Rhyme Time

Miss Mary Mack Audio Book Tales2go

Standards and Objective

Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation.


  • Index cards with words that rhyme

Tales2go Titles

  • Miss Mary Mack by Diane Ferlatte
  • Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom
  • Rosie Wrong Rhyme (song) by Debbie Cavalier


Miss Mary Mack is a traditional song that epitomizes rhyming and is the most famous hand-clapping game in the English language.  While it seems like a nonsensical story it is thought to be a link to a battle in the civil war. Students learning to spell can use the words at the end of the sentence to create new rhymes.

Play: Miss Mary Mack

After listening to the song, think about the scenes are portrayed.  Some responses could include an elephant jumping over the fence, a lady in a fancy dress with buttons made of silver, a mother giving their child money.

Once the students have visualized these scenes (or have sketched them out, if there is time) use the words on the index cards to sing the song again, replacing a word with one from the list.  It is important to replace the words in the song only with words that rhyme!


Miss Mary Jack, Jack, Jack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her slacks, slacks, slacks.

Demonstrate multiple examples for students, especially students who tend not to be risk-takers in the classroom.  More imaginative or impulsive students may have more to contribute to the oral presentation part of the lesson.

Summary: Once the scene has been revised, (buttons on her slacks instead of down her back) have the students draw what they see in their minds.  Even if the story is not realistic, (maybe the elephant jumps over parents instead of a fence).  Encourage students to share their artwork.  Stress with students that playing with similar words (those that end the same way) can be a fun way to explore language. Also, changing one word in a song can change the way the listener visualizes the story behind the song.

Extensions and Variations

Students that are not familiar with Miss Mary Mack, perhaps because they did not attend school in the United States when they were younger, or know different songs, may benefit from having the lyrics written out on chart paper or a board.  The lyrics and video of the clapping pattern can be found here.

Fun Fact:
Some variations on this song are that hippos jump over the fence instead of elephants, and that the child asks for either 15 cents or 50 cents depending on who is singing the song (and when)! One origin story for this song is that Miss Mary Mack was a union ship taken over by the confederates during the civil war. The buttons are bolts, and the fence is the boundary line between the north and south.

About the Common Core

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lay out very specific listening requirements, by grade, as part of a dedicated strand for speaking and listening skills. The standards specify the use of ‘other media’ within the standards, e.g., “CCSS.ELA-Literacy 3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.”
Listening is placed on equal footing with reading, writing and speaking. And for those tempted to just pair audio with visual text, that approach is common and valid with emerging readers, but not what the standards intend.
The CCSS also requires students to comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through school. Audio books can act as an important scaffold that allows students to read above their actual reading level.
Learn more at www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy.