Using poetry in preschool & pre-k is one of my favorite things to do! I love it because I can knock out multiple objectives in about five minutes during circle time. We can work on concepts of print, letter recognition, phonological awareness, fluency, and comprehension. I know right now you may be thinking… You can REALLY do all that in FIVE minutes a day?!?! And my answer is YES! It’s not as impossible as it seems if you follow the simple 5-day sequence I use for shared reading. Each day we work on something different, and over time that starts to add up in a BIG way! Wanna know how I do it? Just keep reading, and I’ll walk you through my typical shared reading sequence using “Ten Little Apples.” But you can use this with any nursery rhyme, poem, or predictable chart you want to use!

Day 1: Introducing the Poem

I always start by teaching a new poem to the kid without using anything in print. I say it (or sing it if it’s a song) for them once or twice so they know what the whole poem sounds like. Then we echo it. I say a line, and they say it back to me. We do that a couple times, then we echo bigger chunks of the poem. After a few repetitions, they are usually able to say the whole thing with me. I’ll also add in some motions where I can. Then I’ll pull out the poetry card and hang it on the board, but we don’t do anything with it yet. Throughout the day, I’ll keep the new poem fresh in their minds by using it when we’re waiting in line or transitioning from one activity to another.

Day 2: Shared Reading

Ten Little Apples | Using Poetry in Preschool

I start by reciting the poem together to refresh the kids’ memories. Then we move over to the pocket chart. I’ll get out a pointer and point to the words as we read. (Check out my favorite pointers HERE.) This is when I’ll throw out some new skills I want them to learn:

  • Top-to-bottom and left-to-right progression
  • Return sweep
  • Letters, words, and sentences
  • One-to-one correspondence
  • Uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Long and short words
  • Syllables, beginning & ending sounds, rhyming words

Of course, I do NOT do all of this at once! I’ll choose 2-3 teaching points based on where my kiddos are at the time, and focus on those. Throughout the week, I will hit different things as we continue to read the poem in this shared reading format. The important thing to remember with this is that you’re not trying to get your kids to master any skills in this short 5-minute activity! But, when you use poetry in your classroom every day, and you repeat these skills over and over again, your kids WILL pick them up!

Day 3: Shared Reading with a Twist

Ten Little Apples | Using Poetry in Preschool

By now, the kiddos know the poem! So, this is when I like to shake it up. Repetition is the key with little ones, but you do NOT want a room full of 4- and 5-year-olds getting bored! Here are some of my favorite ways to keep repeated reading fresh and fun:

  • Read in different voices. (robot, the tree bears, cowboy, fish, monster, etc.)
  • Read at different speeds. They love to read “super duper fast” and in slow motion!
  • Read at different volumes. (loud, quiet, whisper, silent)
  • Mix up the word cards in the pocket chart and let the kiddos find the mistakes.
  • Read the wrong word on purpose. When they notice, point to the word card and ask how they know you’re wrong.
  • Add different motions that you do to the beat of the poem. (clap, pat, stomp, jump, etc.)
  • Let the kiddos take the pointer and be the teacher.

The only rule for this part of the process is to make it FUN! Some of my best ideas for shaking up shared reading came as we were in the middle of doing it or from one of the kiddos! (And, of course, I’m still sneaking in 2-3 teaching points while we’re having all of this fun!)


Day 4: Little Books

Ten Little Apples | Using Poetry in Preschool

At this point in the week, we are still spending 5 minutes (ish) on the poem during circle time like I described above in Day 3. But, they are usually ready for more, so now is when I move it into small groups. I make copies of black and white readers that the kids get to color, read, and keep. Using a familiar poem in this small group format really gives me the chance to individualize how they are learning from the poem. Some may need to practice simply turning the pages of their book one at a time, while others may be learning how to spell high frequency words. After each small group is done, the kids add their little readers to their book boxes, and they will be able to revisit them throughout the year during centers and transition times. (I am in love with these adorable apple plates! You can get a set HERE.)

Day 5: Poetry Folders

Ten Little Apples | Using Poetry in Preschool

Our circle time shared reading routine still happens at the end of the week. But this final day with a new poem is when they get to add it to their poetry folders. This is the easiest and most effective in small groups, but if you’re really brave, you can try it as a whole-group activity. (But, I definitely don’t recommend this!) Each student gets a black and white version of the poem. (It looks just like the poetry card.) We read the poem together, and I take advantage of the small-group setting one last time to reinforce whatever skills that group of kids is working on. Then they get to color the page (if they want to), and we add it to their poetry folder. The best part of this activity is that they get to take their folders home and “read” their poems to their families! When they bring their folders back, they go into a poetry folder box, and the kids can get them out during centers or transition times.

So, there you have it! That’s my standard routine with poetry. This particular poem gives me a little extra though because it’s a counting poem. So, I also get to use it some during math time. We can use the apples from the pocket chart for all kinds of counting and sequencing activities. (Need apple mini-erasers? You can get the ones I have HERE!)

Ten Little Apples | Using Poetry in Preschool

You can easily make all of these things on your own to use “Ten Little Apples” in your own classroom, but I’ve made it super easy for you! You can get my Ten Little Apples Poetry Pack in my store. It’s part of my apple-themed shared reading set. All you’ll have to do is print, laminate, and cut and it will be ready to use!

Do you need some fun circle time games to use along with this poem during your apple theme? My set of Apples Circle Time Games That Teach™️ cover letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and more. You can read about how I use them HERE.


How do you use poetry in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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