Literacy Activities with The Itsy Bitsy Spider in Preschool: Teaching Comprehension

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Sharing the same poem or song with children over several days provides students with numerous opportunities to develop language arts skills. After all, repetition and learning by rote is key to obtaining information at such a young age. Copy the words to The Itsy Bitsy Spider onto a large piece of chart paper or write each line on a sentence strip and display it in a pocket chart, so that you will have it to use for these activities.


Here are a few easy ways to develop comprehension skills while singing and reading The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

  • Discuss the song and what happened to the spider_._ You may find that many children can sing all the words and do all of the hand motions, but are unclear about what is actually going on in the song. They may not be able to picture what a water spout looks like or what it is. Show them some pictures of water spouts and talk about what they are to help them gain a clearer understanding of the song.

  • If you use a felt board, you can very easily act out the song by making a spider, a water spout, rain and the sun.

  • Have the children practice their sequencing skills, but placing pictures representing the events in the song in the correct order.

  • Make a small book for each child with each line of the song written on a separate page. Then let the students illustrate the books.

Phonological Awareness

Get your preschoolers on the road to reading success by helping them develop strong phonological awareness skills. Try these phonological awareness activities after reading and singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

  • To practice rhyming, have the children sit in a circle. Then choose a word from the song, like out or rain. Say the word and toss a small spider stuffed animal to one child. He should call out a word that rhymes with your word and toss the spider back to you. Then repeat the rhyming words, out and spout. Toss the spider to another child, say the same word again and have that child think of a different rhyming word and return the spider. Continue playing with the same word until the children can’t think of any more rhymes. Then switch to a new word.

  • To prepare for this beginning sounds activity, use clip art or magazines to find pictures of things that start with either the ’s’ sound or the ‘r’ sound. Cut the pictures out and glue each one to an index card. Then divide a large piece of chart paper into two sections. Draw a picture of rain at the top of one and a picture of the sun at the top of the other. Show the children the pictures one at a time and ask them to decide if each picture starts the same way as rain or sun. Tape the pictures in the correct column. For whole class participation, give each child two crafts sticks, one with a picture of rain glued to the top and the other with sun. Then each child can hold up the stick with the same beginning sound as the picture and you can quickly identify which children are struggling and which ones have mastered the concept.

  • Give each child three snap cubes or colored disk counters. Then choose 10-12 words from the song. Say one of the words. Then have the children say it with you, pushing a counter forward for each syllable. So for spider, each child would move two counters, one for “spi” and one for “der.” You could also just clap out the syllables.

Sight Word Recognition

Songs and poems are a great way to introduce children to some common sight words. Use these activities to help your preschoolers learn or review high frequency words.

  • Choose 3-4 high frequency words from the song. The, and, up and out are all used more than once in The Itsy Bitsy Spider, so they are good choices, but if they are too easy you might use went, down or again. Write each word on an index card. Show the words to the children one at a time, reading each word and then saying the letters. Keep the words displayed all week, either on your word wall or somewhere else where they are visible to the students, so that you can use them with other sight word activities.

  • Have the children find the words on your chart of the song and use highlighter tape or Wikki Stix to identify them. Then give each child his own copy of the song and have him circle the high frequency words (if you have an advanced class).

  • Practice writing the words in shaving cream or on cookie trays filled with salt.

  • Use magnetic letters or plastic letter tiles to practice spelling the high frequency words.

These activities with The Itsy Bitsy Spider are a great way to turn a popular children’s song into a mini literacy unit. If you have any to share, please feel free to do so.