There are 5 Big Ideas in Beginning Reading:

There are 5 Big Ideas in Beginning Reading:
Phonemic Awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate
sounds in spoken words
Alphabetic Principle: the ability to associate sounds with
letters and use these sounds to form words
Fluency with Text: the effortless, automatic ability to read
words in connected text
Vocabulary: the ability to understand (receptive) and use
(expressive) words to acquire and convey meaning
Comprehension: the complex cognitive process involving
the intentional interaction between reader and text to
convey meaning
Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills
Explanation of Scores
First Sound Fluency (FSF) - Kindergarten: fall, winter
Benchmark goal: 30 beginning sounds identified correctly in one minute
Can your child hear and pronounce the beginning sounds in a word? This skill helps
children learn that words are made up of individual sounds.
Letter Naming Fluency (LNF) - Kindergarten: fall, winter, spring; First Grade: fall
Benchmark goal: 40 letters identified correctly in one minute
Does your child know the names of letters? Can your child recall them quickly and
easily, even when upper and lower case letters are randomly mixed together?
Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF) - Kindergarten: winter, spring; First Grade: fall
Benchmark goal: 40 sounds identified correctly in one minute
Individual sounds are called phonemes. Can your child segment or break apart
spoken words into individual sounds? Example: mat.../m/ - /a/ - /t/. This skill helps
children put sounds and words together in their writing, also.
Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF) - Kindergarten: winter, spring; First Grade: fall, winter,
Kindergarten end of year goal: 28 letter sounds read correctly in one minute
First grade benchmark goal: 58 letter sounds read correctly in one minute with at
least 13 nonsense words read as whole words
Does your child know the sounds that letters make? Do the sounds come to mind
quickly and automatically? Can your child blend these sounds together to
pronounce unfamiliar words? This is an important skill because many words
encountered by beginning/emerging readers are not familiar to them.
Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) - End of 1st grade through 5th grade
First grade end of year goal: 47 words read correctly in one minute
Second grade end of year goal: 87 words read correctly in one minute
Third grade end of year goal: 100 words read correctly in one minute
Fourth grade end of year goal:115 words read correctly in one minute
Fifth grade end of year goal: 130 words read correctly in one minute
How many words per minute can your child read correctly? Once your child has
learned to “sound out” phonetic words and learned “sight” words (those that must
be memorized), do they become instantly recognized words? When a child can
recognize many words easily, reading is much more enjoyable and text is easier to
Letter Identification
Assessment: Letter Naming Fluency (LNF)
What is it?
Letter identification is the ability to see an upper or lowercase letter and
quickly say the name of the letter.
Why is it important?
Knowing the names of letters allows teachers and children to communicate
easily about letters and their sounds.
What can we do at home?
Magnet Letters - There are many, many ways to using magnet letters on the
refrigerator! Help your child...
*spell his/her name and the names of family members.
*sort letters by shapes or characteristics, such as straight lines/curvy lines,
circles/no circles, tails/no tails, or uppercase/lowercase.
*put letters in ABC order (sing the alphabet song when you are figuring out
the order).
*match uppercase letters with lowercase letters.
*search for letters. Say the name of a letter, and have your child find that
Newspaper letters - Have your child search for a particular letter in the
newspaper or a magazine, and cut out that letter whenever he/she finds it.
(As a bonus, this also works on fine motor cutting skills.)
Use large motions - Have your child write letters in the air or on the driveway
with sidewalk chalk. Have your child use his/her body to form letters.
Use tactile materials - Have your child use his/her finger to trace letters in a
pile of shaving cream, on a tray of powdered jello or pudding, or on a sheet
of lightweight sandpaper.
Type the letters - Allow your child to use the computer (or even an old
typewriter) to type letters that he/she knows.
Play Guess the Letter - In this game, partners take turns using their fingers to
write a letter onto their partners' backs. The partner needs to guess the letter.
Phonemic Awareness
Assessments: First Sound Fluency (FSF) and Phoneme
Segmentation Fluency (PSF)
What is it?
Phonological awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate words, parts
of words, and individual sounds in spoken words. Phonemic awareness is one
piece of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear
and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. No print is involved. It is
completely auditory. These are great activities to do at home or in the car
because they can all be done out loud without any materials.
Why is it important?
Phonemic awareness is a critical skill because it sets the foundation for later
phonics learning. It is also a very strong predictor of later reading success.
When a child notices the individual sounds in a spoken word, he or she is more
prepared for sounding and blending written words.
What can we do at home?
Word identification - Count the number of words is a spoken sentence. Say
the first line of a nursery rhyme (for example, Mary had a little lamb.) Then,
using your fingers, count the words together. (Phonological awareness
Beginning Sounds - Play "I'm going on a camping trip..." Start the game by
saying, "I'm going on a camping trip, and I'm going to bring a dog and a
dandelion. What are you going to bring?" The child should think of something
that also starts with the /d/ sound. Remember, this game is all about sounds,
not letters! For example, if the sound you chose is /s/, and the child says,
"circus," that would be an appropriate answer. (Phonemic awareness activity)
Rhyming - Play a thumbs up-thumbs down game. Start the game by saying, "If
the words rhyme, give me a thumbs up. If they do not rhyme, give me a
thumbs down." Make sure that your examples are very obvious for young
learners, especially when the words do not rhyme. Avoid words that start with
the same letter (dog-dinosaur) or fit in the same category (dog-cat). By
choosing words that are very different and unrelated (dog-refrigerator), you
are helping your child learn to focus in on the rhyme. (Phonological
awareness activity)
Segmenting/Blending - Choose a word with three sounds (mat). Say each
sound separately. Have your child touch his/her head when saying the first
sound /m/, touch his/her waist when saying the middle sound /a/, and touch
his/her toes when saying the last sound /t/. When your child can do this
activity easily without assistance, say one of the sounds separately and ask
your child to place his/her hands on the head, waist, or toes to show if the
sound comes at the beginning, middle, or end. (Phonemic awareness
PS - Tongue twisters, nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss books, and other rhyming books
are also great ways to develop these skills!
The Alphabetic Principle and Phonics
Assessments: Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF)
What is it?
The alphabetic principle is the understanding that words are made up of
letters and the letters represent sounds. Additionally, it is the ability to use
these letter-sound associations to read or write words. Phonics is the
instructional method that focuses on these letter-sound associations.
Why is it important?
The English language is based on an alphabet, so being able to sound out
(decode) words is necessary.
What can we do at home?
Building words - Using magnetic letters, make a three letter word on the
refrigerator (cat). Have your child read the word and use it in a sentence.
Every day, change one letter to make a new word. Start by changing only
the beginning letter (cat, bat, hat, sat, mat, rat, pat). Then change only the
ending letter (pat, pal, pad, pan). Finally, change only the middle letter (pan,
pen, pin, pun).
Making words - For this game, you will need magnetic letters and three bags.
Put half of the consonants into the first bag. Put all of the vowels into the
middle bag, and put the remaining consonants into the last bag. Have your
child pull one letter from the first bag. That will be the first letter of their word.
Then have him/her pull from the vowel bag for the second letter of the word
and from the other consonant bag for the third letter of the word. Next, the
child will read the word and decide if it is a real word or a nonsense word. If it
is a real word, have your child use it in a sentence. Take turns, replacing the
vowels as needed until there are no more consonants left. The player with the
most nonsense words wins.
Writing words - Many children love to send and receive notes, and writing is a
great way to reinforce phonics skills. Send your child notes in the lunch box or
place notes on the pillow. Have a relative or friend send a letter or email to
your child. Whenever your child receives a note, have him/her write back.
Don't be concerned about spelling. Instead, have your child sound out the
words to the best of his/her ability.
Labeling words - When reading a book with your child, keep Post-it notes
handy. Every so often, have your child choose one object in the picture and
write the word on a Post-it. Put the note in the book to read again and again
every time you come to that page.
Practicing words with pictures - Choose pictures from a magazine or catalog.
Say the name of the picture, have your child say the sound that the picture
begins with and the name of that letter.
Hunting for words - Choose a letter and have your child hunt for five items
beginning with that letter sound. As each object is found, help your child write
the word on a list. For example, if the target sound is /m/, the child might find
and write mop, mat, Mom, money, and microwave.
Hints for helping your child sound out words - When your child is reading and
comes to an unfamiliar word, there are several ways that you can help.
1. If the word is a high frequency word (for example, was, what, or of)
that does not follow the phonics rules, simply provide the word to your child
and explain that this is a word that needs to be memorized.
2. If the word can be sounded out, have your child stretch out the first sound,
check the picture if appropriate, and make a guess. Next, come back to the
word and sound out the whole word to see if that guess was correct.
3. Have your child say each sound individually (mmmaaannn), then stretch
out each sound (mmmaaannn), and finally, read the word quickly (man).
4. As your child becomes more proficient in sounding out words, help him/her
pick out parts of the new word that are already familiar. This will lessen
the effort level needed to sound out a longer word. For example, in a word
such as shouting, your child may already know that sh will go together, that
out is a familiar word and that ing is a common word ending.
High Frequency Words
Assessments: Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)
What are they?
High frequency words are the words that appear most often in printed
material. These words might also be called sight words.
Why are they important?
High frequency words make up the majority of the words a child will
encounter in print. If the child has learned to recognize these words quickly
and automatically, he or she will have far less to decode and will be able to
focus more on reading comprehension.
What can we do at home?
It is very important to provide a little bit of practice every day. Five minutes for
five days in a row will be far more effective than 25 minutes on just one day.
Flashcards are probably the easiest way to practice, but here are some more
ideas to keep your practice interesting.
Play Bang - Using index cards, write one high frequency word on each card
and write "Bang" on two or three cards. Put all words in a bag. Players take
turns pulling out a word out of the bag. If the player can read the card,
he/she can keep it. If not, he/she puts the card back in the bag. If a
player pulls out a bang card all of the cards have to go back in the bag.
Play Tic-Tac-Toe - Create a tic-tac-toe board and write one high frequency
word in each square. Players play as usual, except each player must read the
word in the square before he/she can write down an x or an o.
Play Checkers - Laminate an old checkerboard, and using a dry-erase
marker, write the high frequency words on the board. Players play as usual,
except before the checker is moved, the player must read the word. If he/she
can read the word, he/she can move. If not, he/she stays in the current
Play Concentration - Make two sets of high frequency cards. Mix them up
and turn them face down on the table. Players take turns making matches. In
order to keep the match, the player must read the words.
Play Go Fish - Make two sets of high frequency cards. Shuffle them, and deal
5 cards to each player. Place the rest face down on the middle of the table.
Players must read the word when asking for a match. If no one else, has the
match, the player tries to find a match from the pile on the middle of the
table. Players keep the matches, and the one with the most matches at the
end of the game wins.
On the Go Words - Place the high frequency words in a sheet protector, and,
using some pins, paperclips, or metal rings, attach the words to the back of
the car seat so that your child can easily see them from his/her seat. As you
are driving, he/she can read the words to you. If he/she does not know the
word, he/she can spell it out, and you can pronounce it.
Big Words - Many children enjoy and benefit from using large motions when
learning high frequency words. Have your child write the words on the
driveway with sidewalk chalk, trace the words in the air, make the words out
of Play-Doh, or spray a thin layer of shaving cream on a table or counter and
trace the words in shaving cream.
PS - There are other ideas in the Letter Recognition section that would also
work for High-Frequency Word practice.
Assessments: Oral Reading Fluency (ORF)
What is it?
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately, automatically, and effortlessly,
using appropriate expression and phrasing.
Why is it important?
If a child is not fluent, it means that he or she is focusing primarily on figuring
out (decoding) the words, and that makes it difficult for the child to
understand and remember what has been read.
What can we do at home?
Repeated reading - Choose a story, a short chapter, or even a page that is
not very difficult. Read the passage aloud to your child, and then read
the passage together, helping your child figure out any tricky words. Next,
have your child read the passage to you, focusing on accuracy. Finally, have
your child read the passage to you again several more times paying attention
to fluency and expression. The goal is to sound smooth and natural, like
Use different voices - When reading a familiar story or passage, try having
your child use different voices. Read the story in a mouse voice or a cowboy
voice or a monster voice or a princess voice. This is just a variation on
repeated readings designed to add interest and a sense of fun to reading
Read to different audiences - Although a young reader may not think of it this
way, reading aloud is really just a way to communicate to an audience.
When a reader keeps the audience in mind, he/she knows that the reading
must be fluent and expressive. Provide a variety of opportunities for your child
to read to an audience. Your child can read to stuffed animals, pets, siblings,
neighbors, grandparents - anyone who is willing to listen. For example, an out
of town relative can easily share a book with the child over the phone if your
child and the relative have both checked the same book out from the library.
Additionally, there are even books that are specially written to be read to a
pet, such as Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog.
Practice reading phrases - Once your child is comfortable with the high
frequency words, try reading the Fry Sight Word Phrases. Click here to go to
the Fry Sight Word Phrases. These lists were retrieved from
Record the reading - After your child has practiced a passage, have him/her
record it with a tape player or MP3 device. Once recorded, your child can
listen to his reading and follow along in the book. Many times, a child will
want to rerecord the book and make it even better!
Comprehension in the Early Grades
Assessments: Retell of Oral Reading
What is it?
Comprehension is the ability to understand and interact with text.
Why is it important?
Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. Authors write to be able to
communicate with readers. Readers need to be able to actively interact with
the author's words. Good comprehension leads to reading enjoyment.
Reading enjoyment leads to more time spent reading. More time spent
reading leads to better comprehension, and so on...
What can we do at home?
Sequencing errands - Talk about errands that you will run today. Use
sequencing words (sequence, first, next, last, beginning, middle, end) when
describing your trip. Ask your child to remember and sequence your errands.
For example, you might say, "We are going to make three stops. First, we
will go to the gas station. Next, we will go to the bank. Finally, we will go to the
grocery store.. Let's sequence them. What will we do at the beginning?
What will we do in the middle? What will we do at the end?"
Sequencing comics - Choose a comic strip from the Sunday paper. Cut out
each square and mix the squares up. Have your child put them in order and
describe what is happening in the story. Encourage your child to use words
like first, second, next, finally, etc.
Every day comprehension - Ask your child the five Ws and an H questions
(who, what, when, where, why, how) about an event in his/her day. For
example, if your child attended a party, you could ask, "Who was there?
What did you do? When did you have cake? Where did you go? Why did the
invitation have dogs on it? How did the birthday child like the
presents?" Once your child is comfortable answering these questions about
his/her own experiences, try asking these questions after reading a book
aloud to your child.
Think aloud - When you read aloud to your child, talk about what you are
thinking. This gives your child a little glimpse into the mind of a reader, and it is
your opportunity to show your child that reading is a lot more than just figuring
out the words. A good reader is always thinking, wondering, and questioning.
For example, describe how you feel about what's going on in the book, what
you think will happen next, or what you thought about a character's choice.
Reading fiction
1. Before beginning a fiction book, find the title and author. Look at the
picture on the cover and ask, "What do you think this will be about? Why?
Why do you think the author wrote this book?" This will help your child set
purpose for reading. If you have had a chance to read the book prior to
reading it with your child, now is a good time to explain any unfamiliar
vocabulary that he/she will come across in the story.
2. While reading, ask your child to identify the setting (where and when) and
the problem. Stop every now and then to ask, "What's happened so far?" or
"What do you think will happen next?"
3. After reading review the story. Ask, "What happened at the beginning?
What happened in the middle? What happened at the end? How was the
problem solved?" Be sure to ask for your child's opinions too. "What did you like
about the story? What didn't you like? What would you have done if you were
the main character?"
PS - Keep the discussion quick and lively! Even when you are working on
comprehension with your child, reading time together should still be cozy and
Reading Nonfiction
Before beginning a nonfiction book, find the title and the author. Look at
the cover and ask, "What do you think this book will be about?" Take a sheet
of paper and divide it into three sections, and be ready to write down your
child's ideas and questions. The first section will include a list of all of the things
that your child already knows about the topic. The middle section will include
a list of questions that your child has about the topic. The third section will be
completed later. (Teachers call this a KWL chart. What do I know? What do I
want to know? What did I learn?)This helps your child start thinking about
his/her background knowledge and set a purpose for reading. Now, look at
the table of contents. Have your child choose the topic he/she wants to read
today and go straight to that page. Nonfiction books do not necessarily need
to be read cover to cover.
While reading, be sure to point out the text features, such as headings, bold
face type, illustrations, and captions. Talk about information that the author
included. Is it really important or just interesting? This is a great opportunity
to introduce your child to the idea of main idea and supporting details. As
you read, see if any of your child's questions were answered. If so, write down
the answers on the third section of the KWL chart.
After reading, ask your child, "What was it mostly about? Did it answer your
questions? What do you still want to know? Where could you find out?"
PS - Keep the discussion low key and brief! You do not need to do everything
with every story. Let your child see that you think reading is an enjoyable,
worthwhile activity.