Rhyme and rhythm help children to predict text and poems for children are usually 'bite-sized' and fun... and therefore very appealing! Reading poetry can be a great way for children to 'really read' without them realising that they are doing it… but to get the best out of it we need to recognise that poetry is best performed.

So here are some activities that you can use one-to-one with children. Activities that shouldn't feel like you are 'putting on a performance' but just that you are having fun!


Rhythm is such an important element in many children's poems... and we can use it 'on its own' as a great way of getting started.

Sound out a simple beat and ask the child to repeat it back to you... clap clap stamp stamp. 

And now... clap clap stamp stamp clap clap 'thrrrp'

And now…  I am going to clap out a simple beat, and on the fifth beat you shout out a word that rhymes with ‘bat’…

And now… let’s read [a short, rhyming poem].


Some poems are just made for sharing... reading poems written for two voices can help children improve their fluency in reading aloud.

Look out for books of poems written especially for two voices… or just for poems that lend themselves to shared reading. 

Let’s read [a suitable poem for two voices] together. 


And some poems are just crying out to have sound effects added... 

Read out [e.g. Werewolf Granny by Roger Stevens.]  Whenever you hear a 'sound' word (the first one is 'chimes'), have ago at making the appropriate noise. 


Or to have gestures or actions performed. 

Do you feel brave enough to perform some appropriate actions as I read out [e.g. Dracula by Gez Walsh]? 

So, what else helps? 

Hopefully you'll have picked up a few thoughts that you can use or adapt for the children you work with…. You don’t need to spend ages preparing - it only took me a few minutes with a couple of anthologies I took off the shelf in the library to find examples to work with.

And of course there’s plenty of material online: 

Children's Poetry Archive 

Poetry Zone

Try to: 

  • Match children up with poems based on their personal interests
  • Pick poems for occasions
  • Do it regularly - do one little poem every day
  • Have a poetry race - see which of you can perform a tongue twister accurately the quickest!
  • When talking about a poem, only ask questions that you don't know the answer to either!

Try this traditional folk tongue twister about two fellows called Ned Nott and Sam Shott:

Ned Nott was shot and Sam Shott was not.

So it is better to be Shott than Nott.

Some say Nott was not shot.

But Shott says he shot Nott.

Either the shot Shott shot at Nott was not shot,

Or Nott was shot.

If the shot Shott shot shot Nott, Nott was shot.

But if the shot Shott shot shot Shott,

Then Shott was shot, not Nott.

However, the shot Shott shot shot not Shott, but Nott.

So ask yourself - who got shot and who did not?

Want to read this elsewhere? You can download this in PDF format. 

If you have any more great tips on how to engage reluctant and struggling readers, then speak to us as we'd love to hear them. Or why not put your tips into action by becoming a Coram Beanstalk reading helper