King's Gate Christian School
STAGES OF LITERACY
Children move through stages as they are learning to read and write that indicate a growing knowledge of the conventions of literacy, including: letters, sounds, and spacing words within sentences. Long before children learn to read, they need exposure to a wide variety of language and literacy and exploration in oral language, sound awareness, concepts of print, letters, words and writing. At King’s Gate, reading and writing exploration and instruction are accomplished in a logical, explicit, and sequential process. We help each child through the stages of literacy, while always keeping in mind that each child develops and learns at a different pace and the lines between the stages can be blurry. Surrounding children with an environment rich in opportunities to find meaning and to experience literacy will support them as they go through these stages. Children must be given the opportunity, time, and encouragement they need to internalize both the reading and writing processes.
Stages for Reading Development
Emergent readers (usually birth to age six) begin to learn how print works, letter-sound relationships, and vocabulary in stories read to them. As children pretend and use things they’ve built to stand for other objects (blocks for a house), they take steps toward the use of symbols, which is important as they begin to read and write. Imaginative play encourages language development and the exploration of budding reading and writing skills. Through Energizing Readiness curriculum, King’s Gate teaches pre-reading skills of oral language, phonological awareness, letter recognition, and letter sounds through the use of nursery rhymes. Each of the 26 letters (and their corresponding alphabetic principle) and the numbers zero through nine are reinforced by using a nursery rhyme. Letterland©, uses a story-based approach to reinforce letter/sound correspondence through music, actions, alliteration, movement, song, art, games and role-play. The value of literacy is modeled during center activities, circle time, and shared reading. The classrooms themselves reflect that print has meaning through labeling of classroom items (environmental print.)
Early readers (usually age six and seven) begin to link speech sounds onto letters, decode words, and make sense of what they read. Navigate Kindergarten curriculum uses multi-sensory techniques to build on the knowledge of: phonological awareness, letter recognition, alphabet sequencing, handwriting, print concepts, vocabulary, comprehension, listening, and verbal expression learned in Energizing Readiness. King’s Gate uses Letterland© to reinforce blending, segmenting, as well as, first digraphs and high-frequency words.
Transitional readers (usually age seven and eight) develop strategies to help them decode words and read with understanding, but may still need support with more difficult reading material. First Grade Foundations instruction builds phonological awareness, phonics, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, handwriting, and spelling. FGF allows teachers to be prepared for any student reading level with pre-literacy techniques and a comprehensive, balanced approach to the basics of language arts instruction. The Letterland© focus during this stage is on word families, digraphs, prefixes, suffixes, and fluency. The multi-sensory approach to learning is continued and students are encouraged to learn special tricks to improve fluency and ensure mastery of many more digraphs and trigraphs.
Fluent readers (usually ages eight and up) read independently with confidence and understand longer and more difficult types of material. They use word parts to figure out words and relate sections of the story to one another. King’s Gate uses Structured Language Basics (SLB), which features instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, oral reading fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, grammar, handwriting, and spelling. SLB includes in-depth instruction on advanced syllable division and root-and-affix instruction to prepare students to confidently attack multisyllabic words. Letterland© teaches more advanced spelling patterns, syllabification, and word structure. The program incorporates many reading and fluency activities, as well as motivational word games.
As fluent readers enter middle and high school, they often read material that has many viewpoints and more complex language and ideas. They draw on what they know from other reading material and experiences to judge what they read and come to conclusions.
Stages for Writing Development
SCRIBBLING/DRAWING (age 0-2)
Most children begin by scribbling and drawing. Drawing and painting help children discover the relationship between how they move the writing or painting instruments and the marks they create. During this phase, “scribbles” are first attempts at recreating what they see as writing. Our classrooms support this stage through providing writing opportunities throughout the classroom and providing enthusiasm as they begin to experiment as writers.
LETTER-LIKE FORMS AND SHAPES (age 2-5)
At this stage of writing development, children begin to display their understanding that writers use symbols to convey their meaning. Writing begins to include shapes (circles, squares) and other figures. A writer in this stage will often write something and ask, “What does this say?” There’s little orientation of forms and shapes to space (i.e., they appear in random places within the writing or drawing).
LETTERS (age 5-7)
Most children begin to use random letters (usually consonants), especially those in their name. Pieces of writing are usually strings of upper-case consonants, without attention to spaces between words or directionality. At the beginning of this stage, there remains a lack of sound-to-symbol correspondence between the words they are trying to write and the letters they use. Later efforts may include letters for sounds in words. The Letterland© curriculum supports this stage through fun letter recognition and alliteration games and songs with the introduction of the Letterland© characters. The use of the Handwriting without Tears® curriculum lays a solid foundation and helps to facilitate correct tripod pencil grip.
LETTERS AND SPACES (age 7-9)
As beginning writers practice, they learn many concepts about print. Creative writing encourages children to see their own thoughts and words in print. Children, for the first time, start writing things an adult can “read.” If a teacher isn’t quite sure what the child has written, she may say, “Please tell me about what you’ve written. I see you’ve worked hard to get it all down!” This provides support throughout the learning process and encourages the child to continue in their efforts without the fear of failure or disapproval. Rather than simply copying something we have written for them, we support children in producing their own work and “telling their own stories.” This is real life reading and writing.
Children in this stage work hard to recreate letters and words that they see in their environment. They write with beginning and ending sounds and start to insert vowels, as well as spell some high frequency words. Punctuation begins as writers experiment with forming sentences. Letterland© and Wright Skills support children during this stage through creative writing, sentence building, and spelling activities.
The Handwriting without Tears® curriculum allows for consistent practice with print concepts and print vocabulary (big line, little line, big curve, little curve, etc.) through the introduction of the size, shape and position concepts included in creating letters. It also supports increased understanding of the directionality of written communication, further fine motor development, and improved formation and recognition of letters and numbers.
CONVENTIONAL WRITING AND SPELLING (around age 9 and up)
At this stage, children will rely on phonics knowledge to spell most words correctly and will notice misspellings; this self-correction is a sign that things are coming together and this child is well on his way to being a fluid writer! Writers use punctuation marks correctly and use capital and lower case letters in the correct places. Writing for different purposes becomes more important. As students progress through the writing stages, various pieces become more automatic and fluent. Handwriting becomes easier, as does the spelling of a majority of words. At King’s Gate, the Wright Skills program supports a child at this stage through phonics, spelling practice, alliteration, poetry, rhyming, suffixes, prefixes, contractions, creative writing, multiple meaning words, abbreviations, grammar, and much more. Structured Language Basics (SLB) also provides grammar instruction to help students develop strong sentence writing skills, which lead to strong paragraph composition.
Because literacy is at the core of everything that happens in our classrooms, all content areas include language and literacy-based activities. King’s Gate provides continuous opportunities for modeling, practice, and guidance for children as they move through the stages. These stages are part of a research-proven approach to emerging literacy. As an accredited early childhood school staffed by credentialed early childhood professionals with degrees in education and child development, King’s Gate provides the appropriate support and environment for children as they become fluent literate young people.
Even with the best curriculum in place, we understand that sometimes students need more. In an effort to make sure we meet the the needs of every student given to us, we have built-in systems in place to assess reading skills so we can address reading difficulties.
Reading difficulties are most common in the earliest stages of reading. However, some children continue to struggle or show new difficulties in later grades. Children struggle to read for many reasons. They may have trouble with speech sounds, recognizing words, or understanding what they read. Family history is an important factor to consider. Below is a list of other signs to take into account.
Signs include having trouble:
- Noticing and naming rhymes
- Noticing and playing with individual sounds in spoken words
- Quickly naming aloud a series of familiar items, like letters, numbers, or colors
- Sounding out unknown words
- Remembering words seen many times before
- Reading word by word
- Remembering the ideas in a story
King’s Gate offers various assessment tools to reveal potential difficulties and licensed staff to provide support.
At King’s Gate, students receive universal dyslexia screening beginning in the spring of kindergarten. Students showing signs of difficulty are monitored, given target support, as well as resources for home. Students identified as needing immediate support are referred to the academic language therapist for a more in-depth look at skills or to begin reading services either individually or in a small group. Therapy consists of structured, multi-sensory, diagnostic, and prescriptive instruction with an emphasis on reading, spelling, handwriting, and written expression areas.
Student reading is also assessed through STAR beginning in first grade. Star Assessments are computer-adaptive tests (CATs) for pre-K—12 students that measure reading, math, and early literacy skills. STAR can be used to screen students three times during the academic year: at the beginning, middle, and end or more often to monitor intervention.
Reading Intervention curriculum is offered for students that have been identified with learning differences. Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia program is a curriculum written by the staff of the Center for Dyslexia at Scottish Rite Hospital. It has a high success rate in remediating language-learning differences, including students with dyslexia. The Ascend Smarter Interventions program is used for students who need additional support, but who do not need a deep therapeutic program for dyslexia. It is a comprehensive reading and writing intervention system that targets all five core components of literacy development.