Students Learn Left and Right with a Twist

By Laurie Patsalides

Here students will learn the reason that they need to learn their left from right. They will also sing and dance to the popular children's song, The Hokey Pokey. Then, they will learn The Hokey Pokey with a twist, The Reader's Hokey Pokey to learn directionality when reading and writing.

Teaching Left and Right

Young students need to learn left from right and often struggle with the concept. Start by teaching the students some reasons why they need to know their left from right:

  • Directions- to turn left or right; to follow directions (for example, place the jar on the left side of the shelf). Brainstorm reasons this might be important (during a fire drill; when someone is driving; using arrows on a computer; to know how to use a computer mouse (left-click vs. right-click); lining up in the cafeteria)

  • Directionality- it is how we read and write. When we read and write, we read or write from left to right.

  • Dressing- when we are putting shoes and gloves on the correct foot or hand.

  • Knowing our handedness- if I write with my right hand, then I am called right-handed; if I write with my left hand, then I am called left-handed.

  • Pledge of Allegiance- we place our right hand over our heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • To describe a body part to someone- for example, if my left ear hurts, then I would want the doctor to know it is my left ear.

  • To learn to how march properly and in sync with a group.L is for Left 

Next, show the students their left and right hands. Show them that their thumbs meet. Teach them a trick to remember left from right. When their thumbs meet, the "L" is always on the left. The backwards "L" is always the right hand.

Teaching with a Song

I use both the well known song, The Hokey Pokey and The Reader's Hokey Pokey to teach left and right and directionality in reading and writing. Most children have played The Hokey Pokey before reaching Kindergarten, but it is a great song to practice left and right.

To make sure that the students are using the correct hand during the song, I put a sticker on their left hand to remind them where their left side is. After playing The Hokey Pokey, I play The Reader's Hokey Pokey, by Georgiana Stewart. This is a novel and brilliant song, written to the same tune of The Hokey Pokey, but the lyrics are for reading:

When I read a book, I start from left to right. (pretend to read)

I do the same thing when I want to write. (pretend to write)

I do the reader wiggle and I turn myself about. (wiggle and turn)

That's how I read and write. (clap)

I do the reader wiggle. (repeat three times)

That's how I read and write. (clap)

Before and after the song, show the students the directionality that the song teaches by using a book. Also, print the words on chart paper and use a magic wand to show reading from left to right and return sweep (concepts of print). Students enjoy pretending to read and write from left to write while singing the song.

This is a great song to perform as a Kindergarten graduation song. By the end of the school year, students will be reading and writing independently, so it is a lot of fun for them. Add photos of the lesson to the graduation slide show.

CD Reference, Georgiana Stewart


To formally assess the students' understanding of left and right, or to give them more practice, use a worksheet on left and right available in the Bright Hub Media Gallery. The last question is a bonus if they get both answers right!

Reference and Resources

This information is provided from Laurie Patsalides' teaching experience with younger children. Get more techniques for teaching reading by Laurie Patsalides.