Learning to Read and Write

In the Kindergarten classroom, our approach to reading and writing development emphasizes oral language through storytelling, drawing and illustration skills, writing, and a love and appreciation of literature from a variety of genres and cultures. This is combined with more skill-based activities designed to help children make sense of the world of letters, sounds, and words. Children learn to read through their writing and to write through their reading; we know from research and experience that the two are connected. Through their individual work, children show teachers their mastery and what instructional steps need to follow.

Learn to ReadLearning to Read:

Our approach to teaching reading consists of research-based activities that are designed to help children build the skills they need to become fluent, confident, enthusiastic readers. Sometimes teachers implement these activities as “Literacy Stations” during Center Time, and sometimes we may have a separate block of time called “Reading Workshop.” The decision depends on the needs and behaviors of the children, goals at different times of the year, scheduling, and teaching styles.

  • During Shared Reading, teachers lead the class in reading large-print songs, poems, and big books that help children notice aspects of print and develop an expressive “reader’s voice.” These lessons stress three components: decoding (sounding out words based on letter sound knowledge), fluency (reading or rereading expressively, smoothly, and with appropriate speed), and comprehension (understanding and making meaning of the text).
  • During phonics lessons, we will be using a curriculum called Fundations to help children learn about letter features, letter-sound relationships, rhyming words, syllables, sight vocabulary (words that children can read without having to “sound out”), word parts (e.g. –at words such as cat, mat, hat), and many other topics. Lessons are taught in a sequential pattern that builds upon children’s prior knowledge and leads to reading success. Teachers frequently teach these skills during Morning Meeting (when we read the morning message), Shared Reading, and Writing Workshop so that they are an authentic part of children’s natural classroom work.
  • During Centers, children work in small groups to explore content. During this time, teachers conference with students and demonstrate how to incorporate literacy into their experiences. For example, students working in the Block Area making a structure might be asked to describe what they are making and encouraged to draw and write about it. Students playing Kitchen the in the Dramatic Play Center, could be prompted to write menus, labels and signs. The focus of Center Time is creativity; children explore, experiment, read, dance, observe, build, create, and act—and they play! Play is truly the work of young children, and teachers plan the centers carefully to connect to social and academic curriculum themes, as well as student interests. The Dramatic Play Center might become a restaurant, hospital, pet store, owl nest, beach, or woodland. The Art Studio invites children to reuse recyclable materials such as cotton balls and bottle caps to create “Beautiful Stuff” masterpieces. The Sensory Table tempts children with a variety of substances throughout the year such as soft pompoms, sand, water, shaving cream, and seeds. The Block Area hosts the cooperative construction of elaborate structures that become sites for dramatic play over the course of the week. Rotating materials related to each unit keep Center Time fresh and interesting and ensure that every child has multiple places to visit that they find challenging. Center Time also honors children’s decision-making and encourages their independence since they must budget their own time within a morning or a throughout a week.
  • Teachers carefully select Read Aloud literature to reflect curriculum themes and children’s interests, as well as to expose children to ideas, genres, cultures, etc. that will broaden their thinking. We read time-honored classics, fairy and folk tales, poetry, non-fiction, and many other types of books. Also, author/genre studies (e.g. Eric Carle’s books or multiple versions of the 3 Little Pigs) throughout the year teach children about different ways that people write or illustrate stories on many topics of interest to students.
  • By late February (following vacation), teachers begin Guided Reading instruction with all senior kindergartners. Guided Reading instruction is not part of the JK learning expectations, but may take place as appropriate, based on student interest and skills, in combined JK/K classrooms. Teachers work with small groups of children who are at the same reading level during Center Time. Reading instruction consists of a teacher-led introduction to the book, children reading the book individually with the teacher observing and helping to problem-solve, and a follow-up discussion (about 10-20 minutes per group).
Writer's Workshop:
Our Writing curriculum is based on Martha Horn’s and Mary Ellen Giacobbe’s book Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers and consists of multiple activities designed to help children build the skills they need to become expressive, confident, eager writers.
  • Handwriting— In Junior Kindergarten in Lorna’s room, a program called Handwriting Without Tears is used that teaches how to form letters and numbers with proper grip and with improved efficiency and consistency. In Justin, Diane and Liz’s rooms, handwriting is learned in conjunction with the Fundations curriculum. In combination with learning letter formation, children practice letter sounds and writing new words. Handwriting is frequently taught within Morning Meeting or Center Time and utilizes play-doh, chalkboards, and dry erase boards, as well as markers and pencils.
  • During Writing Workshop, Kindergarteners start by telling oral stories about what they know best- themselves. Storytelling and Storyacting is a yearlong focus. We select books to read that will help us connect with mentor authors who tell stories based on their own life experiences; this includes both adult authors, like Donald Crews, and child authors—kindergartners from former classes. Teachers and children tell stories orally and act them out. We focus on aspects of what makes a good story—such as beginning, middle, and end; identifying characters; adding details, developing plot, etc. We also differentiate between “true stories” (personal narratives) and “fictional stories” (fantasy).
  • During Sketching and Drawing Lessons, we explore line, shape, color, perspective, backgrounds, etc. and give specific lessons on how to draw people and objects step-by-step. We build children’s confidence and enjoyment of observation and illustration techniques and learn from mentor illustrators whose styles are interesting and recognizable. Illustration is a valued and celebrated part of our writing curriculum. Pictures are children’s first method of recording a story, and children’s’ Drawing and Writing Books are their first classroom experiences with “writing.”
Over time, children develop their storytelling, handwriting, and drawing skills. Children also learn much about how letters make words and words make sentences from shared reading, interactive writing activities (e.g. making signs for the classroom), and skills they practice in Center Time. Teachers meet with individual or small groups of children to assist in the process. By January, we add a new format—booklets—for recording our stories “that have lots of parts.” (Drawing and Writing Books remain a choice for the whole year.) This is a very exciting time for our writing community! As children amass a body of writing, reflecting on their work and selecting a piece to publish in a beautiful format becomes a highlight of their school year.