Putting poems to music is a popular strategy with kids. Basically, you match poems to song tunes that contain the same meter in their first lines, often with an equal number of strong stresses in a line. Count the beats in the first line or two of the poem, then count the beats in the first line or two of the song to match them. It is most effective with nonsensical or humorous poems and with tunes that have a strong, rhythmic beat such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It may be surprising how many poems have a strong enough rhythm and structure to be effective when sung. Many of Jack Prelutsky’s poems, in particular, match song tunes, for example. Alan Katz uses this approach to hilarious effect in his series of “Silly Dilly” picture books full of song/poem parodies such as Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs (Simon & Schuster, 2001. Below is a list of popular childhood song tunes (among many, many others) to offer a starting point.
The list begins:
1. Battle hymn of the republic (14 = number of beats in first line)
2. She'll be coming 'round the mountain (12)
3. If you're happy and you know it (11)
4. 99 bottles of pop (10)
5. When Johnny comes marching home (9)
For more details, get your copy of The Poetry Teacher’s Book of Lists.
And if you already have the book and would like to offer additions, corrections, or other input, please do so in the COMMENTS area. Thanks!