Early Literacy Storytime: Song Cube

Early Literacy Storytime: Song Cube

Phonological Awareness isn’t the only early literacy skill that can tie in with singing songs! Here’s a way to work in a little print awareness while you sing. When you add a comment to the parents, it will help them understand the connection between labeling objects and early literacy skills.

I worked out a design for a Song Cube made out of a square tissue box, clip art, and book tape, and my friend and colleague Virginia put it together! Inspiration for this idea came from Andrea’s Song Spinner and the “Storytime 911 Shuffle Mix” at Storytiming. Thanks ladies!

Use an empty tissue box and stuff it with newspaper, or go ahead and use a full one. Either way the box will be sturdier filled than empty. Find clip art that represents simple, familiar songs, and print it out with a short word that goes along with. On my box, I have these words and images:

spider = a spider for “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
star = a star for “Twinkle Twinkle”
bus = a schoolbus for “Wheels on the Bus”
sheep = a black sheep for “Baa Baa Black Sheep”
boat = a rowboat for “Row Row Row Your Boat”
hands = two hands for “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Then in storytime, tell the kids it’s time to sing a song, but you don’t know which one! Show them the Song Cube, and show them that there is a picture on each side that stands for a song. Look on each side, showing the picture, pointing to the word as you read it, and saying what song it represents. Then tell the kids you’re going to roll the cube on the floor, and whatever song is on top is the song you will sing! Go ahead and roll the cube, but wait to see if the children can tell you which song is facing up. Most of them will make the connection with the picture, of course–that’s developmentally appropriate and exactly what we expect.

When you respond, though, make sure to point to the word again, to draw their attention to the print as well as the picture. For instance, say, “Yes! You’re right, we’re going to sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle!’ Look, here’s the picture of the star, and here’s the word ‘star.'”

Then sing the song together! You can do this a few times in a row. Before you move on to your next activity, tell the grown-ups, “When you make labels for things at home, your child learns that the squiggles on the labels stand for words they hear and recognize. Making that connection between spoken language and written language is a first step to reading.”

Ed 7/9/12: I *knew* I didn’t invent this idea, but had no idea where I picked it up. I still don’t where I saw it first, but I came across it today on this neat list of ideas on Storytime Songs.

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20 Responses to Early Literacy Storytime: Song Cube

  1. sharon says:

    They talked about doing something similar at the PLA 2012 Autism story time program. Great idea!

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh wow, so easy! And so much fun too. Definitely going to use this idea. Your blog keeps me in story time ideas for the entire year. Thanks for the thoughtful posts.

  3. Melissa says:

    Yay! Thanks ladies! And you’re welcome!

  4. cate says:

    Awesome idea Mel! You’ve been writing so much awesome stuff lately. I need to get back in the swing of things myself.

  5. Kirby says:

    Great idea! What a fun twist on sharing traditional standards that everyone knows. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Leah says:

    I’m putting this together for my next week Storytime. Great idea!

  7. Melissa says:

    Thank you!

  8. Melissa M. says:

    I love this, my mom uses a poetry cube in her kindergarten classroom, but I never thought of making one for songs. It will add so much fun to my story time while simplifying things at the same time! Thank you so much.

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  10. Kary Henry says:

    When I was teaching 5th grade, my students used to make a Story Cube for their book projects! I’m going to use this with my Preschool storytimes now; thanks!

  11. Melissa says:

    Have fun!

  12. Would you use this every storytime as an activity in your storytime routine or every now and again in place of a flannel?…


  13. Melissa says:

    Good question! I guess I could see it working either way! If you do sessions for your storytimes you could do it every week during one session of the year, and do something else every week in another session. Or you could bring it out once every couple weeks when you have a theme tie-in to one of the songs…say it was Things That Go week, you could show the bus side, sing the Wheels on the Bus song, and then say, “Let’s sing another song, I’ll roll it to find out which one!” Or it could be your my-kids-are-super-wiggly-and-we-need-a-distraction thing to pull out when you need to try to re-focus your group. Or you could roll it every week to decide your closing song. I first envisioned this as a once-in-awhile activity when you wanted to highlight singing or print awareness to the parents, but I don’t think that’s the only way to make it work. Let us know what you try!

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  17. Awnali says:

    Mel, wanted to let you know that I did a blog post about making a song cube following your directions. Thanks so much! This will be fantastic in story time.

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  20. Barb says:

    I also use a story cube in storytime but instead of a kleenex box I used a plastic photo cube that you can buy at most stores. (I got mine at Walmart).

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