Teaching foundational skills for word recognition in Kindergarten

The Simple of View of Reading clearly shows that students must develop both oral language comprehension and word recognition skills as the foundation for successful reading comprehension.

The play-based Kindergarten curriculum provides excellent opportunities for the development of oral language skills through activities such as 'read-alouds' and collaborative play activities.

However, teachers and administrators frequently ask "What literacy instruction is appropriate for children in Kindergarten to develop foundational skills for word reading?"

There is strong evidence to support the following recommendations for instruction in the Kindergarten classroom. This instruction is age-appropriate and key to  the development of foundational literacy skills:

  1. Phonological awareness (PA) instruction should occur in Kindergarten. These are typically oral exercises; however, PA instruction can and should progress to the use of letter manipulatives. Research has shown that phoneme manipulation with letters helped readers acquire PA better than PA instruction without letters.
  2. Phonics instruction, including letter-sound correspondences and word reading, should also occur in Kindergarten, concurrently with phonological awareness instruction. Often this is done effectively with 'code-packs'.
  3. Word reading, in the early stages including Kindergarten, should be taught through systematic, explicit instruction of left-to-right grapheme to phoneme mapping and blending (synthetic phonics), based on the letter-sounds that have been taught.
  4. Students can also start to spell simple words (e.g. <bat>, <sit>), based on the letter-sounds that have been taught.
  5. Teachers should be on the look-out for students who are struggling with any of the foundational concepts and, if necessary, modify the instruction.

IDA Ontario has created a document that highlights the major reviews and reports that support these recommendations - click here to read the document

Additionally, we have received questions and sought clarification from Dr. David Kilpatrick regarding the role and timing of explicit instruction in letter-sound correspondence in his program Equipped for Reading Success.  He writes:

"The systematic, explicit teaching of letter-sound correspondence should occur in kindergarten along with instruction in phonological awareness. Evidence supports teaching letter-sound knowledge explicitly and systematically over approaches based on inferential discovery (exposure) or incidental instruction (as needed)."    Read his full statement here.

Also, check out Emily Moorhead's three video series "Implementing Structured Literacy in the Kindergarten classroom"!