In kindergarten, it is especially appropriate for instruction to be based in play activities. By singing songs and acting out stories and situations, children develop language skills, narrative abilities, and a comfort with using symbols, that is, the idea that one thing can “stand for” something else. These are key for learning to read. We describe a range of activities that teachers can use in their classrooms. Many of them incorporate play-based instruction.
To become successful readers, children must understand how books and print work. They should know the parts of a book and their functions and that the print on the page represents the words that can be read aloud. By kindergarten, they can begin to distinguish various forms and purposes of print, from personal letters and signs to storybooks and essays.
Do dictation activities to help kindergartners understand that any thing spoken can be written. You can turn this into a major bookmaking project, collecting oral stories that children dictate, illustrate, and share with one another. And you can do frequent short dictations, writing down children’s captions or titles for their artwork, or writing their shopping lists for pretend play. As part of these activities, help children notice various aspects of how print works: text is read from left to right and top to bottom; words are separated by spaces; the end of a line is not always the end of a thought.
During the preschool years, most children spontaneously acquire some degree of ability to think about the sounds of spoken words, independent of their meanings: phonological awareness. In kindergarten, it is especially important to strengthen this initial insight, and especially to help children develop an awareness of the smallest meaningful units or phonemes that make up spoken words (a skill that is termed ”phonemic awareness”). This is a crucial step toward understanding the alphabetic principle (that phonemes are what letters stand for) and, ultimately, toward learning to read.