I love talking about teaching literacy. In fact, I love it so much that I minored in literacy in college. I talk to lots of moms teaching preschool at home and a lot of them want to know what children need to know before they head off to Kindergarten. This Preschool Literacy 101 post will go into the basics of teaching preschool literacy.
The Introduction Stage is all about exposing little ones to the alphabet. Here are some activities for this stage:
- Read LOTS of books. You can read alphabet books or other books that work on listening skills.
- Use alphabet puzzles. We love the Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles.
- Children love music, so singing the alphabet song is great.
- Watch The Letter Factory DVD to introduce children to the alphabet.
This stage is great for older toddlers and young preschoolers (age 2.5 – 3.5)
The next stage is the Alphabet Stage. This is all about learning the alphabet letters! Here are some activities for this stage:
- sensory activities – ex. find alphabet letters in a sensory bin filled with sand.
- create alphabet boxes
- make alphabet letter crafts
- use sandpaper letters
This stage is great for young preschoolers (age 3 – 4).
The third stage is the Phonological Awareness Stage. This big fancy word basically means activities that help children increase their awareness of the sounds of language.
There are 3 big things to teach in this stage:
- Rhyming – rhyming words that end in the same sound
- Alliteration – recognizing when several words begin with the same sound
- Sound matching – deciding which of several words begin with the same sound
I love teaching and reviewing alphabet sounds with an Alphabet Box.
This stage is great for preschoolers (age 3.5 – 5).
Then, there’s is the Emergent Reading Stage. This stage encourages children to attempt to read books. They are learning the basics of reading and even learning CVC words or sight words. (CVC means ‘consonant, vowel, consonant’ like the word “bat”)
I love to use Usborne’s Very First Reading Set for this stage. This set of 15 Phonics Readers slowly builds on previously learned skills and includes a companion text for an adult or older reader. It makes a great read-aloud for toddler and preschool aged children too! We love these books and they helped teach my oldest how to read! (Check out this video for more information.)
I also use sight word readers with my little ones. Check out my free booklets here.
This stage is great for older preschoolers and kindergarteners (age 4.5 – 6).
Writing in the preschool years is a lot like teaching beginning readers…there are stages! They start out with the scribbling stage and work their way up to writing their name and other alphabet letters. I want to emphasize that it’s ok if your child is not a great writer in preschool. If they struggle with writing, do more fine motor activities so that their hands build up strength.
The first stage is scribbling! Yes, it’s ok if your child starts out with scribbling! My advice is to make time during school for preschoolers to write/scribble. This helps them get used to holding a pencil and the movement of writing. . Oh and make sure you call it writing, not scribbling!
The next stage is pretend writing. For example, if you’re sending a letter to grandpa and your child wants to write his name, he may draw symbols that don’t look anything like his name, but to him it reads his name.
Here are some ways to practice writing each day:
- Have a journal where YOU write sentences that your child says. For example, after a fun day at the zoo, have your child tell you his favorite part while you write it down. Read it back to him, pointing to each word. This is a great way to model writing.
- Write a morning message to your child each day. Repeat the words you write.
- Have writing materials to use during pretend play. When you play grocery store, encourage your child to write a shopping list. These writings may all be scribbles, but eventually your child will start to write in a way that look like letters and words.
Now you may be wondering, at what point do you formally introduce writing to your little one? I start teaching my children to write alphabet letters when they have a good understanding of the alphabet and their fine motor skills are strong enough that they can hold a writing utensil. In my book The Preschool Journey, I use sandpaper letters in my lesson plans. I love these! They trace the letters with their finger before ever learning to write them with a writing utensil.
I also love using my alphabet formation rhymes. These are just fun little rhymes to teach the formations of uppercase and lowercase letters. (You can find those in my store here.)
Then we have the stage of creative spelling. The child knows how to write some letters and has some understanding of how letter sounds work. On their own, they are creatively spelling words (and maybe sentences!). Here’s a tip for this stage: do not spell every word for your child. When they have to write their own spelling, children must think about letter-sound relationships. It actually helps them with reading!
We’ve talked about beginning reading and writing, so let’s also talk about oral language. This is so important in the preschool years! Did you know that oral language is significant because of the strong link with learning to read and write? I read in an article that by the age of 3, a preschooler’s vocabulary consists of approximately 2,000-4,000 words and by age it’s approximately 5,000-8,000!
In this stage, preschoolers are learning to use language to convey how they are feeling, to communicate with others, to ask questions, to think about things, and talk about imaginary situations. That’s why I love dramatic play activities. It allows children to use language to “act out” situations.
All three of these components to literacy are important. Young children need writing to help them learn about reading, they need reading to help them learn about writing; and they need oral language to help them learn about both. They all work together!
So there you have it! These are the literacy skills preschoolers should work on. Don’t stress out if your preschooler can’t do all of these things, but keep working on them to help your child become a successful reader and writer!