How to Write a
"Mary Had A Little Something" Poem

by Bruce Lansky

Over the years, poets have had a lot of fun with the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" nursery rhyme. This rhyme is so simple, and so well known, that your students will love adapting it into new versions. For example, one way to do this is to make Mary into quite a hungry girl. Here's one of my rewrites based on this theme:

Mary had a little jam,
she spread it on a waffle.
And if she hadn't eaten ten
she wouldn't feel so awful.

(copyright 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from Mary Had a Little Jam with permission of Meadowbrook Press)

Ask your students to think about what else Mary could have or could be doing. There are a number of possibilities:

1) She could have a little lamb.
2) She could eat a little lamb.
3) She could have a little something else that rhymes with lamb.
4) She could have something else altogether (like bubble gum).

Pick any one of these themes as a starting point, or write all four on the board and start making lists of ideas with your students:

Mary Had a Little Lamb
They went to the library
They went to the amusement park

Mary Had (Ate) a Little Lamb
What else did she eat?
How did she feel afterwards?

Mary Had a Little Something Else
Mary had a little ham
Mary had a little Spam
Mary had a little jam

Mary Had Something Else Altogether
Mary had some bubble gum
Mary had a water gun

No matter which of these themes your students choose to pursue, you'll want to make sure that they follow the ABCB rhyme scheme and the rhythm scheme shown below:

DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (A)
da DUM da DUM da DUM (B)
da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM (C)
da DUM da DUM da DUM. (B)

I suggest that you read a few Mary poems to get yourself in the mood. You'll find "Mary Had a Little Ham," "Mary Had Some Bubble Gum," and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" in A Bad Case of the Giggles and "Big Mary" in Miles of Smiles.

No matter what you create, have fun with Mary and her lamb, her weird eating habits, her bubble gum, her water gun, or whatever.

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  Mary Had a Little Jam A Bad Case of the Giggles Miles of Smiles