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The First Thing Kindergarteners Learn Before Learning How to Read

The First Thing Kindergarteners Learn Before Learning How to Read

As parents, we all know some of the basic skills students will learn in kindergarten, such as reading, writing, shapes, and numbers. But there is one thing they need to learn and develop before learning how to read, count, or anything else. This one thing is important because we are a “Literacy-First” school and this skill is the basis of learning how to read.


Learning how to read

The Skill of Listening & Speaking – Before Learning how to read

You might be surprised to know one of the first things students learn to develop in kindergarten is the skill of listening and speaking. Students must learn to elaborate on this skill while learning to read and write.

"Children who are fortunate enough to participate in language arts instruction that recognizes the importance of continuing to build listening and speaking competency while also beginning reading and writing instruction will, in the end, be far more literate adults."

- Core Knowledge Curriculum

Some of the skills your student will learn in this area are:

  • How to speak clearly with appropriate volume.
  • How to look and listen to the speaker.
  • How to add to a discussion by taking turns (raising hands, saying, “please” or “excuse me”).
  • How to identify and express emotions.
  • How to use language to describe, people, places, and things.
  • How to understand and use common sayings and phrases.
  • How to follow directions.

Another important area in this category is for children to be able to discuss and understand stories they hear out loud (or what our curriculum (Core Knowledge) calls, “read-alouds”).

"Written text makes use of richer vocabulary and more complex syntax than conversational language. It is important that young children be exposed not only to the language of everyday conversation but also to the richer and more formal language of books. This can be done through frequent reading aloud. Helping young children develop the ability to listen to and understand written texts read aloud must be an integral part of any initiative designed to build literacy."

- The Core Knowledge Curriculum

This is why New Summit is a “Literacy First” school and why we encourage our parents so much to read out loud to their children. Some of the things a kindergartener will know how to do in this area by the end of kindergarten are:

  • How to listen and understand different stories and books read aloud including fiction, fairy tales, fables, historical narratives, drama, informational text, and poems.
  • Be able to tell the who, what, where, and when of each story or text.
  • Use language to describe people, places, things, locations, events, and actions in a read-aloud.
  • Understand and use words and phrases heard in read-alouds.
  • Compare and contrast similarities and differences within a single book or between two or more books.
  • Make personal connections to events or experiences in a read-aloud.
  • Make predictions prior to and during a read-aloud, based on the title, pictures, and/or the text heard.
  • Answer questions that require making interpretations, judgments, or giving opinions about what is heard in a read-aloud, including answering “why” questions.
  • Retell or dramatize a story, using narrative language to describe characters, setting(s), and a beginning, a middle and an end to events of the story in proper sequence.
  • Create and tell their own an story, using narrative language to describe characters, setting(s), and a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Understand literary language with terms such as author, illustrator, characters, setting, plot, dialogue, personification, simile, and metaphor.
  • Retell important facts and information from a nonfiction book that has been read-aloud.
  • Distinguish read-alouds that describe events that happened long ago from those that describe past or current events.


Now, you may be wondering about some examples of what all of this looks like in the classroom. Here is a few examples kindergarten students may see and experience in the classroom:

Favorite poems – Students may read and recite together poems from authors such as Mother Goose, A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh), Langston Hughes, and many more from books that are all beautifully illustrated.

• Beloved stories and fables – Kindergarten students will have stories read aloud to them such as, “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “Cinderella,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” and many more. These read-alouds will also include multicultural folktales from African, Japanese, and Native American traditions.

• Familiar sayings and phrases- Students will learn “traditional wisdom” such as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and “Better safe than sorry.”

Want to know about what our kindergarteners are learning in Kindergarten? Check out the book, “What Every Kindergartener Should Know” which is part of our curriculum!

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