Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Using Songs and Poems With Preschoolers and K Students

Millers School built in 1835, Washington County, PA This photo was taken in 1974
One room school house, Washington County, PA, 1865

Occasionally I will put together a Tuesday Teaching Tips post. Today I want to discuss using poems and songs with preschoolers and kindergartners. 

Children ages 2 through 6 don't have long attention spans, but when you teach from their passions, like music and movement, you instill a love of learning and make the most of your teaching time. I've never met a young child who didn't love to sing and do finger rhymes; they're all giggles and smiles and they never want these experiences to end.


When teaching a new song or rhyme, there's a desired sequence to follow: think oral first, then written, then hands-on.

Find a seasonal song or rhyme that is simple and repetitive. I found this poem in The Mailbox, a popular teaching magazine. You can sign up to receive their resources for free.

Use material from your own poetry books, or from songs and rhymes you learned as a child. If your memory doesn't help, do an Internet search for preschool and kindergarten songs and rhymes. I've been able to find song lyrics online by just typing in the words I do remember.

We've enjoyed leaves raining down everywhere in beautiful storms these past two weeks, so instead of bats, I rewrote this poem for red, orange, brown and yellow leaves. 

First, sing the song or recite the poem many times with your children, preferably over a couple days, until they have it well memorized.

Next, write it on chart paper or on a large piece of construction paper. I have a hanging chart and a pocket chart I use with my four students, but these aren't necessary. 

Obtain a fun pointer, like a wand or a sword. Point and read or sing through the poem together many times over a couple days. Have your child take over with the pointer as well, pretending to be the teacher.

Children these ages need to learn how speech turns into print. Talk about directionality--that we write from left to right, top to bottom. Talk about capitals and periods, question marks, exclamation marks, and spacing between words. Pack in as much as you can over several lessons. 

For example, older children can benefit from a quick mini-lesson about the word leaf. What other words have this same vowel digraph? Which letter makes the sound and is it a long or a short vowel sound?

You don't go through all this prep work for just one or two days. Use this lesson to squeeze out a little more learning every day, perhaps 10 to 15 minutes a day, depending on attention spans. 

Even if your child can write simple, phonetically-spelled sentences with proper spacing, you are still teaching relevant, multiple concepts with these lessons. Multi-level teaching is a homeschooling parent's dream. We manage one-room school houses, right?  So it's in our best interest to incorporate everyone's needs, instead of teaching fifteen different lessons a day. 

Once the poem or song is memorized, and you've worked with the whole text on chart paper, you are ready to break down the poem into individual words.

Write the words on index cards and put a small part of the poem in your pocket chart (or the whole thing for older children). Use your table or floor if you'd like. After going through it together again with your pointer, take the cards and scramble them, putting them back in the pockets, out of order.

Recite it from memory with your child, and have her look for the next word and rebuild it in the pocket chart. Remind your student that capitals go at the beginning, and that periods, exclamation points, or question marks go at the end. Remind her also that we need spaces between the words.

Have your older children help make props for the songs or rhymes, like pumpkins or leaves. 

When it's time to move on to a new song or rhyme, put the index cards in a labeled baggie so your child can use them for fun in his spare time, either on the floor or on your table. When Daddy gets home from work, have your child rebuild the poem or song for him.

Here are some other Fall songs and rhymes, which I found here:

Five little jack-o’lanterns glowing by the door
Father took one and that left four.

Four little jack-o’lanterns, a sight to see
Mother took one and that left three.

Three little jack-o’lanterns lit through and through
Brother took one and that left two.

Two little jack-o’lanterns greeting everyone,
Sister took one and that left one.One little jack-o’lantern, with a great big grin
I picked him up and took him in.

Jean Warren

Tune: "Bingo"

Was a farmer had a tree.
With apples big and red.
A-P-P-L-E, A-P-P-L-E, A-P-P-L-E
With apples on his tree!

Jean Warren


Two red apple, high in the tree.
One for you and one for me.
I shook that tree as hard as I could.
Down fell the apples, mmmm they were good.
Adapted Traditional

Tune: “London Bridges Falling Down”

All the leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down. (Imitate leaves falling down)
All the leaves are falling down, it is Fall.

Take the rake and rake them up, rake them up, rake them up. (Imitate raking up leaves)
Take the rake and rake them up, it is Fall.

Make a pile and jump right in, jump right in, jump right in. (Children jump forward)
Make a pile and jump right in, it is Fall.
Sent in by Diane Chancey

Tune:  “Mulberry Bush”
This is the way we grind our corn,  
Grind our corn, grind our corn.
This is the way we grind our corn,
For Thanksgiving Day.

This is the way we hunt for food,
Hunt for food, hunt for food.
This is the way we hunt for food,
For Thanksgiving Day.

This is the way we catch some fish,
Catch some fish, catch some fish.
This is the way we catch some fish,
For Thanksgiving Day.

This is the way we kneed our bread
Kneed our bread, kneed our bread.
This is the way we kneed our bread,
For Thanksgiving Day.

(Children sit and pretend to grind corn.)

(Children walk around looking for berries or hunting for deer.)

(Children show how they like to fish)

(Children pretend to kneed bread.)


Tesha said...

Oh what a wonderful ideas!! I will be using these songs thanks so much for sharing them and how to teach with them. I hate to say it but i am not very creative when it comes to teaching. So thankful for this:)

Christine said...

I'm glad something here will be useful to you, Tesha. Love to you!