Early Literacy Storytime: When They Woke Up

Young children enjoy learning all the sounds that animals make, don’t they? We make a lot of animal noises in baby storytime, that’s for sure. One thing I like to tell the parents is that when we talk about what animals say, we’re not really teaching children what real animals sound like (Pigs don’t often say “Oink” quite as delicately as we do, for instance, and cows don’t really enunciate that “M” at the beginning of “Moo” very well). Instead, one of the things children are learning is what PEOPLE sound like. (Roosters and pigs say quite different things in different languages, have you noticed?) So playing games with animal sounds is a great way for young children to have fun while soaking up the specific individual sounds and combinations of sounds in their language.

Here’s a game I learned from my colleague Betsy, who brought it to one of our literacy activity brainstorming sessions. I don’t know where she came across it, but when I went online to look for it, I found it here.

We call it “When They Woke Up.” Tell the children you have a magic wand (or magic glitter, or just plain old magic that doesn’t need a prop!) and with your magic you can turn them into different animals. Tell them to curl up and pretend to go to sleep. Then wave your wand or just say the following chant:

Sleeping, sleeping,
All the children were sleeping.
And when they woke up they were…


Wake up, cats! Stretch like a cat! What do you say? Meow!

Do this little activity several times. Each time, give them a new animal, and a few easy prompts for acting each out: shaking your mane to be a horse, stomping your feet to be an elephant, etc. Be sure to have them make good animal noises, too! Then, when you’ve played this game a few times, tell the parents something like this:

Grownups, when you say animal sounds with your children, what your children are really learning are the sounds WE say in our language! This will help them become good readers because they’ll need to hear all those sounds in order to “take apart” words and sound them out when they read. Playing with your children will help them get ready to read!

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6 Responses to Early Literacy Storytime: When They Woke Up

  1. Rick says:

    I just shared a fingerplay on our library’s blog and noted how certain animal sounds can be found in words we regularly use: http://kids.wccls.org/2013/02/fingerplay-fun-friday_15.html

    The cow’s “moo” is part of the word “move”
    The sheep’s “baa” is part of the word “back”
    The snake’s “sss” is part of the word “sit”

    Coincidence? 🙂

  2. Melissa says:

    Excellent! This is exactly what I mean, and a very clear way of presenting it for the parents. Thank you!

  3. Erin says:

    I can see my storytime kids really enjoying the When They Woke Up game! Not only is it a great excuse to make animal sounds, but it also gives them the chance to think critically about different animal behaviors! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Melissa says:

    Thanks Erin, I loved it as soon as I heard it too. There’s actually a lot of language skill building you can do with this, isn’t there? Practice answering open ended questions (What would you do if you were a mouse?) and new vocabulary (A bat is nocturnal and sleeps during the day) are two others that come right to mind.

  5. Anna says:

    Yes! That’s one of my favorite ST activities! I love to do weather and other things besides animals too–A tree blowing in the wind, big strong houses, robots etc. Love it!

  6. Melissa says:

    Awesome ideas! Thanks for pointing us beyond those animals! Where did you learn it?

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