How Does the Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! Program Work?
The Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! program is made up of 7 core learning components (Daily Alphabet Review Activities, Letter of the Week Focus, Daily Journal Writing, Interactive Literacy Charts, Free Reading Time, Teacher-Directed Story Time, and Handwriting Practice). These components all work together to get your kids reading and writing fluently as soon as possible. As a result, it’s important that you utilize all 7 on a daily basis. If you pick and choose your favorites, you will not get the same results. It is only when all of the Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! activities are successfully implemented on a daily basis that optimal results are achieved.
Following is a brief overview of the key components that make up this program and why they are important to the program’s overall success. Each is discussed in further detail in the Kinders Can! READ and WRITE! book.
Component 1: Daily Alphabet Review Activities (15 minutes a day)
The Daily Alphabet Review Activities (Alphabet Review, Vowel Cheer, and Wall Vowels) are quick, fun, active review chants and cheers that will enable your kids to swiftly fill in any letter/sound gaps they might have upon entering your classroom. In fact, I have seen these simple review activities help kids go from knowing fewer than half of their letters and sounds to knowing all of their letters and sounds within just a couple of weeks! These fun cheers and chants are great at helping late arrivals catch up on their letter/sound knowledge as well. They are also a terrific way to help your kids get their “wiggles” out before or after more sedentary activities, such as the Letter of the Week Focus.
Another review activity you’ll want to add later in the year, earlier if your kids come in already knowing letters and sounds, is the Trick Review. This quick but crucial review can really do a lot to help your kids remember the many “tricks” they‘ll need to know to read and write just about anything other than simple, consonant-vowel-consonant words and/or basic blends. It can help you become more familiar with them as well! (“Tricks” are letter combinations such as sh, ch, th, er, ou, ar, etc. that make different sounds when they are together than they normally make when alone or paired with other letters.)
Component 2: Letter of the Week Focus (30-60 minutes a day)
The Letter of the Week Focus is the component that will help you get your kids reading and writing words as early as the third week of school, regardless of the letter/sound knowledge they bring with them when they enter your room. During this segment of your day, you will not just focus on a new “letter of the week” and its sound; rather, you will show your kids how to actually use this information to begin reading and writing new words and sentences.
Here’s how it works: As soon as you have introduced your third letter/sound (usually the Monday of the third week of school), you will combine it with the other letters/sounds taught to create words – words your kids can begin to sound out and read using the letter/sound knowledge they have gained. As each new letter/sound thereafter is introduced, you will do the same, creating more and more words as the weeks go by. (A list of these words can be found in the appendix, along with practice sheets your kids can take home.) These words will be used to create sentences as well! Slowly and methodically, even your lowest students will be able to see how letters and sounds are used to create and/or decode words. Within weeks, they should be using this knowledge to read and write all sorts of words on their own!
Along with teaching your kids how to read and write words and sentences during this segment, you will also be reinforcing beginning sound concepts, introducing new vocabulary, and showing your kids how to properly form each letter. In addition, you will be writing (and reading) your first simple interactive literacy charts with your kids during this time. You will also be introducing select “outlaw” and/or “high frequency” words you want your students to know. Some of the most common “tricks” created with the letters taught will also be discussed during this time. All in all, this is an extremely powerful component that will help demystify the reading and writing process so that your kids can begin to read and write whatever they wish on their own. As your kids begin to master letters, sounds, and basic blending/segmenting techniques, however, you’ll need to make sure you spend less time on this component and more time on the components that get your kids actively applying these skills, namely Journal Writing and Interactive Literacy Charts.
Component 3: Daily Journal Writing (30-60 minutes a day)
Daily Journal Writing is the component that will give your kids the time they need to practice writing on their own. During this “free writing” time, your kids will get to put their growing letter, sound, “trick,” and “outlaw” knowledge to use. They’ll also get to explore using proper punctuation, capitalization, and advanced composition skills. Although their initial results may be less than impressive, you should see their work drastically improve as the year continues. In fact, you should see your kids go from merely producing scribble-like drawings labeled with seemingly random letters to sophisticated pictures accompanied by long, interesting stories.
Component 4: Interactive Literacy Charts (30-90 minutes a day)
Reading and writing Interactive Literacy Charts the “slow” and “fast” way with your kids (where your kids help you sound out and/or write everything on the chart before quickly reading it back without pause) will help give your kids the guided practice they need to be able to confidently read and write all sorts of real words, sentences, paragraphs, and short stories on their own. It will not only help your kids learn about letters, sounds, blending, segmenting, “tricks” (letters and/or letter combinations that work together to create new sounds, such as sh, ch, th, er, ou, etc.) and “outlaw” words (words that can’t be sounded out, such as through, said, and have), but will show them how to actually apply all they have learned about these things to read and write whatever they wish. What’s more, it will help your kids become familiar with the advanced mechanics of print: proper spacing, capitalization, spelling, and punctuation. Various language, thinking, and comprehension skills will be addressed during this time as well. Fluency will also be improved. In fact, just about everything you need to teach your kids can be taught and/or reviewed through interactive literacy chart instruction, including important math, social studies, and science skills. Use these charts throughout your day for best results.
Component 5: Free Reading Time (10-15 minutes a day)
Free Reading Time is an important component to include as well, even though it is not a“teaching time,” per se. The real beauty of Free Reading Time is that it allows your kids a few minutes each day to simply enjoy interacting with books and other reading material. During this time, your kids can practice using what they are learning in class to read whatever reading material appeals them on that particular day. If they prefer, they can simply enjoy flipping the pages and seeing all of the wonderful pictures and ideas included in the book of their choosing. It’s up to them. It’s their time to simply enjoy books, magazines, or whatever other interesting written material you have left out for them to explore.
Component 6: Teacher-Directed Story Time (10-15 minutes a day)
Teacher-Directed Story Time is another component critical to your students’ success. During this segment, you will read aloud to your kids. This can help you increase your students’ vocabulary, build your students’ background knowledge of various topics, improve their language skills, and increase their overall desire to want to learn to read and write. It can also help you pinpoint who is having trouble following the story line, thinking critically, etc.
Component 7: Handwriting Practice (10-15 minutes a day)
Handwriting Practice may not seem crucial to your kids’ reading and writing success, but it is an important component as well. Double it with your snack time if you need to, but be sure to include it. It will help ensure your kids can write their first and last names, letters of the alphabet, days of the week, months of the year, and numbers to 10 or 20. It will also help your kids develop their fine motor skills. Plus, it will help make sure your kids understand how to size their letters appropriately. Taking only ten to fifteen minutes of your day, this is an activity that is easy to include and impressive in the dividends it pays off. Just make sure you utilize your kids’ working time appropriately. Walk around as they work, helping as needed. This is a great time to make sure your kids are holding their pencils and forming their letters properly. If you sit at your desk or meet with a small group at this time, you won’t be able to help your kids correct any bad habits they might be forming.