I recently put together some poetry and story baskets for my preschooler (3yrs old). The baskets ensure I am intentional about the poems I share and they also provide my child with the opportunity to hear a poem when he chooses.
Poetry and short stories can help develop phonemic awareness and memorization skills. They are also a good way of developing a love of language. We know that early literacy skills are about listening and speaking rather than about reading and writing. We want to build our child's vocabulary, we want the child to hear and identify sounds, rhyme, and rhythm and to hear the patterns in speech. This auditory discrimination allows for greater phonemic awareness which is fundamental in literacy development. Poems and short stories can also be a lovely way to share our love of literature. I've found since sharing these baskets my child makes up more of his own stories and funny rhymes!
"If children know eight nursery rhymes by heart, by the time they are four years old, they're usually among the best readers by the time they are eight." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
"We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language - language is meaningless if it is not based on experience. We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry, and stories we will greatly increase the child's love of language." - Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+ by Susan Mayclin Stephenson.
Above are some of our most recent poem and story baskets. I would have one, perhaps two baskets on my child's work shelves at a time. I have printed the poems and stories, these are for the child to bring to me (or another adult or a sibling) to read aloud. However, over time my three-year-old will use the baskets independently and as best as he can he will retell the poem or story, building his memorization skills.
At three years there is no expectation for the child to memorize all of these, or any of them perfectly but the idea is for the child to retell the poem or story, in their own words or as they remember them. Children at this age can memorize short songs and jingles and poems are no different, I don't place any pressure on my child and I read the poems out as much as my child likes. With something like Old MacDonald I will invite the child to sing along with me and with some of the stories I will ask my child to be one of the characters, if I feel like he is into it.
We use poems, rhymes (including some nursery rhymes), finger plays, songs and short stories that are:
- interesting to the child
- relevant to the child - featuring storylines of interest or that the child might see or experience in their every day life
- culturally relevant
- teaches the child about the world around them
- has interesting and diverse language
I like to add props that are relevant to the poem or story. These allow my child to remember what the poem is and in some cases we can act out the poem. I will often use :
- fruits or vegetables
- model animals
- model vehicles
- realistic soft toys - here we've used a soft Robin which plays a real bird song.
- hand or finger puppets
- DIY printed puppets - I've used these when I don't have the model animals that I need
- hats or small dress-ups
I've included a Dreamtime Story here (Tiddalick the Frog). Dreamtime Stories are created and shared by First Nations People passed down through generations. Dreamtime Stories are linked to specific places and explain the connection between First Nations People and the land, animals, and plants. I carefully select the Dreamtime Stories I share with young children and we have a few favourites that are age appropriate.
If you click the above image you will be able to see a larger version of the image to read the poems we've chosen.
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