How Do We Teach Kindergarteners to Read?

Right now, in classrooms everywhere, kindergarten teachers are covering the basics of literacy – introducing sounds, rhyme and letters as the building blocks of reading to some of the youngest learners. But what is the best method for teaching literacy?

Consider what’s happening in Elyria, Ohio. For five days this fall, Young Audiences storyteller and musician Susan Weber conducted an Arts for Learning residency with 87 students in four kindergarten classes at Franklin Elementary SchoolBeginning with an assembly performance, the “What’s in a Name?” Between the Lions residency emphasized basic literacy concepts using music and segments from the popular PBS-TV series.  Using rhythmic songs, students interacted with names, colors and animal images to explore letter-sound correspondence, segmenting words and rhyme. Students composed original word patterns and participated in solo and unison performance.  The residency added a rich layer of learning to an already strong literacy program at the school.

Teacher Stephanie Burnside commented, “I love having [teaching artist] Susan Weber and Young Audiences.  I think it’s a great asset to my class.”  She also shared that the most outstanding part of the residency was when her students used rhythm sticks to connect sounds with actions.  On the other hand, teacher Christine Klein said, “The best component was the use of instructional strategies that are research-based.”  The residency was funded through an arts learning grant from the Nord Family Foundation.

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts don’t explain the best way to teach literacy, it only tells you what benchmarks to aim for.  How do you get there?  We believe that one of the best ways is through the arts.  The arts give students at all ability levels opportunities to engage with content, creatively express themselves and strengthen creative and critical thinking skills.  Through the arts, literacy lessons are made hands-on and meaningful for five-year-olds or learners of any age.

Take a look at this short video clip to get a glimpse of just one moment in the residency:

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