Innovating on the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat

  • Published on April 23, 2021

teaching ideas for Row Row Row Your Boat

Innovating on familiar nursery rhymes and songs is an easy and fun way to encourage children to think creatively, to develop their writing skills and extend their vocabularies. There are many ways in which Row, Row, Row Your Boat can be used for these purposes. In this post, I share just some of them.

Rhyming words


What other words rhyme with stream and dream? List them.

beam, cream, gleam, meme, ream, seem, team


What other words rhyme with row? List them.

bow, blow, crow, dough, flow, go, hoe, Joe, know, low, mow, so, slow, show, tow, though, woe

Synonyms and alternatives

Substitute synonyms or other words to sing or write new versions.

merrily: happily, joyfully, cheerfully, gaily, cheerily, joyously, gleefully

row: paddle, steer

boat: dinghy, tinny, yacht, ship, ferry

gently: softly, lightly, slowly, smoothly, quietly

stream: river, brook, creek


merrily: sadly, unhappily, gloomily

Phrase meanings

Discuss what is meant by ‘Life is but a dream’.

How else could the feeling be expressed?

Alternative modes of transport

List other ways of getting from place to place, e.g.

car, plane, helicopter, ship, yacht, truck, skates, scooter, motorbike, bicycle, hot air balloon, horse

Innovate to write new poems

Rewrite the poem using alternative modes of transport.

While the second and fourth lines in the original rhyme, it is not necessary for children to write rhyming poems. However, it can be encouraged by finding words that rhyme with the second line and choosing, if possible, one that makes sense to complete the poem. Near rhymes are also acceptable.

The fourth line need not begin with ‘Life is …’. However, it is important to try to maintain the rhythm so the poem is singable.

It is fun to write alternative versions collaboratively as a class. Once children have the idea of changes that can be made, they will enjoy writing their own versions.

Illustrate the poems

Provide the children with materials to illustrate the original rhyme or their new poems.

A water colour wash makes an effective background for a paper boat illustrating the original.

Children may draw or paint a background to illustrate their new poems with cut-out images to create a collage.

Share the poems with others

It is important to provide children with an opportunity of sharing their writing with others. Their classmates make a good first audience. Other possible audiences include: other classes, school assemblies and parents.

Row Row Row Your Boat - the Nursery Rhyme - teaching ideas

I have compiled all these ideas into a new resource called Row, Row, Row Your Boat — the Nursery Rhyme. The resource includes:

  • 2 copies of the original rhyme
  • 2 pages of teaching suggestions
  • 5 new innovations on the rhyme

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    I liked this idea a lot, Norah. We can write so many new stanza using the rhyming words you listed. Autumn has little books of each nursery rhymes. With row, row, row your boat, there were a couple stanzas new to me. 🙂

    Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Miriam. It is fun to innovate on nursery rhymes. I wonder what new verses where in Autumn’s book.

    I’ve seen songs and hymns referred to as “sing in the tune as…” It’s a brilliant idea to create your own rhymes with the same tunes, Norah. I have to find Autumn’s book on our next visit!

    Thanks, Jim. There’s nothing like putting a bit of fun into the lessons.

    Hi Norah, I would have loved these ideas when my boys were small, we used to ‘play’ this nursery rhyme all the time. Even now, this advice is helpful in instructing Michael on how to write a poem.

    Thank you, Robbie. There are some great actions to go with this rhyme. I think Michael has someone in is family to emulate in writing poetry. 😉

    Love love love this. And so timely for me too to be thinking outside the box or boat as it were (wrt to Oswald!). Cheers, Norah. D

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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