TRC Read to Kids

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Say it again: the benefits of repetition

Anyone who has worked with young children has probably experienced firsthand the ability of kids to do the same thing over and over...and over...and over again. For hours. But while this may be frustrating for older minds that like to finish one thing and move on to the next, remind yourself that repetition is a valuable teaching tool for young kids. By repeating phrases or stories over and over again, kids learn about patterns and prediction, both of which are valuable skills when learning to read.

Rhyme and repetition, which stick naturally in a reader's brain, do something incredible: they empower the reader. For a child learning to read and to appreciate books, being able to guess what comes next is a wonderful feeling.

A classic example of this is the story of Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling and ran around telling everyone he met. The phrase, "the sky is falling!" is repeated throughout the story--giving readers a chance to shout it out and a reason to build up the level of excitement over the course of the book! This story also gives a great example of how rhyming can function to make a story sillier and more entertaining: traditionally, the characters Chicken Little meets in the story have names like Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, Ducky Lucky and Foxy Woxy. 

Many folktales share these characteristics along with their repetitive structures. Some other great examples of folktales with repetitive structures and refrains are The Little Red Hen, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs.

Another great use of structural repetition can be found in cumulative tales. These stories follow the structure of There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. On each consecutive page, another element is added to the story and the whole group is reviewed in the order they were added. Then, at the climax, one last addition joins the group which tips the balance and it all unravels. Luckily for the young reader, the group comes apart in the same order it got put together, so she'll know what's coming next, which is a great feeling.

Another great story with repeated phrases is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Think:

"And he was..."
"Still hungry! How did he get so hungry?"

You can use repetition in activities, as well--one fun game is, "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing..." where you go around in a circle and each child has to remember all the things that were added to the picnic basket and then add something of his or her own. This game can be played with food, but there are endless variations, and you can split the kids in to groups so that the circle doesn't get too big, making it a little easier for younger children. 

Rhyme often occurs side-by-side with repetition--and both are great tools for developing memory skills--but rhyming poetry or songs are just as fun on their own.  Prepare for a Read-Aloud that focuses on repetition or rhyme with a round of "Boom Chicka Boom":

I said a boom chicka boom (echo)
I said a boom chicka boom (echo)
I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom (echo)
Uh huh (echo)

Oh yeah (echo)
One more time (echo)
___________ style (echo) 

Fill in the blank with the style the next round will be in: whispering, opera, with British accents--anything you want.  And you never know, by the end, the kids could be begging to do it all over again.

Post by The Reading Connection intern Anna McCormally.

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