Teach Kinder to Read on Day 1

What?! Yes, you read correctly. You can 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!

Word Card Box

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!

Sentence Maker

You will also need 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..

Learning to 'Read'

So after some lovely relaxed play type activities on the first day, tell the students they are going to learn to read. They first look shocked but then excitement kicks in! 
  • Tell them they are SO CLEVER now and that part of coming to school means learning to read.
  • Make sure they are settled in the main teaching area.
  • Reassure them that you will help them every step of the way.

Set up your sentence maker so all can see it. Tell them:
  • about the 'starting star' - which shows us where we start reading from and place it on the far left - have a star on a word card for this.
  • Reinforce that the starting star shows us where to start.
  • Use the starting star idea for the first 10-15 weeks of kindergarten

Then get the cards out  {I go to school.}
  • Scratch your head a little, say 'I can't remember how these go" and read each card as you place it randomly in the sentence maker. 
  • 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! 
  • At this stage many students are basically learn to read this by memory/rote, but pick up valuable beginning reading skills along the way.

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.

Tell the students that you will now show them how to read. 
  • 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. 
  • Look at them with a very pleased look on your face, expressing that you are very clever to have just read the sentence - "go I school to". 
  • They are normally laughing at this point, because of course your sentence does not make sense.
  • Repeat a few times and eventually a few students will know what order the words should be in, and they come to help. 

When you have the words in the correct order, again do the exaggerated point and read. 
  • Ask them to help you read and read it together. 
  • 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 will be VERY excited. 
Keep this up in the classroom for the rest of the day. 
  • Practise on and off for the whole day - it only takes a minute, 
  • Randomly pause through the day and say "oh boys and girls, help me to read again" and point to the words, with everyone joining in.
  • The more times you get them to look and read the words, the better. 
  • Occasionally mix the cards 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Practice quite a few times, at their desks, reading the "I go to school" sentence. 

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

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 between words, capital letters, left to right progression, full stops etc
  • After you 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 fun. Do not put any pressure of the students. It has always worked beautifully and I promise you will never forget the looks of excitement and accomplishment on the students' faces when they know that they have learnt to 'read' on the first day of school!

As the weeks pass of course, you can explain to the students that there is also more to learn about reading. 

I have also put together this little packet of writing activities, that incorporates using the "I go to school' pattern. 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