Home » What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Literacy in Kindergarten

What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Literacy in Kindergarten

What every teacher needs to know about literacy in kindergarten text with child's hand with the magnetic letters A, B and C on a light blue background.

Plan and implement a developmentally appropriate program for literacy in kindergarten. Read about everything you need to know for this school year.

Our young learners need planned, extensive and developmentally appropriate literacy instruction to become readers and writers. This is coupled with opportunities to use these skills through play during the school day.

I recently completed the Reading Rockets course Reading 101, which helped me understand all the different elements that I need to incorporate into my classroom. There are plenty of different science of reading courses to choose from, so you will be able to find one that fits your needs.

Having a clear plan in place for your school day to incorporate literacy instruction can help you target each skill that your students need. I have put a plan together on how I want to incorporate all the different reading instruction competencies.

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Scarborough’s Reading Rope

Before jumping into literacy instruction, educators should develop a clear understanding of the different skills that students need to develop before they can read. It is more than just phonics!

Scarborough’s Reading Rope gives a clear representation of all the strands that need to come together to make a reader. I reference it all the time to ensure that my instruction incorporates all the elements.

Literacy Knowledge

Using read-alouds is a great way to discuss the different concepts of print. For example, every time I read a book, I talk about the cover, spine, author, illustrator, the direction I am reading, etc. We can also use different types of books to teach about genre (fiction, non-fiction, etc.)

Using real-life examples in action like this will help students visualize each concept. It’s also a great way to make sure they see their importance being highlighted throughout the year with read-alouds.

Decoding – Phonics

Learning about letter sounds is critically important for students – without phonics skills, your students will not be able to decode and read words.

I introduce a letter a day for 26 days. Each day we talk about:

  • the letter,
  • what it looks like (letter formation),
  • the sound it makes,
  • a motion that we can attach to it (Jolly Phonics or Animated Literacy both have versions),
  • other words that start with that letter or have it in it.

Once we go through each letter, we review them as needed. Then, we move on to reviewing vowels, digraphs and CVC words.

Sound Wall

These phonics alphabet posters can be displayed in your classroom to help your students as they learn to read and write.

They not only include the letter and a real-life picture, but the sound as well.

You can also use a slide deck like this to help guide you when you are doing your phonics routine and uses the same fonts and images as the poster.

Phonological Awareness

Teaching phonological awareness is probably the most important part of teaching students how to read. However, there are so many different skills embedded into it – from blending to segmenting. This seemed really overwhelming to plan and implement. So I had my principal order me a resource: Heggerty!

I have heard so many good things about this resource that I knew it would be a great fit for me this year. It will really help me ensure I am meeting the needs of all my students.

I love that it is 10-15 minute daily lessons that build phonological awareness all year.

Vocabulary & Background Knowledge

Vocabulary and background knowledge are other areas that can be taught through picture books, mentor texts and shared reading. Picking texts that have rich vocabulary is imperative for our students to grow their own vocabulary.

Sight Recognition

Another important aspect to teaching literacy in kindergarten students how to read is looking at sight words. These can be words that students cannot decode on their own using their phonics skills.

There are also lots of these words that can be decoded and read by our students. I have been using the Heart Words method when introducing new words to my students.

I explicitly teach sight words to my students, and then we practice using them and spelling them with classroom activities.

Literacy center with alphabet loose parts provocation with the prompt "Can You Build Sight Words?" with a book open to the word 'the' and rock letters spelling out the word 'the'

What Literacy in Kindergarten Looks Like

In my classroom, literacy instruction is broken up into 3 explicit teaching moments throughout the school day and plenty of opportunities to practice these skills through play.

Morning Message and Meeting

When my students first come to school, we have a whole group block of time to do explicit teaching using a morning message. I also use this time to do the Heggerty lesson of the day and practice phonics skills or sight words.

Shared Reading

Before our lunchtime, we come back together as a class for shared reading. This is a short poem or book that we use to practice concepts that we are working on.


I like to end the day by reading a book with my students. This book can be chosen with specific skills or messages in mind. Then, using a 3-day read-aloud plan, I reinforce comprehension, vocabulary and concepts of print.

What does your literacy instruction look like in your classroom? Am I missing something in my routine? Let me know in the comments!


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