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Saturday, September 27, 2014


I get by with a little help from my friends - for real! While I'm speaking at the International Early Educator's Conference in (don't hate me!) Hawaii this week I've invited two special friends to be guest bloggers. I'm sure Lesley's blogs tickled your interest and you'll all be "baking" plastic cups this weekend. Well, here's another treat from my friend Sam Williams. Sam is a kindergarten teacher extraordinaire in Hillsborough County, Florida. The majority of his children do not speak English when they enter his classroom, but with his enthusiasm, positive energy, and motivation they are "reading" in a few weeks. It's nothing short of a miracle, but I'll let him tell you about it....
Hello Friends of Dr. Jean. I am so thrilled and honored that Jean asked me to do a post for her on poetry and nursery rhymes and how important they are to our young ones. 

Tim Rasinski says, “Fluency is the centerpiece of reading. It is the bridge that connects the words to comprehension. Without fluency you can’t have comprehension.” So maybe fluency isn’t one of the first things we worry about in kindergarten – but I believe it will have a very strong impact on all areas of reading.

Here’s what I do in my class:

First, I introduce one new poem a day. Right now we are using Alphafriends poems for the first 26 days of school. There is a poem based on a letter of the alphabet for every day. They are only a couple of lines long and are set to music. I make a copy for every student. On Monday we read the poem and sing the poem. We add them to our poetry journal and then my students will use a red crayon to circle the focus letter of this poem. Example: reading Sammy Seal they circle the letter “S” throughout the poem.

On Monday, I also introduce a new nursery rhyme. I use Dr. Jean’s Rhyming Readers Nursery Rhymes; it comes with 10 nursery rhyme books, song charts, and the audio files of each song (you can get it right here on Dr. Jean’s site). So for the first 10 weeks of school we will use these nursery rhymes. On the first day we sing the song and read along on the song chart. Each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme for their poetry journal.

Tuesday, we introduce a new poem. When the students put the new poem in their poetry journals we also go back to previous poems and with a different crayon color we circle all the rhyming words. We may also choose another color and underline the sight words we know. I choose a couple students to select a poem in our journal that we can practice together, so we read and/or sing a couple of our previous poems. We always read and sing our new nursery rhyme every day.

We repeat the same steps on Wednesday and Thursday. We also use our poetry journals every day during independent reading. This gives students the opportunity to be successful readers during independent reading because they know how to read these poems. On Friday, each student gets a copy of the nursery rhyme book that we have been practicing (included in the nursery rhyme set above). They get to color the book and of course, we practice reading this. They will take these books home and their homework for the weekend is to read the books to anyone and everyone they can find. I make it a little competition to see who can read the book to the most people. I also let them read to their pets – because I tell them I read to my dogs all the time.

Here’s what I know about using poetry every day in my class: My students are experts at directionality, one-to-one correspondence, return sweep, they are learning punctuation, sequencing a story, and they are great at retelling, the first big step in reading comprehension. My students are also demonstrating prosody – reading with expression, understanding rhythm and rhyme in reading. This is all happening in the first 20 days of school. Of course, I am excited that my kids are demonstrating such great reading skills and strategies, but even more important than that – we are singing and having fun. My kids look forward to new poems every day! Don’t you just love seeing a child smile about something they are learning in school?