Common Core: What Should Reading Instruction Look Like In Kindergarten

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There has been a lot of discussion about what should reading instruction look like in a kindergarten classroom under the Common Core of State Standards. In the reading of literature and the reading of informational text the standards clearly state that most of these expectations are with prompting and support. This gives the teacher a lot of leeway in how much or how little support to provide depending on the needs of their students. The last standard in literature and informational text requiring “students to actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding” is where we can have a lot agreement or disagreement about what is “developmentally appropriate” for a kindergarten student to engage in. The real question is what types of reading instruction should be happening in a kindergarten classroom?

I believe there are four types of reading instruction that should happen in every classroom, including kindergarten, every day. The four types I am referring to are: Read-Aloud, Shared Reading, Directed Reading and Independent Reading. The teacher may use any one of these 4 to also incorporate Close Reading. Let me define what I mean by each type of reading.

A read aloud is any book the teacher chooses whether it be fiction or non-fiction to read aloud to a class. It may or may not be connected to a theme or topic of study in the classroom. It can also simply be for pure enjoyment and to hear good readers read. A teacher can return to this book more than once to teach topics, skills, standards under the common core or for use in Close Reading to have meaningful discussions over time with students on a familiar text.

The next type of reading that should occur every day is shared reading. This type of reading the students also share the responsibility of reading with the adult whether it be as a whole group or small groups. The teacher and students share the task of reading together. This type of text might be fiction or non-fiction. I often use Scholastic News as a non-fiction shared reading activity that we can also take a closer look at if desired. We also use simple poems, patterned books like Mrs. Wishy, Washy or Brown Bear Brown Bear... The point of shared reading is for all children participate and get the chance to read common texts. These texts can also be used to dig deeper using a close reading strategy or activity.

Directed reading should occur in every classroom every day, including kindergarten. This doesn’t mean the children will be forced to learn to read, on the contrary, in order to do directed reading or guided reading successfully the teacher must know what reading level is appropriate for each child and meet those needs with a variety of texts at their instructional level. For some kindergarten students that might be 1 or 2 words on a page until the child learns the early reading strategies of matching 1:1 text to speech. For other children it might mean 4-5 words on the page following a predictable language pattern where only the noun is changed on every page to match the picture. Other children might benefit from 6 or more words on a page with return sweep if they’ve demonstrated the capability to match speech to text and locate known words in a text. Over time every child’s facility with text will improve and the teacher can tailor instruction to meet the needs of students. The key to directed or guided reading is the child does the majority of the work in decoding the text after the teacher has scaffolded the appropriate amount of support for the child to be successful but still have some learning to do with text.  It is possible to also do some close reading activities if the text is rich enough to go deeper and make connections to other texts read in other types of reading.

The fourth and perhaps most important type of reading that should occur daily in kindergarten is independent reading. This is the fruit of the all the other labor that has been happening in the classroom. Some kindergartners might just look at pictures and turn the pages, some will mimic the teachers good reading by memorizing the pattern still other might begin to point and read to words on the page. The teacher must make time for his this type of reading so children can begin to build stamina, apply strategies and follow superior models of reading books.

You might ask what’s the rush, why teach them all this in kindergarten? The fact is most children who come to school have a hope and dream to learn how to read. Who are we to deny them this desire? We must give them the tools and strategies as well as practice to achieve this fundamental human need to communicate through speaking, reading and writing. Every child I have ever taught said that directed reading was one of their favorite language arts activities. That’s because it was their hope and dream to learn how to do it and we spent a lot of time teaching them how to read.

In our school we spend the first half of the day in reading and writing activities that are appropriate for a kindergarten student to be successful. They are reading, writing, drawing, acting, using paints , clay, paper, puppets to retell or respond to good literature that the teacher or they have read and they are very happy about it.

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