Making Your Poems or Book Interactive for School Visits and Readings

Last fall, I wondered how to make the poems in Stampede more interactive for readings with young kids. For either pre-readers who can’t read the entire poem up on a screen or for settings where there’s no screen available. I got some great ideas from you guys (thanks!) and did some brainstorming on my own.

I’ve been having lots of fun sharing Stampede (and other books) on school visits, and I thought I’d share a few of the methods I use. I think these could be adapted for any poetry book, rhyming picture book, or very short picture book (even if it doesn’t rhyme). These are nothing terribly new, but I was having a mental block about it, so maybe if you are too, you can try some of these on your next reading or school visit. Or if you’re a teacher or media specialist trying to get your kids more involved in poetry, you might give these a try.

Call and Response: This is where I simply call out the poem, one brief line at a time, and the kids repeat it back to me. One plus of this is that the kids get to hear me say the line with rhythm, enthusiasm, and intonation, so they’re really enthusiastic when it’s their turn. So it would look like this:

Me: From metal branch
Kids: From metal branch

Me: To metal vine

Kids: To metal vine

I have a colorful pointer I use to point at the crowd when it’s their turn.

Little Sir Echo: Here, I read a couple of lines of a poem and then, when I give the signal, the kids repeat the last two words I said, in rhythm. We review their words once ahead of time.

Me:  I’m jumping in puddles left after the rain.

The best ones are deep, dark, and BIG!
Kids: And big!

Act It Out: Here’s where I make up simple actions to go to some of the words in a poem. We review the actions that go with each word ahead of time. I have the poem on a screen (with all of these methods) with the action words in a difference color (whenever possible, I have the whole poem up for them to see, with whatever part they will read out loud in a bold color). If no screen is available, I have little signs I hold up (or a volunteer holds up) at the appropriate time. I read the entire poem, and the kids only join in on their special words/actions. I use the pointer and a big pause so they know their next word is coming up.

Me: I’m missing
Kids: THREE (holding up three fingers)
Me: teeth. There’s a scratch by my
Kids: EYE (pointing to their eye).
Me: I
Kids: TRIMMED (pretending to cut their bangs)
Me: my own bangs, and I cut
Kids: WAY TOO HIGH (raising their hand higher with each word)

The kids and I have lots of fun, and it becomes an activity we do together rather than just some dramatic reading by me, which I would find more nerve-wracking. So, these are a few ways I get them involved in the game. I’ll share more tomorrow. And, of course, I’d still love to hear your ideas. Always great to add new methods to the bag of tricks.


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