At our monthly staff meeting last week a teacher shared a wonderful frog poem written on chart paper. The rhyming words were highlighted in a different color. She showed us how to use the poem with props; a stick to point out the words, puppets for children to act out the frog and the owl, a blue cloth for the lake, and a bench for the frog. It was more than a very good poem for young children, it was interactive and fun.
I kept thinking, “I would sing this”. A rhyme, like poetry, has a natural flow. So does singing. I have found that connecting the two is powerful. It cements language. With singing, words and language become crystallized.
Before children learn to read, first they must hear the words. It’s developmental, like learning to crawl before learning to walk. The auditory piece, including singing, hits both the brain and the soul in learning. In my preschool class, reading aloud is a top priority, so I constantly read picture books and also chapter books. I use a ‘voice’, stop all the time to ask questions, and often the story takes a very different turn. We have pretty deep and serious discussions as a class, because we love reading. Every day before chapter reading I recite Goodnight Moon. The children love it for two reasons; they know that chapter reading is next, and they feel connected to the words in the story. I recite the story, so they have no pictures to see (just like chapter reading). Over the course of the year, I have changed the words to incorporate the names of the children. “And Tommy’s red balloon, and a picture of Sarah jumping over the moon…”. This has been hugely successful. The children think it is so much fun, but I realize that there is a bigger connection with the language they are hearing. I have taken a story they love, recited with no pictures, and changed the text. That means changing your brain, and children do that so well.
It gets more complicated, or perhaps I should say more simple. Reciting Goodnight Moon then naturally flowed into singing. It was already a story with a rhyme, and it already had children’s names as part of the rhyme. So, I sang Goodnight Moon. It didn’t matter what the tune was. The important part was singing, as that brought ‘life’ into the words. I occasionally changed the ‘beat’ as well, clapping or tapping my foot.
Teachers naturally address visual learners. Whether it is a classroom chart or writing on the board, the majority of information for children is often visual. If we address the auditory learners through singing, we are crystallizing language. And, it is fun! So, I now sing poetry, stories and rhymes whenever I can. The children love it, and it works.