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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Pilot Study on Kindergarten Teachers’ Perception of Linguistic and Musical Challenges in Nursery Rhymes


Nursery rhymes provide a unique learning context for preschoolers in regard to their emergent literacy and musical development. According to Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory (1978), in order for learning to occur, children must face challenges, and adults must provide support to guide them toward mastery of new skills. The current pilot study began with the aim of  documenting teachers’ reactions to nursery rhymes in relation to their level of difficulty. Eighty-eight kindergarten teachers were asked to use the new nursery rhymes in their classrooms. Then, they were asked fill out a questionnaire to document their reactions and their ratings of the linguistic and musical difficulty. Teachers’ reactions were measured by their overall impression of the nursery rhymes, their perception of pupils’ enjoyment of the nursery rhymes and the time they spent using these nursery rhymes in their classrooms. The results revealed that the teachers tended to have a better impression of the nursery rhymes, perceive their pupils’ enjoyment of the nursery rhymes as more positive, and spend more time on those nursery rhymes judged the easiest in regard to their vocabulary and their rhythm. According to Ezell and Justice (2005), by putting more emphasis on easier nursery rhymes, teachers might target only what children have already mastered, leaving less opportunity for new emergent literacy and music skills to develop. The results point to the necessity of improving educators’ training in regard to the use of nursery rhymes by focusing on the educational opportunities provided by linguistic and musical challenges in nursery rhymes, an important starting point for explicit instruction and scaffolding (Bruner, 1983).

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