Sunday, July 31, 2016

Teaching Early Literacy Skills With Nursery Rhymes

At the beginning of kindergarten, I always start off our year with a mini-unit on nursery rhymes. I love using nursery rhymes to introduce early literacy skills to my students because they are familiar "stories" that most of the kids will have heard before. Most kindergarteners enter school unable to read on their own, but using nursery rhymes can help them feel successful and build confidence in reading because they have memorized the rhymes. Here are some of my favorite activities and resources to teach when introducing nursery rhymes.



A print-rich classroom is vital to have in the primary grades. When introducing nursery rhymes, I'll usually focus on one rhyme per day, so the unit ends up being about two weeks long. First, we will read the rhyme together using posters. Sometimes I'll project them on the smart board and other times we will hang them on the wall.


To switch it up a bit, I also love using the interactive nursery rhymes on Literactive! If you haven't been to this website... go now!!! It's got amazing literacy resources for K-1 with interactive games, books, and more! You have to register to use the site, but it's completely free. They have a bunch of different nursery rhymes on there, so chances are you'll find the one you need! Each rhyme is interactive and can be read aloud in different ways. There are also games included as well. When you go there, you'll see a page like this:


The kids love seeing the nursery rhymes come to life and participating in all of the activities. 

After reading the rhyme together, I like to give my students a copy of their own to follow and read along with me. Reading and tracking print is such an important skill to teach new readers, so I like to use printables that have dots or some other marker underneath the word so that students can follow along with me. Otherwise they will point all over the page (bless their hearts)!


It always makes it more fun for the students to add an exciting reading pointer into the mix as well. I've even given students something as simple as a colored popsicle stick - and they love it!

If you implement interactive notebooks into your reading time, you can also use interactive notebook printables for students to read and respond to a nursery rhyme. For each rhyme, I'll give students their own copy of the rhyme where they can hunt and highlight letters, sight words, or rhyming words. Then, I have a story response strip with a comprehension question about the rhyme as well. At the beginning of the year, most responses will only be with illustrations, and that's fine!


I also like to do a lot of sequencing activities with my students. Whether it's sequencing words, or pictures, both are great activities for students to learn how to retell a story. You can have your students sequence events in so many different ways! They love making flip flap books - these ones I use are a great way to sequence the nursery rhymes with the words as well as the pictures.


You can also use picture cards to help students sequence events together. Then they can complete their own version!


Once your students become more familiar with the nursery rhymes, they can begin to use resources to recite, retell, and act out the rhyme on their own. One thing I created for my classroom was Storytelling Folders. Inside each folder, I put in different resources for students to interact with the nursery rhymes in an engaging way. Here's what you'll need to put them all together (all pieces except for the folder and popsicle sticks are included in my nursery rhyme literacy pack).


For each nursery rhyme storytelling folder, you'll need: a 2-pocket folder, popsicle sticks for the character puppets, a nursery rhyme poster, cover page, and setting page printed out. When you put it all together, it will look like this:


These folders can be used in small groups for students to read and retell the rhyme. You could add any other resources you want to the folders! The options are endless.


To turn the storytelling folders into more of a comprehensive center activity, I might add an activity for them to complete as independent practice such as "Sort-a-Rhyme". With this activity, students will use one of the nursery rhyme posters to help sequence the verses in each rhyme. Students will cut the sentence strips out and glue them back in order on the graphic organizer. This helps students work on skills such as sequencing, understanding print, and reading text aloud.


Another great literacy center activity I always love to include in my weekly rotations is a pocket chart station. Students love building sentences or sequencing pictures in pocket charts - I think it makes them feel like they're the teacher! This pocket chart activity is a step above the previous activity pictured above - students will have the individual words cut out onto separate cards where they will sequence and build the nursery rhyme. This helps with sentence structure and fluency!


Students can refer to these printable black and white posters (that I jazzed up with some neon cardstock!) to help build the rhymes in the pocket chart.


To continue practicing their nursery rhymes at home, you can send home these little mini-booklets that they can color and practice reading at home with their parents! So easy to print, fold, and put together!


I love using art projects and craftivities as a hands-on, fun project for students to create during themed units. For all 10 nursery rhymes that I teach my students, they'll be creating a craft for each one.


Now, I know creating all of these projects can create piles of art everywhere around the classroom - after all, there is only so much space to hang student work up in our classrooms, and we can't keep everything (even when the work is as adorable as these craftivities!). I wanted to create a way for students to keep all of their projects in one place. With that, the nursery rhyme art portfolio was born!

I'll tell you a secret - it's not rocket science to put these puppies together. ;) Simply take a 9x12 piece of construction paper and fold it up in half. Staple the sides shut so that you are just left with an opening at the top. Print out the provided cover page, and boom! It's ready! Each time your students complete an art project, they will store it in their nursery rhyme art portfolios.



Step-by-step directions and templates are included for all crafts!

If you'd like to implement these activities - and more! - to your nursery rhyme teaching themes, every last one of these resources is available in my Nursery Rhyme Literacy Pack! It's nearly 400 pages long and filled with 15 different activities for ten different nursery rhymes: Hey Diddle Diddle, Humpty Dumpty, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Miss Muffet, Jack and Jill, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Row Your Boat.

You can find this teaching resource pack in my TeachersPayTeachers store - just click on the picture below to take a closer look!

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