This post is the first in my Preschool Series. Check out #2.
Preliteracy skills are the foundation of literacy. From birth, we can start teaching our kids these skills so they simply become a part of life instead of a lesson.
Before I go on, let me remind you that I have not yet officially started Cayden in school. This weekend (June 29-July 1, 2018), we will be in Memphis for his Jurassic Quest birthday trip/start school celebration.
UPDATE 2019: Here are the videos. The third is coming up soon!
When we get back, he will start short lessons in reading, writing, and math (15 minutes each) spread throughout the day.
Leave me a comment if you are interested in seeing more of my basic preschool schedule and plans!
Before I start teaching him to read, there are certain skills he needs, the aforementioned preliteracy skills.
Preliteracy is the stage before a child first starts decoding short, simple words. This is always a fun stage because you see your ability to teach your child, their confidence gets a boost, you start to see what piques their interest, and their personalities start to come out.
This is the stage that sets your child up for a love of books and a thirst for knowledge. So what are the preliteracy skills and how can you teach them to your child?
1.) Engage with your child. Talk. Play. Joke, but whatever you do, make sure to engage in a back and forth like a normal conversation. This is really the most important thing you can do.
2.) Use proper language with pronouns. Don’t use words like “Let’s go bye-bye.” “Time to leave” communicates the same message and it’s how real people talk.
Changing your language for kids does both of you a great disservice, and may even make it harder for them to communicate with others and may even make it difficult for them to comprehend when you read to them.
3.) Read aloud to them. I focus on whatever my kids want to hear. Sometimes this means reading the same thing for 138,498 nights in a row. That's a good thing!
Kids who read and hear the same story over and over show improved comprehension. They also acquire new words faster.
Hearing proper sounds is the basis of phenomic awareness (awareness of sounds) which is the foundation of decoding.
Enunciate clearly so your child will learn the sounds correctly.
I have met adults who have poor phenomic awareness, and it’s obvious. In Arkansas, people often pronounce “want” and “won’t” the same. It’s very confusing for a child to read an O where they expect an A. This causes problems in reading and spelling, crushes a kid’s self esteem, and makes kids reluctant readers.
Read as often as your kid wants. Sometimes mine want me to read while they play. Sometimes not. Reading is an important part of nap/bedtime.
You can read whatever they request, but don’t limit yourself to kids’ books. I read mine encyclopedia articles on dinosaurs, babies, toys, paleontological studies, parenting advice, story books, juvenile nonfiction, and even romance novels.
Let them get use to hearing complicated sentence structure, diverse vocabulary, and intricate thoughts. Kids who participate in conversations and hear a vast vocabulary do better in school.
Reading Kids’ Books
Reading kids’ books does several things.
First, it accustoms kids to the idea of narrative.
Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They have a protagonist and an antagonist.
This is the foundation of comprehension. Good comprehension skills can be the difference between a lukewarm response and a ferocious response to school.
While reading is the most important tool for this, don’t overlook real life experiences and TV, both of which can reinforce this skill.
Talk about the happenings of the day or their favorite show, asking “which happened first?”, “why did they do that?” kind of questions to get your child thinking order of events.
Use the Pictures
While you read, take the time to look deeply at the pictures. Identify objects.
Try to predict what is going to happen on the next page.
Look for hidden clues to the character’s feelings and motivations.
Like I said before, this is the knowledge of sounds. It’s arguably the most important preliteracy skills. If you can’t break the word down into parts, you can’t recognize the word when you sound it out.
Like stories, words have beginnings, middles, and ends.
Point out the letter their name begins with, exaggerate the sound while saying their name.
Do the same with another word that starts with the same letter.
Nursery Rhymes develop phenomic awareness of the end of words.
Update: Click here to watch my 3 year old daughter sing "Patty-Cake" on my Instagram. Follow me while you are there!
This is where songs, games, poems, and tongue twisters come in handy. These are all activities for teaching phenomic awareness!
Let me know if you want to see some of my phenomic awareness activities.
This is the awareness of letters and the alphabet.
So, before a kid starts to read, most think we read the pictures. I have been pointing out letters on packages, signs, in books, on my phone, in restaurants, everywhere I can for the last several months.
Cayden can now recognize letters as letters, even though he can’t recognize but a couple specific ones, but that’s half the battle.
Update 2019: Cayden can know recognize all his letters. I used two games to teach them to him, Alphabet Bingo and Alphabet Island to him. He did not like Teach your Monster to Read. We are currently (May 2019) working on decoding CVC words.
I talk about how letters make sounds then sounds make words. I’m giving him the blueprint for decoding so that he already knows. See how phenomic awareness is crucial?
Update 2019: I have really started to focus on the above in daily life, both at home and in public. I get so many people staring in Kroger.
Alphabet knowledge includes reciting the Alphabet song. So I have been singing it to him at every opportunity (although he usually requests me to stop singing and just count numbers instead). He can’t recite it; that’s reserved for learning once he starts school. But I have plenty of other activities lined up to reinforce the alphabet sequence like matching games and scavenger hunts.
Update 2019: Cayden still repeats the song but in the wrong order. It's a memory I will cherish forever, because I soon he will have it down correctly.
I use a multiprong approach to teaching the alphabet. I make letters out of salt dough and bake them so the kids can pick them up, feel the shape, and create an experience to go along with the letter. We will also use salt dough to let the kids form and bake their own letters!
I also teach writing before reading. Practicing handwriting is a great way to help kids remember the shapes of each letter.
Paper not required! You can put salt, sugar, flour, or glitter on a cookie tray and let the child draw the letter over and over with their finger.
Update 2019: Cayden can now write about 2/3 of his letters. Some he still writes backwards and confuses similar letters like b/d, p/q, and m/w. This is quite normal for not quite being 5 years old at the time of this update.
I never used a worksheet to teach him to write. I started by teaching him to DRAW. Click here to find out why I use art to reinforce important skills, especially in science.
Below is a video of Cayden drawing a circle. Once he could draw circles, I showed him how to draw simple dinosaurs (his passion) from circles. Then we worked on each of the basic prewriting lines. Last, I simply showed him how to draw letters, then let him try.
So we all know to start on page 1, to hold the book so the spine is on the left, read from left to right, and that spaces separate words, right?
Wrong. All of these concepts must be learned. Most of these can be absorbed through the experience of being read to, though so don’t think you have to teach this lecture style.
The left to right directionality will be picked up naturally as the start writing and reading. Spaces may have to be taught.
My kids often bring me a book, a pen, and request I write or draw them something (usually a T. rex). When I do write words, I make sure to include spaces and point it out that words are separated by spaces.
Preliteracy skills are the foundation of good reading. These lessons need not be learned sitting at a table.
Your lap will do much better as you read, write, and play your way through preschool.