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"Down By The Bay" Part II

by Eric Ode  

I’ve written poems beginning at the beginning with no idea as to where it’s all going to lead—and sometimes it’s even worked out well. But much of the time when I am writing, I want to know how my poem is going to end. That means I actually begin at a destination and work backward. It’s a tough skill, learning to work backward, but it sure comes in handy when working on everything from math story problems to art projects to science labs to “punch line” poetry.

If your students enjoyed Part I of rewriting Down by the Bay, take the activity one step further. In the process, they’ll learn to begin, as they say, at an ending.

Here, again, is Down by the Bay in its most familiar form.

Down by the Bay
Author unknown

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
“Did you ever see a bear
Combing his hair
Down by the bay?”

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
“Did you ever see a fly
Wearing a tie
Down by the bay?”

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
“Did you ever see llamas
Wearing pajamas
Down by the bay?”

Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
“Did you ever see a whale
With a polka-dot tail
Down by the bay?”

In Part I, we looked at rewriting the internal rhyme—the “Did you ever see llamas wearing pajamas” part of the song. Now let’s let the students play with the first half of the verse. We won’t change the opening line, although it might be tempting to write “Down by the school” or “Down at the mall.” We’ll need to keep “bay” at the end of the first and last lines so our rhyme will fall in place with line six—“My mother will say.” Instead, let’s change lines two and four—“Where the watermelons grow” and “I dare not go.”

Here’s where working backward comes in handy. Begin by making a new list with the students, this time thinking of action words to replace “go.” (“Go” is such a boring word anyway.) How about,

  • run
  • jog
  • skate
  • skip
  • ski
  • slide
  • crawl, and so on.

Now all the students have to do is come up with rhyming words for the action words and put them to use in line two. Primary students might be most successful at this if you first create the rhyme pairs as a class. In other words, we could add to our list so it looks like,

  • run–sun
  • jog–hog
  • skate–gate
  • skip–ship
  • ski–knee
  • slide–cried
  • crawl–ball, and so on.

Intermediate students will do just fine at creating rhymes on their own. Using this process, the students can create pieces like,

Down by the bay,
With a huckleberry pie,
Back to my home
I dare not fly
For if I do
My mother will say
“Did you ever see a worm
Chasing a germ
Down by the bay?”

As I mentioned in Part I, consider having the students neatly illustrate their new verses and create a class book. It really does make a fun collection.

IMPORTANT: Here’s the part you’ll really want to hit home with the students. Because the action word—run, jog, skate, and so on—was our destination, we chose that part first and actually worked backward to get there. What an important skill to learn!

Happy singing!

© 2005 Eric Ode

Permission is given for individual school classes to use this lesson and to make as many copies of the lesson as are needed for the students’ use. All other reproduction is prohibited under penalty of law. For use outside individual classes, please contact mmcginnis@meadowbrookpress.com.

If you are interested in inviting Eric Ode to your school, click here!