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Literacy in Kindergarten

March 1, 2023 | Bridget O'Dowd

Explicit reading instruction in the classroom is crucial for each young learner. But did you know all those stories you’ve read before bedtime, all the times you played silly children’s songs in the car, and all the times you engaged in conversation with your child, you are contributing just as much to their development as a reader! Children are constantly learning the foundational skills to be a reader, they just are having too much fun to notice!


There are three main topics of foundational reading skills: print concepts, phonological awareness, and phonics and word recognition. We cover each of these much in a spiral fashion throughout the kindergarten year. At the topic of each section you’ll see the standards that you will also see on the progress reports. These are from the Common Core State Standards. Here is what work we do in the fall, winter, and spring term to help children develop in these skills.

Print Concepts

  • RF.K.1. Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.
    • Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
    • Recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.
    • Understand that words are separated by spaces in print.
    • Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet.


In the fall, children work on understanding the concept of left and right in terms of reading. They practice reading pictures from left to right and top to bottom. Children are counting words in sentences spoken verbally and building representations of the sentences with objects moving from left to right. They begin to see spacing between words and count words. Formation of captial letters is taught and practiced.


In the winter, children learn to incorporate spaces into their own writing, now as the author! They continue to practice their print concept by practicing to internalize where letters begin in sentences when engaging in their own writing. Children are focusing on lower case letter formation and begin to start writing case specific when writing!


By spring, children are mastering the concepts of print and are now demonstrating it as they begin to read books on their own!

Phonological Awareness

  • RF.K.2. Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).
    • Recognize and produce rhyming words.
    • Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.
    • Blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words.
    • Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.1 (This does not include CVCs ending with /l/, /r/, or /x/.)
    • Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one-syllable words to make new words.


In the fall term, children are playing with rhyming words. Nursery rhymes are the vehicle in which we hear and create rhyming words. Children are also thinking about vocabulary, both learning new and thinking about multiple meaning words (i.e. ring). Orally, children begin blending onset+rime (c+at) and then moving to blending three sounds (c+a+t).


In the winter, children continue to practice blending three sounds then they move to segmenting. Some segmenting games we play are Bean bag toss and feed the squirrel, where children get a word such as “mat” and they toss a bean bag for each sound (m- a- t). Children are also using segmenting as they write in writer’s workshop. As they plan each sentence, they have to focus on one word at a time, stretching the word, hearing the sounds, recording the sounds, rereading the sounds they wrote and moving on to the next word. A lot goes in to writing one sentence! Children begin to add and delete phonemes from words as they work in their chaining folders. Children are given a word to stretch and spell such as mat and they have to change the word to man. They have to determine what sound (beginning, middle, or end) to change and what sound to put in its place.


Adding and deleting phonemes practice continues. Children continue blending as they read decodable books. This is done with the goals of accurately decoding, reading with fluency, and comprehension. Segmenting work continues as the children have personalized goals in writer’s workshop to hear more sounds.

Phonics and Word Recognition

  • RF.K.3. Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
    • Demonstrate basic knowledge of letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary or most frequent sound for each consonant.
    • Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.
    • Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
    • Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.


At the end of the fall term, children begin to learn the code of reading! Each letter is introduced and it’s common sound. Children listen for the sound in the beginning, middle, and end of words.


Children continue working on the code of reading. They build words using letters/sounds they already learned and continue to expand. Cementing their learning of each sound allows for stronger recall which will contribute to fluency when decoding, a very important piece of reading!


Children apply all the work they’ve done on the code of reading by beginning to read books with decodable words and sight words, working to read with fluency and comprehension. They also are introduced to common blend sounds (sh, ch, wh).

Your child is becoming a reader- with a strong foundation and a love of reading! And they are having fun while doing it!

Here are some additional activities you might choose to do at home!

  • Emphasize letter sounds while talking about everyday experiences like, “Time to get in the c-c-c-car” or “Put on your p-p-p-pants” or “Set the t-t-t-table.” Segmenting words as you speak will also give your child extra practice blending such as, “Look at that d-0-g.” 
  • Go on letter hunts! Look for letters on signs or other places outside. You could also write letters on sticky notes and hide them in different rooms around your house. 
  • Put shaving cream, rice, or sand on a cookie sheet and trace the letters with your finger (to provide a different sensory experience).
  • Using a variety of materials (stamps, smelly markers, dot markers, crayons and watercolors, whiteboards, Wikki Stix, tin foil) brings novelty and excitement to the experience as students write and make letters. Make sure to include conversation about the names and sounds of the letters.
  • Read alphabet books together. These often have “ABC’s” in the title. A short list from a helpful website is available here. Librarians can be helpful in finding more! 
  • Staple paper together to make a letter book with words that start with the same sound. For example, make an “S” book and on each page draw a picture of something that starts with an S.
  • Make or buy alphabet flashcards. “Show me the letter” is sometimes easier than “tell me the letter.”  If your child is having a hard time naming the letters you show, try spreading some cards out and asking your child to find the letter you name.  
    • As you find the letters that your child does not yet know, target those to practice more.
  • Play a matching game, matching uppercase and lowercase letters using flashcards or a homemade Memory game.
  • There are a few other ideas in this link: Fine motor and handwriting activities
  • The handwriting program we use is Handwriting Without Tears. It is a multi-sensory approach. We use specific language to remember correct formation. Here is a chart of the formation of capital and lowercase letters. 
  • There are many puzzles or games you could purchase or make on your own, such as memory or alphabet BINGO. 

Bridget O'Dowd

Ms. O’Dowd came to Mustard Seed in 2017, after moving to Hoboken in 2016. She found a school and a community all in one package at Mustard Seed! Having taught kindergarten in Illinois before moving to New Jersey, Ms. O’Dowd has a passion for five-year-olds. She’s delighted to be a part of the kindergarten team and loves to read and share in story with students. Her favorite moment of the day is during a good read aloud, when she looks out and sees the faces of children showing empathy and emotion in response to the story. Ms. O’Dowd’s hobbies include exploring new neighborhoods, watching BBC documentaries, traveling to visit family, and eating her way through New York City.

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