For some reason it occurred to me to ask Sonny the other day, “What rhymes with cat?”
“No, Sonny, that’s an opposite. A rhyme is a…” I blanked. How do you explain a concept like this to a child who has never been introduced to it? This is why I’m not a teacher. “A rhyme is a word that sounds like another word!” I said, knowing that clunky definition was unlikely to sink into Sonny’s brain. “So… cat rhymes with HAT! And MAT! And FAT! What else rhymes with cat?”
“Uh, no, what rhymes with cat?”
And so on. So he’s not getting it. Yesterday I stumbled upon a slightly clever way of phrasing it: “What rhymes with DOG and says ‘ribbit?'”
“Right! Do frog and dog rhyme?”
“Yes!” He says yes because he knows that’s what I want him to say, but I’ll take it. We play that game for a while more: What rhymes with CHAIR and is on top of your head? (“A hat!” No, Sonny…) What rhymes with TRAIN and falls from the sky? (“A plane!” Uh… that wasn’t the intended answer, but I’ll give you half credit.)
Without those additional prompts, though, he always falls back on opposites: A rhyme for cat is DOG, a rhyme for rain is SUNNY, etc etc. A tad frustrating. But then I remember: There was once a time when he didn’t understand opposites, either. (“What’s the opposite of rainy? CLOUD!”) Now he’s got opposites up hot — I mean, down cold — and it’s just a matter of shoving that information over in his brain to make room for this new concept.