Literacy in Kindergarten
Kindergarten is a very important year for literacy. The children learn the fundamentals of how written language works and begin to unlock the code of letters and words. They also begin to see themselves as readers and writers, and start to use reading and writing to further their learning.
Learning to read is more than just learning letter sounds and stringing them together to sound out words. To become a successful and fluent reader, a child needs to learn to use many different strategies to figure out text. They also need to acquire a lot of knowledge about how books and letters work. Kindergarten is the beginning of the long journey to becoming a fluent and avid reader.
Phonological awareness is the starting point for learning to read and write. Before children can use letters to decode and write words, they need to learn to recognize rhymes, words and syllables and hear separate sounds in words. Before we even begin to learn letters, we work on hearing the sounds in words by playing with rhymes, counting out words in a sentence and clapping out syllables in a word. This prepares the children, so that as they learn letters, it will be easier for them to associate them with sounds and translate those sounds into whole words.
Once children are able to break the spoken language into words, sounds and syllables, they are ready to learn to represent those sounds with letters. We introduce three letters, and their sounds, every two weeks beginning in October.
The letters are introduced through poems, big books and the “Morning Message”. When we introduce a new letter, we look for it in print, listen for the sound that it makes and practice writing it. Once children are familiar with a letter, they continually reinforce their knowledge in both reading and writing.
Letter/ Sound Relationships
The purpose of a letter is to represent a sound, or several sounds. Over the course of the Kindergarten year, children become more and more proficient with hearing sounds and using the letter/sound relationships to read and write. They begin to develop a body of knowledge about letters, and grow in their ability to use that knowledge in their reading and writing.
High Frequency Words
When a fluent reader and writer is working, they do not sound out every word they read or write. They know most of the words without even thinking. As a child learns to read and write, they gradually build a collection of words that they do not have to sound out to read or write. These words are called “high frequency words” and they are an important part of becoming a fluent reader and writer.
During our Kindergarten and First Grade years, we will introduce many “high frequency words”. We introduce these words through poems and big books as well as individual and small group reading. We also practice spelling these words, so that children will be able to use them easily in their writing.
Writing and Spelling
The primary purpose of writing is to express ideas, and the focus of writing in Kindergarten is to begin to become comfortable with using letters and words to represent sounds and thoughts.
The emphasis in Kindergarten is on attempting to use letters and words to write down ideas, rather than on spelling every word perfectly. At first, children typically use strings of letters or letter like symbols to represent the words they want to write. At this stage, the letters are usually unrelated to the sounds in those words. Once the children are comfortable with the act of writing, we begin to model how to stretch out words, listen for sounds and then write down letters that go with that sound. After some practice, the children begin to write beginning sounds for words, and by the end of the year they can often hear and write several sounds in each word.
Although it is sometimes uncomfortable for grown-ups to see children spelling words incorrectly, it is important for them to go through this process of listening for the sounds in words and trying to write them down. It can be tempting to just tell them how to spell it, but when they figure out how to write words independently, it increases their phonological awareness and helps solidify their knowledge of letters and sounds.
We make an exception to this practice for high frequency words. Since these words are used so often, children will write them hundreds of times in their K and 1st years, and we do not want them to get in the habit of spelling them the wrong way because that is the way they sound (i.e. OV to spell the word “of”). We teach these words using a method called “See it, Say it…” in which the children practice reading, and writing the words on dry erase boards, in a large or small group.
How you can help your emerging reader/writer at home
Learning to read and write is great fun, but it can be a little scary. One of your biggest jobs at home is to keep the reading and writing process as fun and relaxed as possible.
We will begin independent reading in November and once we do, your child will be bringing home easy, predictable books to read with you. The biggest thing to remember, once you start this type of reading with them, is just to make it an entertaining and happy time for them. It is also important to continue to read aloud to them. Poetry and picture books are particularly helpful, since they strengthen their knowledge of words and fuel their imagination.
You will also be doing some writing with your child. This is also a great time to keep things relaxed and fun. Just support their attempts to stretch out the words they want to write and don’t correct their spelling too much.
Math in Kindergarten
We have a lot of fun with math in Kindergarten. Opportunities to work with numbers and mathematical concepts abound and mathematical thinking is woven throughout the day. We also have a math block during the day when we play games and do activities that give children the opportunity to practice specific mathematical skills such as number recognition or counting objects.
We use the Terc Math Series which gives the children a very strong foundation in mathematical concepts and provides many opportunities to practice the same skills in different ways.
The main mathematical strands covered in Kindergarten are:
We provide the students with many different opportunities to explore and identify patterns in their environment. They also copy, extend and create patterns using a variety of materials. Patterns are an important mathematical concept and learning to see patterns in Kindergarten, helps students learn to see the more complicated patterns that exist in higher math.
In this strand, the lessons concentrate on counting, comparing and ordering objects. They help students understand how numbers work and make connections between the value of a number, the name of the number and the symbol for number.
The lessons in geometry focus on two and three dimensional shapes and their attributes. We learn to describe shapes by the number of sides and angles and to compare shapes to see differences between them. We also learn directional and orientation words such as over, under, behind and between.
The lessons in this strand provide children with the opportunity to explore measuring in a variety of situations. We learn to measure length, weight and volume using both standard and non-standard tools, such as links and paperclips. We also discuss why we measure and explore the need for having standard measurements.