Pre-Literacy Skills Every Child Should Have (not a single flashcard in sight!)

There is wonderful research that looks at what kind of “early literacy” learning is important AND developmentally appropriate. We get asked about this frequently and it’s certainly understandable….there is a great deal of pressure on kids and their parents to “be prepared” for the academic expectations in Kindergarten.

That preparedness needs to come in ways that are contextual, relatable and, most importantly, joyful. We are constantly aware of opportunities to notice the many and varied uses of words, offer vocabulary where it is still lacking and demonstrate our own enjoyment of language and written word. There is wonderful research being done on what practices will give a developmentally appropriate experience without simply trying to push down elementary curriculum. Here they are as they are practiced at our school. I have also attached a link to the publication in its entirety.

PRINT MOTIVATION  We have books available to kids in obvious and not so obvious places. There are baskets of books outside by a bench under an umbrella. There are books near the bathroom. There is a teacher whose role it is to take story dictation every day. Writing children’s words and ideas both honors their creativity and demonstrates language permanence and the power of the written word.

PRINT AWARENESS  There is rarely a time when you can’t find a teacher reading with one or two kids, or one or two kids reading with and to each other. Things are labeled, kids have portfolios with their name and photo on it, they use “save cards” with their name and photo to reserve a game or material they are in the middle of using if they are called away, they have their own labels so they can self-help when they want to put their name on a painting, they go to the library weekly to refresh the school’s book selection or to search for books on a specific subject of interest. There is a writing table with proper equipment and materials as well as reference cards with common words and phrases to copy.

LETTER KNOWLEDGE & VOCABULARY  RTG teachers use a great deal of narrative language in their day to day. Rather that giving a lot of directions they notice, out loud, what is happening – what needs to happen next – what a problem or conflict looks like to them – etc. Not only does this parallel style of speaking invite children into a collaborative rather than adversarial relationship, it provides a vocabulary to express ideas, problems and feelings. It imparts confidence and competence. When there is a rich conversation there is an organic expansion of vocabulary. Later, noticing new words in context in the greater environment reinforces that growth.

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS  Children are naturally interested in practicing what they’ve discovered. Using rhymes and songs to play with words is a fun way to experiment with sounds of all kinds. We frequently sing name songs and other silly variation songs that allow for the exploration of different word combinations and modifications.

NARRATIVE SKILLS  When RTG kids dictate their stories to a teacher, they can look forward to it being read to the whole group later in the morning. Sometimes they decide to cast their friends to ‘act out’ parts of the story as its being read, or paint an illustration or scene to enhance it. Other times the story becomes a song or is added to the next day. As they become more proficient and sophisticated with storytelling, kids will collaborate with a friend or two to create an elaborate and detailed narrative together. There is often a chapter book that is part of the reading experience. Chapter books lend themselves to many different forms of consideration. Recalling what happened in the story the day before, suggesting what may happen next or what might happen if a detail of the story was changed. Discussing characters thoughts and motivations can be a wonderful opportunity for older kids to talk about things that they are becoming more aware of within themselves.

Here, with much gratitude, is a link to the Colorado LEC.!about3/cgn5

About Kris Taylor

I am the very fortunate director of two small, mixed-age preschools that are finding their unique paths by interpreting and incorporating the best of the progressive, constructivist early childhood philosophies. I never forget that the community of teachers, families and children are what makes it the amazing place that it is. Each day is another precious opportunity to practice and perfect valuing, respecting and loving one another; creating and exploring community; and having immeasurable fun in the process.
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