Preschool Reading Activities

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Think preschool children are too young to read? Think again. This lesson gives developmentally appropriate activities to serve as the building blocks of early literacy.

Reading and Young Children

You're right - most preschool children aren't yet able to do what we consider 'reading' - tracking print on the page, recognizing symbols that represent sound, decoding text, blending sounds, and so on. Their brains aren't ready for these higher-functioning reading skills, and their bodies may not be ready to sit still for too long either! But that doesn't mean that activities can't be created that help lay the foundation for early literacy skills.

Activities that focus on things such as sorting, early alphabetic knowledge, and phonological and phonemic awareness are all developmentally appropriate, and when coupled with a 'game-like' atmosphere, they're fun to boot. Take a look.

Phonemic and Phonological Awareness Games

Phonological awareness is a skill that allows children to understand and manipulate sounds heard in speech. Phonemic awareness is a branch of this - a child's awareness of individual speech sounds. Working on these two skills early in life means when children encounter alphabetic concepts later on, they have a solid understanding of what the teacher means when she says 'the letter 'A' makes the /a/ sound.'

Remember, phonemic and phonological awareness is all about sounds, so no letters or manipulatives are needed for these listening skills.

Listening for Sounds

This game is played by having children hide their eyes and listening for the sounds in speech - more about this in a sec. To set the stage for this careful listening activity, start off by simply providing sounds for young children to hear, such as closing a drawer, banging blocks, or making a hiccup.

Once they get used to what it feels like to hear a single sound, it's time to add on. Make two sounds in a row, and have children say what they are in order using language such as 'First I heard…Next I heard..' Add as many as four sounds to plant the seed of segmenting activities.

Finally, once they you think they're ready for sounds in speech, go ahead and transition into the meat of the activity. Say a simple two or three letter word, such as 'cat' or 'to.' Children say 'First I heard the /t/ sound, next I heard the /o/ sound. Make sure to stay away from naming letters - phonemic and phonological awareness skills focus on sounds, not letter names.

  • Build the Skill - When children are ready, you can add omission to the game. Simply make a series of noises or sounds, repeat with a missing sound, and ask what is missing. You can do this with the pre-phonemic awareness game too.

Silly Substitutes

In this activity, young children identify the 'silly' word inserted into a familiar subset. This strengthens a child's ability to hear and listen for expected sounds and discriminate between what 'belongs' and what doesn't.

To play, say part of a familiar rhyme or chant, changing one word. Students listen to identify the 'silly' substitution. For example, you could say 'Mary had a little goat' and students would say 'Lamb!'

  • Build the Skill - Allow children to play with each other by being the ones to say the silly substitute. This gives them a chance to work on eliminating and substituting sounds.

Syllable March

Work on syllables with young children by marching out syllables in an object found in the classroom. Gather children for a syllable march. Demonstrate by picking up an object, such as a telephone, and marching out the syllables, in this case 'tel-e-phone'. March around the room saying these syllables until you come to another object, then repeat with the new syllables. Take turns by allowing each child to pick an object and model.

  • Build the Skill - Instead of marching syllables, try clapping, whispering, singing, chanting, and dancing.

Sorting Games

Sorting hits several skills at once in early learners. The brain practices logic, reasoning and item recognition. Build in a literacy element by doing the following activities.

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