Teach Kinder to Read on Day 1


Yes, you read correctly. I teach kindergarten students to "read" on their first day of school!

I say "read" as it is really just a lot of fun, and NO PRESSURE! The children get a huge kick out of hearing that they will learn to read and especially take something home and show their family that they have learnt to read something.We do it with lots of fun, enthusiasm and a little bit of silliness!

I cannot take credit at all for the original concept - a fabulous teacher I worked with about six years ago introduced me to it, and together we did it with our kinders that year. I added elements to something she had been doing for years, and updated some of her ageing worksheets and resources. We worked as a wonderful team on this and many other ideas and learning activities.

You will need word cards (if you print out my freebie at the end of this post - you will have them) - I sort all of my 'reading' word cards in an index box. It is one of my favourite and essential tools in my classroom. I can make that little box into a thousand lessons and activities!

And something I call a 'sentence maker' - really just a bit of wood with one or two grooves cut down the middle. I would love to say I made this, but my fabulous Dad did. It was not difficult at all. The grooves have a slight lean to them, so the cards angle back when you rest them in.

You could also use a pocket chart or the edge of the blackboard (do you still have one of those??) to stand your cards up.

Here she is from the front. Very well used and a little battered.. and a bit of black marker from when I used it as a ruler (oops)..

The grooves only need to be cut down a few millimetres. My dad cut me two, as he is like me, and always like to have a spare for everything (just in case) - but I have only ever really used one of them..

So after some lovely relaxed play type activities on the first day, I tell the students we are going to learn to read. They first look shocked but then excitement kicks in! I tell them they are SO CLEVER now and that part of coming to school means learning to read. I make sure they are settled, paying attention and reassure them that I will help them every step of the way.

I set up my sentence maker and tell them about the 'starting star' - which shows us where we start reading from and place it on the far left. Reinforce that the starting star shows us where to start (I use the starting star idea for the first term of kinder).

Then I get the cards out. I scratch my head a little, say 'I can't remember how these go" and read them as I place them in the sentence maker. I DO NOT try to teach 'sounding out' or word recognition skills at this stage. Your students will be first learning to read sight words by sight - they will see the WHOLE WORD and the shape of it. They will certainly not be up to looking 'through' the word at the individual letters, or thinking about the individual letters within the word. Some may, but most won't, and the focus of this activity is FUN! My students basically learn to read this by memory/rote, but pick up valuable beginning reading skills along the way.

So I put the words in random order and then tell them about the full stop (period for USA) at the end - and how it is her job to stop words from falling off the sentence.

I then tell the students that I will show them how to read. I make a big exaggerated effort to point to the starting star and say 'I remember we start here' and then point to each word reading it along the line. I then look at them with a very pleased look on my face, expressing that I am very clever that I have just read the sentence. They are normally laughing at this point, because of course my sentence does not make sense. I repeat a few times and eventually a few students will know what order the words should be in, and they come to help me.

We then have the words in the correct order and I again, do the exaggerated point and read it again. I then ask them to help me read and we read it together. I ask each child to come to the front of the class and point and read, giving them a huge high-5 when they 'read' for the first  time. They are always VERY excited.

This stays up in the classroom for the rest of the day. We practise on and off for the whole day - it only takes a minute, I will just say "oh boys and girls, help me to read again" and point to the words, and we are off again. The more times you get them to look and read the words, the better. I always sneakily mix them up and see if a student notices and can put them back in order, of course, reading it out when they have finished.

The students complete a little reading worksheet to take home with them. I tell them that they can show their family how clever they are and read to them. They write their name, and colour the picture to match their new school uniform. We then practise quite a few times, at our desks, reading the "I go to school" sentence.

You can download these worksheets for free from google drive, by clicking on the images below.

I spend the first whole week of Kindergarten (sometimes 2 weeks, depending on the abilities within my class) - learning with the "I go to ..." sentence structure.
You can begin to teach reading/writing strategies like spaces bewteen words, capital letters, left to right progression, full stops etc
After we have done "I go to school" you can use the sentence maker and cards to introduce other words, such as 'church', 'Mum", 'Dad" - and show them how easy it is to make a new sentence by switching one word out.
Please remember that this idea is carried out with lots of support, enthusiasm and it is lots of fun. I do not put any pressure of the students. It has always worked beautifully in my classroom and I never forget the looks of excitement and accomplishment on my students faces when they know that they have learnt to 'read' on the first day of school!
Later in the next few weeks, I of course, explain to the students that there is also more to learn about reading. And sadly, there will be one or two students that come back the next day and say "my mum said that's not reading' - but on the whole, it is a very positive way to start their journey at school!
I have also put together this little packet of writing activities, that incorporates using the "I go to school' pattern. I am working on getting this whole series ready for TpT (previously on CD). I would probably only use the Day 1 to Day 3 activities in this packet, in the first week of kinder, but again, it would depend in the abilities within the classroom. It is also FREE for you!
Find it HERE

- Mel x