Georgie Porgie. This image, the text of the nursery rhyme and the interesting historical background of this seemingly nonsensical poem are to be found at www.nursery-song.com

Teaching in English is a major challenge for a speaker of English as a second language. Five years ago, when I chose to take part in my school’s tto programme, I knew that I would lose a lot of class management tools by changing from Dutch to English. Most jokes, funny comments, appraisals or admonishments just can’t be translated. To my surprise one favourite tool could be transferred directly into English.

Whenever I had to single out some one for an unfavourable task I used to recite a Dutch nursery rhyme to emphasize that the student was not chosen deliberalitely but happened to be unlucky:

Iene miene mutte
Tien pond grutten
Tien pond kaas
Joep is de baas

while pointing the finger at a a student at every syllable, ending with the victim.

Such a whimsical procedure always results in a light atmosphere in the classroom, sometimes even gives rise to laughter, and the chosen student never complains about the task set.

This simple trick can be translated into English and to my amazement it works even better. English nursery rhymes are to be found in abundance on the Internet. My favourite counting rhyme could be even swapped for an English one with the same mood and spirit:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tinker by the toe,
If he squeals so let him go
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

What it makes even better that the kids don’t take it to be childish to join my reciting. I never tried to compel them to recite as a complete class such a stupid thing. In the tto-classroom it can be done, and the students love it.

During a training at Hilderstone College, Broadstairs I learned from Deborah Robson that the seemingly silly rehearsing of children’s rhymes actually is very valuable, it teaches the learners of English to put the stress on the right syllables. So all my classes learn a couple of these rhymes by heart, and rehearse them whenever I need a student to do something he prefers to evade. You can even make gender defined choices by using rhymes like:

I am a pretty girl
as pretty as can be
and all the boys in the neigbourhood
are crazy over me.

or

Georgie, porgie, pudding and pie
Kissed the girls, and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

So this old trick of mine turned out to be a perfect pronunciation exercise in the English spoken art room. Wonderful!

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