Welcome to our Kindergarten Readiness blog series, a 5-part series that covers the most important kindergarten readiness topics. This week’s topic is all about Language & Literacy Readiness for Kindergarten.
KINDERGARTEN READINESS TOPICS
Check out the other topics in this Kindergarten Readiness blog series:
- Kindergarten Readiness Overview
- Language & Literacy (You are here)
- Social Emotional
- Approaches to Learning
- Parent Readiness
You can also check out my Kindergarten Readiness eBook for a printable version of this information.
KINDERGARTEN READINESS: LANGUAGE & LITERACY
“The whole world opened up to me when I learned to read.” -Mary McLeod Bethune
As preschool parents & teachers, we know that setting the foundation for early literacy skills NOW will help prepare our little ones for success in reading when they get to kindergarten.
But in order to determine which skills our little ones need at the beginning of kindergarten, we first need to look at which skills they need when they leave pre-k.
Check out this post to see all of the goals little ones should accomplish before leaving pre-k.
There are many Language & Literacy goals for our pre-k students, but they can be grouped into 5 main categories:
- Oral Language
- Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
- Alphabetic Principle
- Book & Print Awareness
I’ll briefly explain each category and share tips for how you can work on these skills with your little one.
But before we get started, I just wanted to remind you that I’m a huge advocate of PLAY!
I’m not suggesting you use flashcards, worksheets, rote memorization, or other boring activities to work on these skills.
I believe kids learn best through hands-on, multisensory PLAYful experiences, which is what I create & sell in my shop and share about on my blog.
All of the skills we’re about to go over can be learned through play!
And one more thing..the ideas below are not an exhaustive list. These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you want more activity ideas you can use at home, check these out.
1. ORAL LANGUAGE
Oral Language is how we express knowledge, ideas, and feelings. It includes understanding spoken language and speaking clearly to communicate with others.
The pre-k exit goals related to oral language include:
- Speaks clearly to communicate ideas & feelings
- Follows 2 & 3 step directions
- Uses rich vocabulary & determines unfamiliar words using context
- Identifies characters & major events in stories
- Asks & answers questions about stories
- Identifies details & makes predictions about stories
Here are some ways you can build your preschooler’s oral language skills:
- Read aloud EVERY day! Aim for 15-20 minutes a day, although this doesn’t have to be consecutive. Reading a little bit throughout the day is great!
- Talk to them ALL the time! Narrate your day, label objects, explain experiences, etc.
- Use a variety of words when you talk with your preschooler. Try to use more complex vocabulary (such as “fleeing” instead of “running away”).
- Play listening games like Simon Says and I Spy.
- Give your preschooler a chance to talk & share their ideas to talk while you give them your undivided attention.
2. PHONOLOGICAL & PHONEMIC AWARENESS
Phonological & Phonemic Awareness are the building blocks of learning to read. Without these skills, our little ones will struggle in kindergarten. Here’s a quick review of these terms:
- Phonological Awareness: the ability to recognize and manipulate the sound properties of spoken words, including syllables, rhymes, alliteration, compound words, and phonemic awareness
- Umbrella = 3 syllables
- Cat & Mat (both end with -at)
- Check out this video for 5 tips on how to teach rhymes to your little one.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. (Lots of words start with the same sound)
- Compound Words
- Foot + Ball = Football
- Phonemic Awareness: the ability to recognize and manipulate individual phonemes in spoken words (this is a subset of phonological awareness). This is the most important skill for beginning readers.
- Blend Phonemes
- /t/ /a/ /p/ = “tap”
- Segment & Count Phonemes
- “ship” = /sh/ /i/ /p/ = 3 phonemes
- Phoneme Isolation
- What’s the beginning sound in the word “tag?” = /t/
- Phoneme Addition
- Say “peck.” Now say “peck” but add /s/ at the beginning = “speck”
- Phoneme Deletion
- Say “mat” without /m/ = “at”
- Phoneme Substitution
- Say “mash.” Now change the /m/ to /r/ = “rash”
- Blend Phonemes
Research shows that phonological and phonemic awareness are the best predictors of future reading success. This area of development can’t be skipped!
And just a reminder…phonological & phonemic awareness activities are all done ORALLY. So your little ones don’t need to have ANY knowledge of letter names to practice these activities.
The pre-k exit goals related to phonological & phonemic awareness include:
- Can differentiate between sounds that are the same & different
- Hears & shows awareness of separate words within spoken sentences
- Identifies & produces rhyming words
- Recognizes words with the same beginning sound
- Claps & counts syllables in spoken words
- Combines onset & rime to form a one-syllable word
Here are some ways you can build your preschooler’s phonological & phonemic awareness skills:
- Read aloud EVERY day (the importance of this can’t be overstated!)
- Choose stories, poems, and nursery rhymes that use rhyming words and alliteration.
- Sing silly songs with rhyming words and alliteration.
- Clap, tap, jump, or stomp one time for each syllable in a word or for each word in a sentence.
- Brainstorm silly sentences using your little one’s beginning letter sound (ex: “Silly Sally sat silently while sipping strawberry soda.”)
- Check out this video to learn more about phonological and phonemic awareness.
- Check out these phonological & phonemic awareness sound games you can play anytime with your little one (they don’t require any supplies!)
3. ALPHABETIC PRINCIPLE
The Alphabetic Principle is the idea that letters (and groups of letters) are used to represent individual phonemes in spoken words.
If you start with sounds (phonological & phonemic awareness) and then move to printed letters (alphabetic principle), your preschooler will have a MUCH better foundation for learning to read.
The pre-k exit goals related to the alphabetic principle include:
- Begins to identify and produce letter sounds
- Recognizes letters (uppercase & lowercase)
- Makes letters out of a variety of materials
- Recognizes printed name & printed name of family and friends
Here are some ways you can build your preschooler’s understanding of the alphabetic principle:
- Read aloud EVERY day (are you noticing a trend?!)
- Write letters on note cards and hide them around the room or in a sensory bin for a scavenger hunt.
- Write letters on paper and hide them in a sensory bin filled with colored rice, beans, or pasta
- Tape letters to a wall and have your little one toss a beanbag at them.
- Put letters in a circle on the ground. Play music and have your little one dance around the circle. Stop the music and have them pick up the letter closest to them and say its name/sound.
- Use props for letter searches, such as magnifying glasses or binoculars.
- Play with letter puzzles.
4. BOOK & PRINT AWARENESS
Book Awareness includes concepts such as:
- Front cover, back cover, spine, title, author
- Which way to hold a book
- Which way to turn the pages
Print Awareness is understanding that written language has a direct relationship with spoken language. It also includes the idea that print is organized in a particular way:
- It is read left to right, top to bottom
- Words consist of letters
- Spaces appear between words
The pre-k exit goals related to print awareness include:
- Holds book correctly & understands basic information (title, author, illustrator)
Here are some ways you can build your preschooler’s book & print awareness skills:
- Read aloud EVERY day (you knew I was going to say that right?)
- Hold a book upside and pretend to read and see if they correct you.
- Start reading a book from the back to front and see if they correct you.
- Point out the title, author, front cover, and back cover of each book you read.
- Have your little one point to the first word on a page.
- Ask them to find a capital letter or lowercase letter.
- Have them point to each word as you read.
- Ask them what you should do when you get to the end of a line or page.
- Check out this video to learn a quick song that teaches all about parts of a book.
I saved Handwriting for last because it’s very developmental. Some of our preschoolers have strong fine motor skills and can write all of their letters while others are still working to develop these skills.
The pre-k exit goals related to handwriting include:
- Writes own name correctly
- Uses scribbles & letters to convey meaning (from left to right)
- Forms letters starting with large motor & progressing to fine motor
Here are some ways you can build your preschooler’s fine motor & handwriting skills:
- Have them build with legos, play with play dough, use squirt bottles, use hole punchers, etc.
- Have them write letters in a sand tray with their finger before using a paper/pencil.
- When they do use paper/pencils, have them use small pencils (like golf pencils).
- When you’re working on letter formation, sit with your little one to make sure they’re forming the letters with the correct strokes and using the correct pencil grip.
- I always remind myself of the saying “practice makes permanent.” If your little one is practicing their handwriting incorrectly, then they’ll make those incorrect habits permanent, which will be MUCH harder to correct later on.
- For more handwriting tips, I recommend the resources from Handwriting Without Tears.
Now some of you might be thinking that’s A LOT of different language & literacy skills to work on with your preschooler, and maybe the overwhelm is starting to set in.
If that’s you, then I want you to just do one thing each day to prepare your child for kindergarten…read to them!
If that’s all you can manage, that’s okay! It’s the most important thing you can do and will make the biggest difference in preparing them for kindergarten.
KINDERGARTEN READINESS E-BOOK
Would you rather have this information as a PDF download so you don’t have to navigate to all the different pages on my website? Check out my Kindergarten Readiness eBook and save yourself time!
You can also watch a video overview of this eBook on my YouTube channel.
If these language & literacy kindergarten readiness tips are helpful to you, let me know! You can comment below or find me on Instagram (@littleslovelearningblog).
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