Singing Traditional Songs & Rhymes for Literacy

As September draws closer, early education teachers everywhere are gathering their strategies to meet academic goals for our youngest kids. To prepare children for reading, traditional nursery rhymes remain a terrific tool. Sure, there are some you wouldn’t want to recite in today’s world, but many nursery songs and chants remain as useful as ever.

I’ve expanded some nursery songs and chants to make them even more helpful for learning letter sounds. One of my favorites is the “The Muffin Man,” a favorite of many young children and super easy for kids to sing. My verse variations feature the Donut Dog, Cookie Cat and others. This song is on my album, Songs for Rhyming and Reading. This album is available for download exclusively from one of my favorite websites, Songs for Teaching. You can find “The Muffin Man” here.

I also never tire of singing my version of “Two Little Blackbirds,” which I’ve changed to “Two Little Robins.” You can find a video of my presentation of this song here.  In an earlier blog post, I discussed ways to expand upon this song in the classroom.

The basic song, which you can find on my album Once Upon a Tune, goes like this:

Two little robins, out in a tree, one named Rob and one named Ree.

Fly away Rob, fly away Ree. Come back Rob, come back Ree. Tweet Tweet Tweet …

Two little bunnies, out on a hill, one named Bob, one named Bill.

Hop away Bob, hop away Bill. Come back Bob, come back Bill. Hop, hop, hop …

Two little fishies, out in the sea, one named Fred, one named Fee.

Swim away Fred, swim away, Fee. Come back Fred, come back Fee. Glub glub glub glub, splash, splash …

For learning different starting consonants, I recommend adding even more creatures to the song. Here are some of the verses I’ve used over the years, mainly with birds and fish, but you could easily add other animals. Have fun making up verses and teaching this simple song to children!

Two little penguins out in the snow,

One named Peg and one named Poe.

Waddle off … (or swim away)

Two little hummingbirds down in the valley

One named Hettie and one named Halley

Hum away …

Two little Whippoorwills call in the night

One named Will and one named White

(Do whippoorwill call …)

Two little cardinals sitting on a pole

One named Cam and one named Cole

Fly away …

Two little mockingbirds, singing in the spring

One named Meg, one named Ming.

Mock away Meg … (Have mockingbirds mock other people’s songs)

Two toucans with a great big bill

One named Ted and one named Till

Fly away …

Two little jellyfish, swimming down below

One named Jane and one named Joe

Float away…

Two little dolphins, swimming on a wave

One named Deb and one named Dave

Flip away …

Two little eels, swimming by the reef

One named Ed, one named Eve

Slink away ….

Two big whales, lunching on some krill

One named Wes and one named Will

Swim away….


  1. Fantastic range of verbs/action words, Liz! Talk about expanding vocabulary!!

  2. Lovely, Liz. This will be fun to do with my pre-K and K kiddos.
    Thank you!

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