“I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” This was one of my favorite comebacks as a child. In addition to reciting the poem, I stuck out my tongue and then ran far away. In a way, I added choreography.
Young children have used this poem across time as a means of combatting hurtful comments. I learned this poem on the playground via oral tradition. I heard someone else say it and someone heard me say it. And, so it goes.
Young children are natural poets. They enjoy playing with language. They enjoy rhyming and creating rhythms. They do this without any adult prompting or instructing.
Listen to our young students on the playground:
“Ms. Suzie had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell…”
“Roses are red. Violets are blue…”
“Down, down baby…”
“Woody and Dotty sitting in a tree…”
“Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around…”
“We need a pitcher, not a belly itcher…”
Young children use poetry in the spirit of play. They use it to set time for games like hopscotch, jump-rope, and hand-clapping. They use it to tease peers. They use it to cheer and/or taunt sports players.
Playground poetry offers a rich source of instructional material. I encourage teachers to capitalize on our students’ natural propensity toward poetry and to also sanction their forms of literacy. Teachers can guide students in examining the content, composition, and context of the playground poems. The following chart offers some suggested prompts to studying poetry in this way:
|Content||What does the poem literally mean? What are some interpretations of the poem’s meaning? What is the tone/mood of the poem?|
|Composition||How is the poem presented? What is the structure of the poem? Why is the poem structured in this way?|
|Context||What are the historical, social, or political contexts of the poem? In which contexts or situations would this poem be applied? How so and why?|
Teacher Jonathan Holden in “Starting Out: Getting Started with Poetry,” from Engaging With Literature Library, Grades 3-5, introduces his students to the pleasure of poetry. “His primary goal is to help them develop a love of reading and poetry in particular while developing the comprehension and critical-thinking skills they need to remain engaged readers.”
Following Mr. Holden’s example, by valuing playground poetry, teachers can maintain students’ love of poetry while also teaching them comprehension skills. Students are natural users of poetry and language. Teachers can help them be more analytical thinkers of poetry and language.
What are some ways that you have encouraged your students to play with language?