Silly Nilly Song to Teach Rhyming

Silly Nilly SongI love gathering inspiration from other music therapists who are working in private practice while also developing their online presence both locally and as a resource worldwide. When free resources are offered, I nearly always sign up for the mailing list so that I can see what others are offering and learn from how others do their marketing.

In this case, my inspiration came from Bonnie Hayhurst, MT-BC who blogs over at the I love the clean look of her site and the creative energy that comes from the work she does on her website and in the community in Hudson, Ohio.


Silly Nilly Song to Teach Literacy Skills

I downloaded “Silly Nilly Shaker Song” and was immediately inspired to adapt the song for my own use. While the original version focused on playing a shaker instrument in a variety of ways (soft/loud, slow/fast), I wanted to use this song in a large group setting with my “Learning and Literacy through Music” intergenerational group in Omro, Wisconsin.

The main focus of Bonnie’s version of the song was to follow the musical directions to play in a variety of ways on the chorus, but I didn’t want the distraction of instruments or to take time to hand out and collect them in this large group setting.

Instead, I changed the verse of the song to intentionally teach the skills of onset-rime blending and phoneme substitution. I used the chorus as a simple movement break and it was a big hit!


Onset-Rime Blending to Create Rhymes

Let’s break this down for a minute and explain in greater detail what I mean by “onset rime blending” and “phoneme substitution.”

The onset is the initial consonant sound of a syllable. The rime is the vowel and all that follows it. In the word “mop,” /m/ is the onset and /op/ is the rime.

Learning to blend an onset with a rime and then swap that initial sound for a new one is how rhymes are created. Start with “mop,” replace the /m/ with a /t/ and you get “top.”

So, even without seeing the word printed, children can say or sing “silly” and then create a new word by taking off the “s” and replacing it with a new letter. Silly becomes billy, tilly, and zilly. When it comes to creating rhymes, it’s perfectly okay to use nonsense words!


Playing With the Sounds of Language

In the early stages of developing phonological awareness, it is all about learning to play with sounds of language.

This song is also an example of phoneme substitution. Phonemes are the smallest sound unit that can change the meaning of a word. The ability to substitute one phoneme with another in order to create a new word is a skill that typically develops around 6 years of age.

In my experience, substituting phonemes in a repetitive, silly-sounding song like the “Silly Nilly Song” is accessible to children at a much younger age. Another example of this is “Silly Name Game,” explained in more detail—and with a free download—here.

For most kids, it seems to be easier to substitute the first phoneme in a word like “silly” than with a traditional CVC (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant) word like “mop.”


Free Resources for You!

If you’re interested in using this song to teach onset-rime blending and phoneme substitution, you can get a free download of the printed music by clicking here.

If you’d like to hear a recording and get a free download of the original version, head on over to www.Groovy and respond to the prompt to “Get a Free Song Album” or click on this link.

Who knows what inspiration will strike!

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