Literacy Best Practice in a Kindergarten Classroom

Early childhood and primary grade teachers are called upon to help young children develop reading and writing skills. This challenging task is made even more complicated by the variety of children's literacy experiences and developmental levels. To ensure that a solid foundation is laid for literacy acquisition, classroom literacy activities must be developmentally appropriate as well as applicable to the wide range of literacy skills represented by the children in the classroom. In a typical classroom, children's literacy development may range from just recognizing the concept of a "word" to being able to read and write simple sentences. The teacher needs to meet the needs of all children in such a diverse group.

To illustrate best practices in the teaching of literacy skills in kindergarten, a videotape was made of Jo Wingo's kindergarten classroom at Centralized Kindergarten North School in Indianapolis, Indiana. Two segments of the video are available for viewing.

Image of Jo WingoIn the first segment, Jo Wingo works with her kindergarten class to determine the writing activity for the day [3.4 MB QuickTime video]. Excerpted from a videotaping at Centralized Kindergarten North School (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999). (Note: Viewing this video requires the use of QuickTime 3 or QuickTime 4 software. To download a free copy of this software, go to QuickTime 4 and follow the instructions.) A text transcript is available.

In this segment, the activity consists of determining two sentences to be written on a large flip chart. The teacher asks, "What should we write?" and the children offer their suggestions for what the sentences will be. This brainstorming session involves the entire class. The suggestions of all the children are accepted respectfully by the teacher, and a nonjudgmental approach encourages many ideas. The teacher steers the children to several sentences that reflect tasks accomplished in the classroom that day. This activity helps children understand that their thoughts can be translated to written words and shared with others--in this case, their parents. The children decide to write " We have visitors today" and "We have centers."

Image of Jo WingoIn the second segment, Jo Wingo works with the children collectively to write a sentence on the flip chart [3.8 MB QuickTime video]. Excerpted from a videotaping at Centralized Kindergarten North School (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999). A text transcript is available.

The teacher asks one child to come to the front of the class and help write a sentence on the flip chart. The other children are seated around the chart with pads of paper and a firm writing surface on their laps so they can write along with the designated writer. When the child begins to write, the entire class helps out by determining the sounds they hear in the word. The teacher is careful to have the children make the sound before they name the letter it represents. The process of sounding out the word letter-by-letter continues until the word is written. This activity is applicable to all the children in the class. Children in the early stages of phonemic awareness are practicing their letter-sound skills; other children are practicing writing letters correctly; still others are developing their spelling skills.

Another child comes up to write the next word. He is reminded to use "finger spaces" to separate words, again alluding to the fact that not all children may have the concept of "words" firmly in place. Capital letters are mentioned. The teacher calls attention to the difference between upper- and lower-case letters, and the class determines that an upper-case letter is not necessary. The sounding-out process begins again.

In this activity, the teacher makes a point of encouraging all the children and praising them for their responses. She takes time to reassure the children that each one will have a chance to write in front of the class, and reminds them of the importance of saying the sound first and the letter second so they can all learn each word. She is able to address a number of different literacy needs in her class at one time. The children will use what they have learned in this lesson in their journal writing activities, which provide a time for them to work independently on their reading and writing. Some children may write letters, other may write and read actual sentences and use punctuation, and still others may incorporate words they know with letters or pictures to write their ideas.

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