Finally, to help children understand the books they will encounter, reading classes—and all curricula in the primary grades—should help build their background knowledge and vocabulary in a rich variety of domains—from animals and the solar system to the ordinary workings of life, such as supermarkets and subways.


Continuing Phonemic Awareness, Letter Knowledge, and Book and Print Awareness

By first grade, many children have acquired some experience with phonemes in spoken language and with written letters, and they have a growing understanding about the uses and purposes of books and print. For children who need additional practice in these areas, some of the activities described in earlier sections of this book can be adapted with special content for first graders. Note that many of the following activities can be woven casually into daily first grade life, as children and teachers get to know each other.


In this activity, you will have the children “break apart” and “put together” the syllables of words.

  • Tell children you are going to play the Name Game. Go around the class, saying children’s names, clapping and pausing with the syllables. For example, say “Sophia.” Then say it with pauses between the syllables, “So…phi…a,” while clapping once for each syllable. Do it again and ask children to join in. Go around the classroom, clapping out the syllables to various children’s names. Count the number of claps and point out that some names get just one clap, and other names have many. Do a few children’s names each day, during whole-class time.

  • Just as important, make sure that children also can put words back together from their syllable parts. For example, say “So…phi…a,” and ask the children to put the name back together. They should say, “Sophia.”

When the children are confident and competent about the syllable-level activities, do similar activities working with phonemes, the

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