6 Early Literacy Skills Predict Reading and Writing Success

Its that time of the year when I start planning and thinking how to support incoming preschoolers to kindergarten at the Big Building." These are the ideas I share with parents are they visit my program and get ready for next year.

Early literacy is everything children should know about reading and writing before they can actually read or write. Literacy skills begin developing in the first 5 years of life with a toddler holding and chewing on a book, to wanting a favorite book read over and over, to becoming a preschooler or kindergartner who loves to “read” a story to you from memory.

According to research performed by the National Reading Panel and other experts, young children entering school with specific early literacy skills have the greatest opportunity to become successful readers and writers. Early literacy skills include Vocabulary, Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness. These important foundational skills are the building blocks for learning to read and write. Children having been exposed to, or having most of these skills, will benefit more from the reading instruction they receive when entering kindergarten than the child with fewer skills or no exposure at all.

Some think their child’s success in reading and writing depends on getting the “right” first grade teacher, but their success really depends on how much they learn at home about reading and writing before entering school. Early experiences with books and language are most critical for future success in literacy. Skills that should be promoted at home:
•             Print Motivation — is taking an interest in and enjoying books. A child with print motivation loves being read to, plays with books, and pretends to write. Trips to the library are fun, motivational, and FREE! Exchange books with other parents with children of your child’s age. Encourage print motivation in your child by making reading a special shared time with you. Make books accessible to your child. Let your child see you enjoying reading. Talk to your child about how we use reading and/or writing almost every minute of the day.
•             Vocabulary — (knowing the names of things) is the most important skill for children to have when learning to read. By the time your child enters school, he/she should know between 3,000-5,000 words. Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading and rereading a variety of books (fiction and nonfiction) and teaching the names of all the objects in your child’s world.
•             Print Awareness — is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book. It includes learning that writing (in English) follows rules: print moves top to bottom and left to right, and that the person reading is someone that knows what all the letters and words say. Point out and read words to your child everywhere you see them: on signs, advertisements, labels, stores, candies, products, etc.
•             Narrative Skills — help a child understand and tell a story and describe things, like what happened at a birthday party or about a trip to Grandma’s. Parents can help strengthen their child’s narrative skills by asking him/her to tell what is happening in a story or book, instead of always listening to you read. Ask your child to tell you about things he/she has done or will do that involve a regular sequence of steps: getting ready for school, what your family did/will do on vacation, how to play a particular game, etc.
•             Letter Knowledge — is the ability to recognize and name letters (upper and lower case) and produce the sounds they make. Develop your child’s letter knowledge by using lots of fun reading and/or writing activities: pointing out and naming letters in a book, on a sign or on a label; drawing letters in sand or shaving cream; painting letters on paper with brushes, etc. Talk about letters and how some are similar in shape (l, H, F, E, and T or W, M, N, V). Teach the child how to write the letters in his/her name (one letter at a time) when he/she begins using a crayon to draw or “write”. As your child learns each letter, have him/her practice producing the sound the letter makes.

•             Phonological Awareness — is an understanding of hearing and manipulating sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes (bat, cat, gnat, hat, mat, and sat), say words with sounds left out (bat without b is at), and put two word chunks together to make a word (fl + at = flat). Most often, children having difficulty with phonological awareness have trouble learning to read. An understanding of phonological awareness begins with a child’s exposure to and practice with the previous five steps. Phonological awareness is one of the final steps in preparing children for actual reading instruction that begins in kindergarten.

I hope you find these strategies helpful. I'd love to hear how you help parents understand the foundational skills needed to be successful.

February Show and Tell

 I'm doing the Long Weekend Happy Dance!! Who else has President's Day off? I so needed the extra day to do nothing.

I'm linking up with Forever in 5th Grade to give you peek into my special education resource room and what my students have been up to in the last month. And wow-have they been busy!



This is one group's comprehension work. I have four groups working through The Primary Comprehension Toolkit at Heinemann Publishing. It takes students' through all the comprehension strategies. I love they can move at their own pace. In my case, I have several the DRA reading levels in each group. The umbrella makeup of each group is the comprehension strategy and the reading material students use is at their DRA reading level.

This picture shows how the group is finishing a "Shared" lesson with a "shared" creation task. They decide HOW they were going to SHOW their meaning. My next step with this group will be to have them do the same lesson on their own. It's great to see HOW they go about SHOWING their meaning.




I have talked in the past about how my school district is very big on higher order thinking skills. Here you can see a different comprehension lesson, where you can see the Essential Question which they have to answer with either an Interim or Summative Assessment--but they do it through the World Class Outcome of "How did you create your meaning Strategically in reading and writing."

In my world, ALL students have to do this. This year my work around has been for students to app-smash their way to creating that meaning. This gets them through their hang-ups of writing or long drawn out projects I don't have time for. Plus, they love any excuse to use technology and I love using it for something other than plug and play. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for great special education resource ideas and more about our reading comprehension work.



So all comprehension groups means a new way to look at IEP goal progress--in the form of Google. This is a great way to be paperless. As students are reading quietly or reading to me I can fill out my notes. I go through everything my decoding and comprehension strategies to target and fluency work.


This is the working version of the summative assessment my comprehension groups will do around the time of Spring Break. I'm hoping by then student's have working with at least 4 different comprehension coding strategies. This will be their turn to show what they have learned and apply it.

Stay turned for next months peek into my special education resource room. I'd love to hear how you teach reading comprehension strategies in your guided reading groups.  Have a great week.

Ideas to Teach Comprehension Strategies


Reading Comprehension strategies are why harder to see student's use independently than decoding strategies. As a Special Education Teacher, I tend to spend the first part of my year working mostly with decoding strategies and then teaching comprehension strategies the second half. I have found we mat spend weeks on just one to ensure students are using it on their own as they are reading. But their on may bumps along the way.

I have added a couple of examples from my a few groups.  You can see how student's make use of their understanding of different comprehension strategies in their reading. These are from modeled and shared lessons. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is how to show hoe they created their meaning strategy and use the keyword #understand what I'm reading. This is what each strategy does in a different way.

A "strategy" is a plan developed by a student to assist in comprehending and thinking about texts, when reading the words alone does not give the reader a sense of the meaning of a text. Reading comprehension strategy instruction has come to the fore in reading instruction at all age and grade levels. By helping students understand how these flexible tools work, I help readers to tackle challenging texts with greater independence.

What They Are?



1. Activating background knowledge to make connections between new and known information. In many classrooms, this instruction is divided into three categories-- text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.

2. Questioning the text. Proficient readers are always asking questions while they read. Sticky notes (post-its) have become ubiquitous in classrooms in part because they are such a useful tool for teaching students to stop, mark text, and note questions as they read.

3. Drawing inferences. Proficient readers use their prior knowledge about a topic and the information they have gleaned in the text thus far to make predictions about what might happen next. When teachers demonstrate or model their reading processes for students through think-alouds, they often stop and predict what will happen next to show how inferring is essential for comprehending text.

4. Determining importance. In the sea of words that is any text, readers must continually sort through and prioritize information. Teachers often assist readers in analyzing everything from text features in nonfiction text like bullets and headings, to verbal cues in novels like strong verbs. Looking for these clues can help readers sift through the relative value of different bits of information in texts.

5. Creating mental images. Readers are constantly creating mind pictures as they read, visualizing action, characters, or themes. Teachers are using picture books with students of all ages, not necessarily because they are easy to read, but because the lush and sophisticated art in these books can be a great bridge for helping students see how words and images connect in meaning-making.



6. Repairing understanding when meaning breaks down. Proficient readers don't just plow ahead through text when it doesn't make sense -- they stop and use "fix-up" strategies to restore their understanding. One of the most important fix-up tools is rereading, with teachers demonstrating to students a variety of ways to reread text in order to repair meaning.

7. Synthesizing information. Synthesis is the most sophisticated of the comprehension strategies, combining elements of connecting, questioning, and inferring. With this strategy, students move from making meaning of the text, to integrating their new understanding into their lives and world view.



Ideas for Teaching

Modeling through think-alouds is the best way to teach all comprehension strategies. By thinking aloud, teachers show students what good readers do. Think-alouds can be used during read-alouds and shared reading. They can also be used during small-group reading to review or reteach a previously modeled strategy.

I use a think-aloud to:

  • Create a record of the strategic decision-making process of going through text
  • Report everything the reader notices, does, sees, feels, asks, and understands as she reads
  • Talk about the reading strategies being used within the content being read
  • There are many ways to conduct think-alouds:
  • The teacher models the think-aloud while she reads aloud, and the students listen.
  • The teacher thinks aloud during shared reading, and the students help out.
  • Students think aloud during shared reading, and the teacher and other students monitor and help.
  • The teacher or students think aloud during shared reading while writing on an overhead, on self-stick notes, or in a journal.
  • Students think aloud in small-group reading, and the teacher monitors and helps.
  • Students individually think aloud during independent reading using self-stick notes or a journal. Then students compare their thoughts with others.





I use a Model or Shared Lesson to:

  • Decide on a new strategy or reteach a strategy to model.
  • Other things I think about are:
    • Choose a short text or section of text.
    • Read the text ahead of time. Mark locations where you will stop and model the strategy.
    • State your purpose—name the strategy and explain the focus of your think-alouds.
    • Read the text aloud to students and think aloud at the designated points.
    • If you conduct a shared reading experience, have students highlight words and phrases that show evidence of your thinking by placing self-stick notes in the book.
    • Reinforce the think-alouds with follow-up lessons in the same text or with others.

As a Special Education Teacher, I spend at least one lesson a week during a Modeled or Shared Lesson. As a reading teacher, I have had to work not to be afraid of stopping in the middle of a lesson and redoing or doing a new modeled lesson. Teaching comprehension strategy work is HARD and I spend tons of time listening to and seeing what my students do as they practice independently. I take my time and work for skill mastery not accuracy mastery.  How do you teach your reading comprehension strategies? I'd love to hear what works for your students!




About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I'm Ms. Whiteley. I teach in the beautiful Mile High state--Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching in an rural K-6 Elementary school as a Exceptional Needs Teachers. As Exceptional Needs National Board Certified Teacher, I believe that ALL students can learn and be successful. When I'm not in school, I love to take my two Italian Greyhounds hiking 14ers and reaching for the stars. Thanks for Hopping By.
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