This is a lesson plan based on the popular children's song Heads, shoulders, knees and toes which is aimed at pre-readers under six years' old.

Photo of children sinnging,   ideally in a classroom.

Source: JGI/Jamie Grill, Blend

Introduce and practise the vocabulary

  1. Say ‘head’ clearly pointing to your head and get children to repeat. Do same for all the body parts in the song. Repeat a number of times.
    Without pointing, say word clearly and encourage children to point to the appropriate part of their body.
  2. Check meaning: Point to your head and say ‘shoulders’ and ask ‘yes or no?’ Do the same for other parts, sometimes being correct and sometimes not.
    Point to a part of the body and encourage children to say the word.
  3. Go through the song slowly with the movements, first modelling for children to see what they need to do and then encouraging children to join in. Pick up the speed of the song as children become more confident.
  4. Play a game based on the key vocabulary like this – it includes basic colour vocabulary that children should already know:
  • Ensure children have coloured pens or pencils and an uncoloured picture of a person.
  • Model the activity, so children know what they have to do. Say, ‘the mouth is blue’ and hold up the picture and colour the mouth blue.
  • Play the game by giving similar instructions.
  • Give the children plenty of time to find the right picture, the right colour and do the colouring.
  • If the children are confident, encourage them to give you or their classmates similar instructions.

5. Sing the song again at the end of the lesson.

6. Begin the next lesson with a check of the vocabulary and sing the song again. Children will enjoy singing a song they already know, but do not assume they will all remember the song and the vocabulary. Young children learn quickly and forget quickly if they don’t practise.

After singing the song, the following activities can be added to the lesson:

Activity 1

Show pictures of the parts of the body with the words clearly written beneath. Say the words while pointing to the words. Give out pictures of the parts of the body and separate pieces of paper with the words on which children must match. This can be done in groups of two or three. If the group is bigger some children may not actually participate and be left out.

Activity 2

Ask the children to draw a person (themselves or maybe you!) and to label the body with the words they have learnt. They may know some other parts of the body that they can add – you may have to help with spelling.

Activity 3

Divide the class into teams – ideally nine members in each team. Choose a confident and outgoing child from each team to stand or sit at the front of the class and be THE BODY. Other members of the team each get a sticker with a word of a part of the body written on it. Each team stands behind a line away from the front of the class. One at a time a team member has to run to the front and put the sticker on the appropriate part of THE BODY. It is a race and the first team to correctly label their BODY are the winners. If the children know other parts of the body, you can also use these words – it can get very funny if they know the word ‘bottom’.

Activity 4

Another good way to practise the vocabulary is to do a picture dictation. E.g. teacher says: this is a monster. He has two heads and four eyes, etc. Children have to draw the monster according to the teacher’s description. Ensure you use only vocabulary the children have come across before – this can include numbers, colours, sizes and shapes e.g. The monster has four, small, blue, triangular ears.

Activity 5

Children with a larger vocabulary for parts of the body can be encouraged to write a new verse for the song and then perform them to each other using the correct actions.

It isn’t necessary to pre-teach all the language individually as long as you model each activity and ensure the children are doing the appropriate actions for each part of the song.


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