Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 275 DL, Chapter 4: The Youngest Readers and Writers



Nurturing Children’s Oral Language Development

Young children learn language through every day interactions especially with parents. They learn words from what they hear on a daily basis, this could be from television programs or what they hear from other people. Through these experiences, children learn these four language modes:

  • Phonology – Learn to produce sounds and to manipulate the language playfully
  • Syntax – Learn to combine words into different types of sentences and to use irregular verb forms, pronouns, and plural markers
  • Semantics – Acquire knowledge about the meanings of words
  • Pragmatics – Learn to use language socially, to have conversations, tell stories, and social conventions such as please and thank you

Oral Language Activities

Children then continue to develop language through different literacy activities. Interactive read alouds are one of the most popular activities, like reading stories and other books out loud. As children listen, they will learn new words and meanings and develop better sentence structure. Then after reading, children can participate in a grand conversation by using new vocabulary and concepts. Teachers can also use

  • Shared reading where the teacher reads a story while the children follow along, pick up on letters, words, and sentences
  • Interactive writing where the teacher places text that the children have written on a bookshelf for other students to read
  • Choral reading where students read together at the same time
  • Guided reading where the teacher supports a small group of students at the same reading level
  • Word walls where common words are sorted alphabetically and increase through grade level
  • Minilessons where a teacher teaches a small unit depending on what the students need to be learning

Assessing Children’s Oral Language

Teachers need to monitor children’s progress with oral language. These are some things that should be looked for:

  • Speak clearly in complete sentences
  • Respond to questions
  • Initiate conversations
  • Take turns
  • Ask questions
  • Participate in discussions
  • Sing songs and recite fingerplays
  • Tell about experiences

Teachers can assess these things through observations, anecdotal notes, checklists, and video clips.

Fostering an Interest in Literacy

Children get exposed to literacy before entering school by reading with a parent or caregiver and trying to write or having a message written to them.

Concepts About Print

Through a child’s home and interaction with places in their community, children begin to understand that print has meaning. Children also observe their parents and teachers who use written language to convey a message. Teachers can show the purpose of written language or give opportunities to experiment with reading and writing by:

  • Posting signs in the classroom
  • Making a list of classroom rules
  • Using reading and writing materials in literacy centers
  • Exchanging messages with classmates
  • Reading and writing stories
  • Labeling classroom items
  • Drawing and writing journals
  • Writing notes to parents

Children then also start to learn how to hold a book, turn pages, and to read from top to bottom and left to right. Children also begin to notice punctuation and learning the names of them.

Concepts About Words

Students need to develop the understanding of the literacy terms, such as word, letter, sound, and sentence. They will learn these words by having the teacher talk about them during reading and writing times, as well as showing them examples. There are four stages of word consciousness:

  1. Young children don’t differentiate between words and things
  2. They describe words as labels for things
  3. Children understand that words carry meaning and that stories are made from words
  4. more fluent readers and writers describe words as having meanings of their own

Through shared reading, teachers can point out words from the story for the students to see. Students can then repeat the word or words and will start to see that there are spaces that separate words and can start to see familiar words. By labeling items in the environment, or environmental print, the children will start recognizing certain words. Students can also experiment with their own writing and labeling of things throughout their play.

Concepts About the Alphabet

Children will also begin to recognize the alphabet, letters, and the sounds they make. These are some components of letter knowledge:

  • The letter’s name
  • How to write the letter in both upper- and lowercase
  • How to tell the letter apart from other letters
  • The direction the letter goes so that it is not confused with other letters such as and d
  • The use of letters in known words
  • The sound of letters
  • The sound of letter combinations such as th, sh, and ch
  • That letters may have more than one sound

Children can then use this knowledge to figure out words they don’t know when reading or how to spell it when writing.


Assessing Children’s Concepts About Written Language

Teachers can observe children as they look at books and reread familiar books to see progress of written language concepts. They can also watch children when they pretend to write or when they write their names or other familiar words. They can then see what children already know and what they still need work on. There are tests that can be done to assess student’s understanding of written language. The CAP (Concepts About Print) Test is one that can be used but a teacher can also create their own.

How Children Develop as Readers and Writers

Stage 1: Emergent Reading and Writing – Children are beginning to understand the concept of written language. They will notice environmental print and understand text as teachers read and write. Children should accomplish:

  • Develop an interest in reading and writing
  • Acquire concepts about print
  • Develop book-handling skills
  • Learn to identify the letters of the alphabet
  • Develop handwriting skills
  • Learn to read and write some high-frequency words

Students are usually in the emergent stage in kindergarten but some students may be more advanced depending if their parents read to them and provided them opportunities to explore with reading and writing.

Stage 2: Beginning Reading and Writing – Children are becoming more aware of the alphabetic principle. Children learn about word families and phonics rules in words. They also try to spell words phonetically. Children should accomplish:

  • Learn phonics skills
  • Recognize 100 high-frequency words
  • Apply reading strategies
  • Write five or more sentences
  • Spell phonetically
  • Spell 50 high-frequency words
  • Use capital letters to begin sentences
  • Use punctuation marks to end sentences
  • Reread their writing

Most first and second graders are beginning readers and writers. Children read slowly and stop often to figure out unfamiliar words. At the beginning students are pointing to each word but as they get more fluent, students may only point to words when the text is more difficult. Students also work on comprehension by making predictions.

Stage 3: Fluent Reading and Writing – Fluent readers recognize more than hundreds of words automatically and have strategies to figure out unfamiliar words. Fluent writers use the writing process to draft, revise, and publish their writings. Students also participate in revising groups to improve their writings but also help their classmates improve theirs. They recognize different genres. Children should accomplish:

  • Read fluently and with expression
  • Recognize most one-syllable words automatically and can decode other words efficiently
  • Use decoding and comprehension strategies effectively
  • Write well-developed, multi-paragraph compositions
  • Use the writing process to draft and refine their writing
  • Write stories, reports, letters, and other genres
  • Spell most high-frequency and other one-syllable words correctly
  • Use capital letters and punctuation marks correctly most of the time

Some second graders may reach this level but all children should be at this stage by the end of third grade. It is important to reach this stage because students will start to be expected to read chapter books, write to respond to literature, read from textbooks, and write essays and reports.

Instructional Practices

Teachers use many different types of instructional practices. These may include:

  • Morning Messages: Used daily as a literacy routine that teaches a literacy concept, strategy, and skill. Usually before children arrive, the teacher writes a brief message on chart paper, white board, or chalk board. This message will consist of what the students will be doing for the day and will be read at the beginning of the school day. Teachers typically use the same format for their morning messages to make it easier for the students to read. Some teachers may use a fill-in-the-blank morning message. Children need to help fill in the blanks, if needed the teacher can have cards to choose the words from. Students may also have news they want to share that the teacher may write out or students can write a classroom message together.
  • Predictable Books: These are books used during shared reading and have repeated sentences, rhymes, or other patterns. The four most common patterns are:
    • Repetition: Using repeating sentences or words.
    • Cumulative Sequence: Sentences are repeated and expanded
    • Rhyme and Rhythm: Adds musical quality to writing, rhymes are used to end sentences
    • Sequential Patterns: Use of familiar sequences like months of the year, days of the week, numbers, or letters of the alphabet

Language Experience Approach (LEA)

Based on children’s language and experiences. Teachers do shared writing where the children dictate words and sentences about their experiences and the teacher writes down what the students say, this becomes reading material. This is usually easy for the students to read because they wrote it and it is based on their experiences. Students can also make individual books or collaborative books where they draw pictures or cut them out of magazines and then tells what they want written on each page. Editing should be limited so that the student doesn’t feel like their words aren’t important.

Interactive Writing

Students and teachers create a text together. Children can compose the message and the teacher can help them to write it. Students take turns to write known letters or familiar words, and using punctuation. All children participate in creating and writing the text on a large surface, and they also write it on small whiteboards or paper. Then, children can read and reread the text. Students will learn concepts of print, letter-sound relationship and spelling patterns, handwriting concepts, and capitalization and punctuation skills.

Manuscript Writing

Children entering kindergarten all have different writing skills; some have never held a pencil before. Students of any age should be encouraged to write to work on handwriting skills. Instruction is important so students learn the write techniques that don’t need to be broken down the road. Kindergarten and first grade teachers usually have songs to help students how to write letters correctly that are easy for students to remember. Students can then practice making the letter in the air and then on paper or a whiteboard; worksheets are not helpful in forming letters correctly. Teachers need to supervise students as they are writing letters so that errors can be corrected immediately. It is important for the letters to start at the top and go to the bottom, left to right, and clockwise for circles.

All above information comes from:
Tompkins, G. E. (2017). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson

Writing Objectives

Objectives should be student centered. They are also SMART:

S: Specific and Student Centered

M: Measurable

A: Attainable

R: Relevant/Result-Oriented

T: Time-Bound

Objective should also be written in the terms of “students will be able to”

Bloom’s Wheel

Classroom Application

There are many things that I would love to use in my classroom some day as a preschool/kindergarten teacher. I loved the routines to help teach the alphabet and would be something to help young students to help learn their ABCs. I think the acronym for writing an objective is very helpful for when I will be writing objectives because it is an easy way to help me remember everything that should be included in a well written objective.

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