrooms with little learners.

We've all read them, sung them, perhaps even made crafts based on them.

But, did you know that whilst some are merely nonsensical others have hidden meanings rooted in British history?

The following are 7 of my favourite nursery rhymes with their hidden secrets revealed.

Jack Be Nimble


Jumping candlesticks was a form of fortune telling.  Clearing the jump without extinguishing the flame was thought to foretell good luck.  As ridiculous as it sounds I guess it is no more farcical than tarot cards and the likes.

Mary Had A Little Lamb


Prompted by her brother, Mary Sawyer took her lamb to school in 1830.  Naturally, it caused a little bit of excitement!

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary


It has been speculated that Mary is Mary I of England.  "Quite contrary" is clearly a political reference whilst "How does your garden grow?" highlights her failure to produce an heir.  Rather gruesomely, the "pretty maids" are said to refer to either her miscarriages or her executions of Protestants.

Ring-a-Ring o'Roses


One of my childhood favourites.  I was horrified to discover that is has been associated with the Great Plague in England.  A rosy rash was a symptom of the plague whilst people carried poses in their pockets to shield themselves from its stench.  Sneezing was the final symptom for the suffers who then fell down and died!  However, this link has been dismissed as urban legend by experts since the plague theory did not appear until the mid-twentieth century.

Old Mother Hubbard


A political commentary with disputed origins.  Some speculate a connection to Henry VIII's divorce request which was engineered by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and refused by the Pope.

Humpty Dumpty


Originally a riddle.  The challenge was to guess the identity of Humpty Dumpty.  I always wondered why he appeared as anthropomorphic egg in illustrations - mystery solved!

Higglety, Pigglety, Pop!


Created by Samuel Goodrich in 1846 to mock the folly of nursery rhymes.  Ironically it became popular!

Free Resource and Giveaway!

Click on the photo below to download a "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" poster for free.


Enter our giveaway below for your chance to win the entire collection of nursery rhyme posters and song cards featuring 20 rhymes made in collaboration with the super talented Chrystine of Tweet Music.
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Can't wait to see if you have won?  You can purchase the set by  clicking here.

Good luck!


42 comments:

  1. Um... I guess my favorite Nursery Rhyme would have to be Mary Had a Little Lamb.

    I did a project in college on the different nursery rhymes and their meanings. It was very interesting. :-)

    Erica
    Blooming In First

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erica,

      I was surprised to learn that Mary Had a Little Lamb was based on real life events as it seems somewhat bizarre!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl LIsa

      Delete
  2. Great post! It was do interesting to learn the meaning behind these nursery rhymes. Thanks for sharing! I know that students would be intrigued. My favorite is Humpty Dumpty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find it very interesting too! Oxford have published a book on the subject that I plan to get at some point.

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  3. My favorite has always been Jack and Jill. I'm not sure why, but I have always loved it! Thanks for sharing the meaning behind each nursery rhyme.
    Laura
    Differentiation Station Creations

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    Replies
    1. Laura,

      I always found Jack and Jill to be a bit strange - the whole going up a hill to get water thing is confusing since it tends to be found at the bottom of hills. It is very catchy though and I remember reciting it a lot as a preschooler!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  4. We had a big book of nursery rhymes that my parents used to read us! I have fond memories of sitting on my father's lap and chanting Hickory Dickory Dock right along with him! Thanks for sharing the great hi"stories" behind these! Great post!
    ~Jennifer

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer,

      I am also a fan of big books of nursery rhymes! It was one of the first things I purchased for my son although he was only a tiny baby at the time.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  5. When we were toddlers my Mom taught us nursery rhymes and she made up actions for all of them. I think the Itsy Bitsy Spider and I'm a Little Teapot were all of our favorites. My own children never seemed to have the fascination with the Big Book of Mother Goose Rhymes we treasured; but my daughter had a "Barney" (who I did not enjoy) video where Mother Goose visited and children acted out the rhymes and she watched it too many times to count. When my oldest grandchildren were little, they loved Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and The Itsy Bitsy Spider...watching their little faces light up when they could do the whole thing by themselves is a special memory. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! ~Rhonda

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    Replies
    1. Rhonda,

      What lovely memories - thank you for sharing!

      I am also not a fan of Barney - there is something kinda strange about him, can't quite place what it is but I'm definitely not a fan.

      The Wiggles do nursery rhymes which involve them acting them out and my students in Japan were huge fans!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Alisa,

      A classic for sure! Twinkle Twinkle was the first rhyme my son learned to recite. Definitely one of my favourites too!

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  7. One of my favorites is Itsy Bitsy Spider. I am not found of spiders but my kids love the actions and I love the book based on the song with extra lyrics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Niki,

      I've not seen the book version with extra lyrics - i have to look out for it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  8. I had to look up a list of Nursery Rhymes.. my favorites are definitely Little Bunny Foo Foo and Knick Knack Paddy Whack (This Old Man). I LOVED singing Foo Foo to my kids when they were younger!

    Tiny Toes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember singing This Old Man in primary school - definitely a fun classic!

      Now I have it playing in loop in my head.....

      Thanks for stopping by!

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  9. I love Old Mother Hubbard! I had no idea of the true meaning.
    Sara
    Polka Dot Kinders

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    Replies
    1. Sara,

      I always felt sorry for the dog in that one! :-)

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  10. Humpty dumpty - I had a Humpty soft toy as a child and loved him! Great blog post, the posters are very chic.... simple and elegant :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rosie!

      I'm so pleased to hear that you like the posters - I'm a huge fan of your work.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  11. I love nursery rhymes! And...I love your blog!

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    Replies
    1. Sonja,

      As a book lover and teacher of the early years I am also a fan of nursery rhymes. However, I now look at them in a new light given that some of them have disturbing hidden meanings!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  12. Hi Lisa,
    Great post with cool images!
    I had no idea how these nursery rhymes originated and I love learning new things :)
    Humpty Dumpty is my favorite.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucy,

      I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed this post. The images all form part of my latest resource which I made with Chrystine at Tweet Music.

      It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned the *other side* to nursery rhymes - I think it is fascinating!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Lisa

      Delete
  13. These posters would be great to use while teaching the CC Nursery Rhyme Module! Great blog!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lamamitavita,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments and for stopping by!

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawanGirl LIsa

      Delete
  14. The Itsy Bitsy Spider is my favorite!!
    foxysexyroxy10@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely a favourite of mine too Roxanne!

      Thanks for stoppping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  15. My favorite is the Itsy Bitsy Spider. There are so many fun activities to do with this rhyme.
    Connie Anderson
    email: matya105@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Mrs Anderson!

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  16. I like most of them. I guess my favorite would be Itsy Bitsy Spider.

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    1. Maria,

      Itsy Bitsy seems to be the most popular with teachers on here!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  17. Dear Lisa, what marvelous tie bits! I had no idea the history behind nursery rhymes! Thanks for sharing! My favorite one is Jack and Jill :)

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    1. Dr, Maty,

      Thank you so much - I find the history behind nursery rhymes fascinating.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawnGirl Lisa

      Delete
    2. Missed the giveaway, but I really came here for the information! ~Denise

      Delete
    3. Thanks for stopping by Denise.

      I hope you enjoyed the article!

      Warm wishes,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  18. My co-teacher and I were just wondering why Humpty Dumpty is an egg! Thanks for solving that mystery.

    I can't find the article, but I do remember recently reading that nursery rhymes develop essential reading skills with their repetition, meter, and rhyme. I wish I could find it to share it with you. My husband is amazed that Mary had a Little Lamb is based on real events!

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    1. limejello,

      I was also surprised to discover that Mary had a Little Lamb was based on real events! I loved researching nursery rhymes, their history is fascinating.

      I'm glad I solved the Humpty Dumpty mystery for you!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete
  19. I am interested in your free sight word game. Not able to find how to get it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for your message. If you choose to subscribe to this blog (using the "subscribe to the newsletter" option on tool bar to the right hand side) you will be sent a confirmation email. When you confirm your subscription you will automatically sent a link to download the free game.

    Hope that helps,

    OkinawanGirl Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  21. As nice as your blog is, I don't think teachers should be told wrong history.
    The plague did not appear in the mid 20th century but in 1665.
    Cardinal Wolsey did not refuse Henry V111's divorce to Catherine. He tried to engineer it. The pope did.
    Otherwise sweet.

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    Replies
    1. Michael,

      The plague sentence was missing the critical word "theory" in that the plague "theory" arrived in the mid 20th century - not the actual plague! I have also updated the research error with regards to Old Mother Hubbard.

      Thank you so much for getting in touch to bring these issues to my attention. I have updated my article accordingly.

      Best Wishes,

      OkinawanGirl Lisa

      Delete