Where Are You Going? - Creating Your Own Call-and-Answer Rhyme

July 27, 2017 | Katherine McG

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Children and animals travelling by canoe.
Artwork by Slavka Kolesar
for the 2017 TD Summer Reading Club


Do you know the story We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen? (Did you know that you can borrow it from Toronto Public Library in six different languages?) Book Cover: We're Going on a Bear HuntIf you don't know the book, you might still be familiar with the classic call-and-answer rhyme in which a leader invites their listeners to go on a journey looking (or "hunting") for something in particular. The familiar refrain of "Can't go over it. Can't go under it. Gotta go through it" invites the participants to act out the adventure as they imagine travelling over various terrains in search of their prize.

The repetitive nature of the rhyme not only makes it easy to read it aloud but also helps to encourage children to participate in the fun. And its repeated refrain is an easily adaptable writing pattern that could inspire you and your children to create a "Going on a ..." adventure rhyme of your own.

The first step is to decide where you might be going or what you might be looking for on your way. Let your family's summer travels be your inspiration: "Going to the cottage", "Looking for a flamingo (at the zoo)" or "Hiking to our camp site" are some great ideas for this type of call-and-answer rhyme. (And wherever you go, don't forget to take the TD Summer Reading Club with you!)

Next you'll want to imagine the type of places you might be travelling through and how you might journey across these different areas. If you're not going anywhere in particular this summer, ask your children to think about somewhere that they have always wanted to go or to imagine something that they have always wanted to find.  

Since we are still celebrating Canada 150 perhaps you could write about a journey across our country: 

  • You can't go over the Great Lakes but you can paddle across them.   
  • You can't go under the Rockies but you can climb over them.
  • You can't go through an ice floe but you can skate on top of it!

Finally, with all of those pieces in place and your imaginations running wild, you're ready to write a call-and-answer rhyme and go on a "hunt" of your own. 

Incidental Canoe
Artwork by Slavka Kolesar
for the 2017 TD Summer Reading Club


And I did just that myself! I wrote a variation on this type of rhyme called "Going on a Canoe Ride". And at a recent Toronto Public Library Children's Program, I paired it with one of our TD Summer Reading Club Recommended Reads, In the Red Canoe by Leslie A. Davidson, and the children and I went on a journey across the water without actually leaving the library! 

Book Cover: In the Red Canoe


Of course, half the fun of creating a call-and-answer rhyme is reading it out loud and adding lots of actions. So if you need some inspiration to encourage you to act out your "Going on a ..." rhyme, check out this YouTube clip of author Michael Rosen performing his version of We're Going on a Bear Hunt. I know that you'll have as much fun as he does...wherever you may be going.