Music for Early Literacy Skills

Music Mary explains how sharing music with our students is one of the most powerful tools we have to support early literacy skills. The key is to choose music that is exactly right for them. Singing developmentally appropriate songs, speaking poems and fingerplays, and keeping the steady beat are all fantastic ways to make our kiddos’ brains stronger, more flexible, and ready for reading.

Try It Out

Add music into your daily routine to support early literacy skills:

  • During your Circle Time, share a poem or finger play with rhyming words. Identify the rhyming words, talk about them, and ask students to think of more rhyming words, even if they are nonsense words. “Engine, Engine, Number Nine”, “I’m a Little Teapot”, and “Star Light, Star Bright” are great examples of poems/songs with rhyming words.
  • Throughout the day, make up simple songs or rhymes about what you are doing at the moment. Sing or speak them over and over and over again until your students are singing them with you or independently. For example, sing a song or make up a rhyme about washing hands, putting on shoes, putting on coats, and getting ready for lunch.
“Here comes lunch!  We love it a bunch!  Here comes lunch! We’re gonna munch, munch, munch!”

  • Sing folk songs with your students that are gentle, playful, and tell a story. “The Leaves are Green”, “Gray Squirrel”, and “All Around the Mulberry Bush” are examples of developmentally appropriate folk songs.
  • Take a familiar poem and add a steady beat!  Speak the poem and invite your students to keep a steady beat on their laps while you are speaking the poem. (See video below for an example.) Play around with the tempo – speed it up, slow it down, have fun!

How do you know if it’s boosting your students’ early literacy skills?  Watch for these clues. Your students will:

  • Start to memorize simple songs and poems quickly.
  • Create their own rhymes and chants for different actions.
  • Naturally speak poems and sing songs with a steady beat.
  • Point out rhyming words and word patterns, without being prompted.
  • Find it easier to put words in the right order when communicating.
Music Mary shows you how to take a simple poem, add a steady beat, and identify the rhyming words within the poem. This engaging activity gives your students’ brains a powerful workout, and supports early literacy skills in a playful way.