Jump to Navigation



Distinguished Author & Artist Award, 2014

First Place Award, Great American Song Contest, 2014

Second Place Winner for Poetry

Many Honorary Mentions

Beyond Words: The Power of Stories, Songs and Poems

Teaching and Learning Without Pressure

Stories and songs are natural teachers and create natural paths to literacy.

Stir a child’s imagination with stories, songs, and poems, and you feed the roots of learning. Once memorized, a single sentence from a piece of prose, a song, or a poem, creates a model for many hundreds of sentences to come.

Max Tell performing for a group of preschoolers

The linguistic significance of these models looks deceptively simple, but every sentence or stanza, no matter how short, is packed with grammatical and syntactic models. Let’s take a closer look at one simple stanza from my song, Bug in My Hand:

There’s a bug in my hand, 

And it climbed on my nose,

And it played a bass drum,

Bum, bum, bum, bum.

Here are a few of the grammatical (syntactic) structures in this one short stanza.

  • there’s: non-referential ‘there’ and subject -predicate agreement
  • a bug: noun phrase with singular indefinite article ‘a’
  • in my hand: prepositional phrase, including possessive ‘my’
  • and: coordinating conjunction it: referential pronoun in place of the noun
  • ‘bug’ on my nose: prepositional phrase with
  • parallel structure to first prepositional
  • phrase a bass drum: noun phrase with
  • adjective-noun combination

These are only a few of the syntactical structures that have been used to build this simple stanza. Memorized in a state of play, every one of the patterns illustrated above and those not mentioned become models for linguistic development and literacy in the future.

What a wonderful tool, especially when working with reluctant learners.

Reluctant learners are afraid, moody, and often angry. So as not to fail, they don’t try. They play every trick in the book, from daydreaming and disrupting class to acting out. Eventually, if not helped, they may turn into problem kids.

But what if a teacher could turn these reluctant learners around? What if a teacher could teach these reluctant learners without them knowing they were being taught?

Stories, songs, and poems are the key. And they not only work for reluctant learners. They also help to reinforce proper syntax in the minds of even the best of students.

I often talk to educators about ‘giving the gift’. Excite young people to the wonders of stories, songs, and poems and you will be giving everyone of them a ‘gift’, the ‘gift’ of literacy, a ‘gift’ that lasts a lifetime.


Main menu 2

Page | by Dr. Radut