Practical and Fun Ways to Use Songs and Poems in Learning LA and Math

Are you experiencing the “winter blahs” right now in mid-January? Maybe it’s the cold, grey weather … but maybe it’s because you need some great ideas to liven up your Math and Language Arts learning. Sure, there are lots of worksheets and textbooks and workbooks and commercial “learning games” out there–but maybe some practical, fun use of songs and poems would bring some summer warmth and inspiration into your family learning!

As you explore the posts in this blog, you’ll find lots of practical learning tips–but in case you’re wondering right now what I’m talking about, here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Songs and poems can be great sources for “word family” examples. Look for ones that use the word family you’re studying at the moment, and sing and/or say them. Clap along to help your child get the rhythm–or use a piano, guitar or other instruments. Make a photocopy and have your child use a highlighter to find all the words with that sound.
  • Go to the library together and look for books that have nursery rhymes or other children’s poems that have been set to music. Many of these books have the sheet music included, and may even have a CD to sing along to. Collections of Sunday School songs or children’s songs such as those commonly sung at Girl Guide or Boy Scout gatherings, or books with songs by well-known children’s entertainers are also good sources.
  • Singing is a great group activity, and you’re likely to find that once you start using singing to help one child, others will want to join in–parents and grandparents and friends and relatives will, too. There’s nothing like learning together.
  • Seasonal songs–related to holidays or special events happening at the moment–are also enthusiastically enjoyed by children and are an excellent way to motivate reading! Yes, read the words with your children. They’ll often have heard these songs on the radio or TV or even in stores; perhaps you’ve sung them around your home, too. They will, therefore, “know” the words already–and be able to recognize and “read” (and learn) words that are at a challenging level. This is a great way to encourage reluctant readers.
  • Some how-to tips: Point out the words in the song/poem as you first read it to your child; then as you sing/say the piece together, run your finger along the words, having her follow your finger. Then have her run her finger along the words. For many children, it really helps to “connect” phonics learning to songs or poems they already know; and of course, the rhythm and rhyme of poetry and music are excellent aids to memorizing words.
  • Music is a great aid to memorizing math facts, too. There are many commercial products (such as CDs or book-and-CD combinations) that have catchy tunes and words for memorizing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts, as well as counting or skip-counting forwards and backwards. Or you can make up your own, using well-known tunes or making up your own tunes or chants.  Adding actions (clapping, stamping feet, jumping on a trampoline, tossing a ball, etc.) while you’re at it, makes it even more effective. And if your children help make up these rhymes/songs, they’re bound to memorize quickly and easily.
  • You can also add extra verses to poems or songs the children already know. Many youngsters have trouble, for example, sorting out the spelling of the “question words” (who, what, when, where, why, how). I sat down one day and added verses to the children’s song, “Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone…” — using a different question word for each verse. I have found it very effective for children struggling to sort out those words–they learn the spellings and have fun while they’re at it. Here’s a copy: Oh Where oh Where – The Question Words Song –feel free to share it, too, but please make sure my name is attached. Thanks!

How Do You Use Songs and Poetry to Help Your Children Learn Language Arts and Math Skills?

We’d love to hear your tips! Please feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks!

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