So you know you shouldn’t teach students to read the pictures and guess the word but what should you teach them to do instead? Teaching reading strategies in kindergarten that follow the Science of Reading research on how children best learn to read is so important to building strong literacy skills. Keep reading for SoR-aligned reading strategies and free printable bookmarks and posters to help support students so they don’t guess the word.
Check out these related articles:
- What is the Science of Reading Free Family Letter
- Teaching Letters & Sounds
- What is the Reading Rope?
- Sound Wall in Kindergarten
- All Science of Reading Articles Here
This Activity Goes Well With These Simply Kinder Resources:
Issues with the 3 Cueing System
The latest research on how students best learn to read steps away from teaching the 3 cueing system which focuses more on guessing than decoding words based on phonics. What once was a staple of early elementary reading instruction is now being replaced with more research-based strategies that focus on the words.
According to an article in Edweek, “Research has shown that encouraging kids to check the picture when they come to a tricky word, or to hypothesize what word would work in the sentence, can take their focus away from the word itself—lowering the chances that they’ll use their understanding of letter sounds to read through the word part-by-part, and be able to recognize it more quickly the next time they see it.” Read more here including exactly what is 3 cueing and the concerns with teaching this method.
Really thinking about this, the following strategies are really outdated and not building strong reading skills: (these can easily be replaced)
- looking at the picture to see if you can figure out the word that way
- looking at the first letter of a word to read the word
- skipping a word and seeing if you can make sense without decoding the word
- just trying the word again and again and hoping it eventually makes sense
- Beanie Baby Word Strategies
So what should be taught instead?
Science of Reading Strategies to Teach
Research strongly supports that focusing on the word and applying phonics skills to decode accurately is the best way to figure out an unknown word.
The journey to becoming a strong decoder is phonics. The journey to phonics is language and learning all 44 phonemes is the key. Using a sound wall in your classroom can greatly help. Learn more about sound walls here.
Point and Say Each Sound
An alternative to “sound it out” is to be more explicit with “point and say each sound” This focused on a multi-sensory approach of touching each sound or phoneme (not a letter) to accurately chunk the word. For example, the following words would be broken down as such:
cat: /c/ /a/ /t/
wish: /w/ /i/ /sh/
chat: /ch/ /a/ /t/
cook: /c/ /oo/ /k/
sing: /s/ /i/ /ng/
Learn more about word mapping here
For this strategy, students need to be able to split the word into sounds accurately.
Slide the Sounds Continuously
Once students point and say the sound, they are ready to slide and blend the sounds of the word. Encourage students to put their finger on the first sound and then blend moving from left to right continuously blending the sounds. Here’s a quick informal video Marnie and Jennifer did about continuous blending here.
STOP: Does It Sound Right? Does It Make Sense?
Teach students to stop and check does it sound right? Does it make sense? If not, keep trying a strategy to help decode the word correctly. These are questions we really want our readers to be asking themselves the entire time they are reading so let’s start now.
Try A Different Sound
Students can try a different sound such as replacing a short vowel with a long vowel, a different vowel sound, or maybe they said a digraph or blend incorrectly at first. Doing a double check of each sound and trying again is a great strategy to teach students.
Think About What You Know
The English language is very complex but not so complex we can’t make sense of much of it. We can and should be teaching rules and generalizations to our students even in kindergarten and these will help students to decode words.
An example: Did you know English words do not end in the letters v, j, o, or u? Because of that sometimes we add the letter e to the end of a word just so a word does not end in those letters. An example word is the word HAVE. It’s a short /a/ sound but has that “magic e”. Well, that magic e is not a long vowel, it’s a placeholder because English words do not end in v. (Read more about this phonics rule here). Thinking about what we know helps us to decode that word.
Another example: Did you know S more commonly makes a /z/ sound which unlocks words like has, was, and many others. Thinking about this generalization would definitely help to decode more word accurately.
Teach the phonics rules and generalizations so students know and understand that English is logical and very few words need to be memorized! Yes, the majority of words, including sight words, are decodable (read more about decoding sight words here), and only a very small percentage needs to be memorized.
Learn more about spelling patterns and teaching tips with the All About the Sounds with these Teacher Tip Cards here.
More Reading Strategies for Kindergarten
Break Into Syllables
Understanding how to split a word into syllables can greatly help students decode an unknown word. Further, knowing the different syllable types and how it affects sound unlocks the key to many words.
There are 6 syllable types:
Do you know why the O in NO is long and the O in NOT is short?
Teaching students explicitly the difference between open and closed syllables is so powerful and can be taught in kindergarten. When a syllable ends in a vowel it makes its long sound. When a syllable ends with one or more consonants it is closed and the vowel makes the short sound. In the word, NO the vowel is long because it’s open and in NOT it’s short because it is closed.
Read more about teaching syllable types here.
Separate Word Parts
This means understanding prefixes, suffixes, roots, and bases. Not only does explicit instruction of word parts help with vocabulary but it also helps students decode unknown words and transfer them to long-term memory.
Science of Reading Strategies for Kindergarten
As you can see, these strategies focus on understanding the letters, sounds, phonemes, and phonics rules. It encourages decoding strategies vs. guessing strategies. Research shows that teaching students to “read the pictures” or “skip the word & come back” do NOT build the foundational skills of reading. Instead, those strategies promote guessing and simply fail most students that never build the foundation they need to become fluent readers.
Free SoR Reading Strategies Bookmarks & Posters
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How are you using these in your classroom? Do you have reading strategies for kindergarten to share? Join the conversation inside the Simply Kinder Teachers Facebook Group Here.