Pocket Chart Poems for Teaching Reading and Name Recognition

submitted by Mary Catherine from Fun-A-Day.com

As John Funk explains in “Music and Reading”, children can learn a variety of important skills via songs, poems, and chants.  I love incorporating them into my preschool lesson plans because the kiddos learn so much while having a ton of FUN!  Using pocket chart poems and songs when teaching reading and name recognition is a favorite activity of mine.

MC TRC Pocket Chart Poems 1

Recently, my class and I did just that with the song “Old McDonald Had a Farm”.  We’d been discussing apples, pumpkins, harvest time, and farms over the past two months.  So “Old McDonald” was a great choice based on our recent themes, and the fact that the kids already knew the song.

To set up this activity, I wrote out the first few lines of the song on sentence strips.  From there, I added the sentence strips to our big blue pocket chart.  Once that was settled, I asked the children what animals we should have on our farm.  They chose cow, chicken, pig, sheep, and horse.  I just drew simple pictures of those farm animals on construction paper and added the animals to our pocket chart.  (If you’d rather have a printable version of farm animals, I have a free version at my Teachers Notebook shop). We already had sentence strips with our names on them, so I added those too.

Once the pocket chart was ready, I grabbed a pointer and we got started!  The sheep was up first, so I made sure to add the appropriate card to our pocket chart.  We sang the song together while I pointed to the words on the chart.  I didn’t have the last part of the song written out, but the kids were fine singing that on their own.

Once we went through all the farm animals, we decided to add the children’s names to the song.  This is ALWAYS a huge hit in my preschool classroom!  The kids like to see their names in any of our classroom activities, so that really grabbed their attention.  It also made the song even funnier for the children – they were giggling up a storm at “Old McMary Catherine had a farm . . .”!  A well-known song, their names, AND humor equaled an incredibly fun learning experience!

What did the kiddos learn from this short and silly pocket chart poem?

  • The concept of a word (“a word goes from space to space”)
  • We read from left to right and top to bottom
  • Name recognition – their own names, as well as their friends’ names
  • What we say can be written and what is written can be said
  • Simple farm animal words
  • Letter-sound correspondence
  • And much more!

What songs and poems do you enjoy using in the classroom?  Do your students have any favorites?

Mary Catherine is mama to a 6-year old kick in the pants, teacher to a fun group of pre-k students, and the force behind Fun-A-Day!  She loves reading (especially science fiction), messy science experiments with her son, and dark chocolate!  You can connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter.

Music and Reading

This post is authored by John Funk.

When I was a classroom teacher, I used music and songs for a variety of reasons. I found that music helped children become engaged in classroom activities. Most children enjoy music and songs, if they are fun and upbeat. Children respond to the presence of rhythm, beat, and physical actions. This type of music is different than forcing children to memorize a lengthy song for a program, which can be very tedious and inappropriate. However, for me, fun classroom songs are a wonderful transition tool to help maintain positive behavior standards while the group moves from one activity to another. Once I understood about the importance of phonemic awareness to pre- and beginning readers, I used music to help children listen for specific sounds and rhyming. I always believed that music and song would help children in many facets of life.

Songs with words have always been a tool for helping children learn to read and increase their reading skills. When a teacher teaches a simple song to the class, it is helpful for the teacher to have the words on a chart or board. This can help children associate the written word with the spoken word they are singing during the song. Repeating the song over a period of days supports the child in recognizing the written words of the song. Many teachers may give the child her own copy of the song lyrics and allow her to illustrate parts of the song. There is a growing body of research that indicates how singing has the potential for improving reading skills. (**Iwasaki, 2013).  From my personal experiences, I can attest to the fact that songs add enjoyment and a visual memory to the reading process.

The key is to choose songs that have words which will assist children on their reading levels. Even though we should strive to choose songs that reflect the child’s reading level, songs can also increase a child’s vocabulary by introducing new words that he may not yet find during reading instruction. I also know that music sticks in our memories. Many of us hear a song on the radio or in a production and continue to sing it or hear it in our heads for the rest of the day, especially if it has a catchy rhythm or lyric.  In a recent article in The Reading Teacher, the authors suggest that music can help with reading in the following areas:

  • Regular repeated singing of songs seem to help struggling readers progress in reading
  • Singing increases time spent reading when children can see the words of the song
  • Melody and rhythm help children remember
  • Songs help with the development of phonemic awareness (see our earlier posts)
  • Songs help teach word families (rhyming words)
  • Singing can model reading fluency
  • The ability to sing and read a song is an accomplishment for children who struggle with the ability to read a paragraph.  (**Iwasaki, 2013)

My personal philosophy has always been to find as many teaching strategies as possible to help children succeed. Multiple strategies are especially important for struggling readers. Most of them, including those with a true learning disability, are struggling because they have not been able to master reading under the strategies that have been used in their past. Music could be one more strategy that will help the pre-, beginning, and struggling readers in your classroom. Music that is used in an interesting and engaging manner in the classroom can add a lot of joy and fun to learning. Although there are many different types of music available, I have listed a few of my favorite age-appropriate resources at the bottom of this post. I do believe that music is an additional resource and strategy that can assist a child when learning to read or improving his reading skills.

**Iwasaki, B., Rasinski, T., Yildirim, K., Zimmerman, B. (2013) Let’s bring back the magic of song for teaching reading. The Reading Teacher,  67 (2), pp.137-141.

John’s Favorite Early Childhood Music CDs:

Developing Predicting Skills

I appreciated the comments to the last blog post. It is evident that there needs to be a strong concentration of pre-reading and reading activities for children in early childhood settings. As I stated in one of my answers to the comments in the last post, I think many of our struggling readers were left behind because of poor instruction and lack of developmental strategies.

I enjoyed looking at the website for the National Reading Panel that Scott sent along with his comments. I often teach beginning reading strategies to pre-service teachers. One component of that instruction is the discussion about predictors of reading success. We know that becoming an on-level reader in first grade is essential for a child. There are two strong predictors to that success. “Predictors” are skills so important that we should make every effort to ensure that a child builds solid foundations in these skills during preschool and kindergarten; ultimately these skills are essential to building the reading foundation. These two predictors are phonemic awareness and alphabet letter knowledge. That fact is reiterated again on the National Reading Council website. I emphasize that if these foundation skills are not taught appropriately, the child runs the risk of becoming a struggling reader, lacking the background information for making sense of the reading process.

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear sounds of speech (phonemes) in spoken language. It is the beginning stage of phonological awareness, which will eventually include syllables and phonics. Prior to the influx of large quantities of children’s literature, most children came to school with phonemic awareness. Parents used nursery rhymes and folktales with their children because picture books were not as readily available. That scenario changed as quality picture books became readily available. Nursery rhymes are one of the best teaching tools for phonemic awareness. They teach children to listen to the sounds that are the same and the sounds that are different.  Compare “Jill” and “hill” in the nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill.” A child can hear how the beginning sound is different, but the rest of the word is the same. When a child has phonemic awareness, you can ask the child to identify the sound she hears at the beginning of the word “cookie.” If the child indicates /k/, then she can hear that sound. At this point it is not important if the child knows it is the letter ‘c’ that makes the sound. It is only critical that she can hear individual sounds. This knowledge is essential to beginning the reading process.

The other predicting skill is knowledge of the alphabet letters. It is so important to work on letter identification with a child prior to beginning instruction in reading. As I stated in one of my comments on the last blog entry, it is important to use appropriate activities for letter identification. Using magnetic, wooden, or plastic letters is a much better way to introduce children to the alphabet than looking at a chart or paper. When the child has some background knowledge in letters, have him form them out of play dough or some other moldable material. Wet moldable sand is also a wonderful option for the child to “feel” the letters and build some cognitive memories about the letter. We must be as concrete as possible with early reading skills because reading is actually quite abstract. As I was pointing to the letter ‘a’ one day, I told a four- year-old girl that letter said /a/. Her response was, “I didn’t hear it say anything.”  Being more concrete will help the child understand this new world of reading. It is critical for us to help children instantly identify the letters. That instant recognition is called “automaticity” by reading researchers. That automaticity is the predictor of reading success.

I was recently helping one of my pre-service teachers as she was teaching in a second grade classroom. The month before, she had received a new student who could not read. The student teacher had not had success in working with the child on letter sounds and decoding words. We decided that the child must have missed early reading instruction, so we went back and worked on phonemic awareness and letter recognition. Within two weeks the child started to improve and is now sounding out words. Because we went back to put in the foundation pieces, I believe this child will eventually be on grade level with her reading skills. Without someone taking her back to the beginning, she may have been labeled a struggling reader and provided with intervention and perhaps special needs services. This experience has made me wonder how many children with missing pieces in their learning foundation end up in at-risk learning situations.

Have you had similar experiences?