Our 4-Year-Old Kindergarten (4K) literacy expanded this year! The School District of Menomonee Falls 4K-2 Early Literacy commitment is for all students to be proficient or meet their accelerated growth goals in literacy by the end of second grade. Two new Phonemic Awareness curriculum programs are being used this year, specially designed for 4K to give teachers, families, and students new tools and resources to practice and learn important early reading readiness skills.
What is Phonemic Awareness?
Phonemic awareness is the knowledge of how language works. It is the ability to understand how different sounds make up words, understand the relationship between words, and rearrange sounds to create new words. Essentially, it is the ability to think about and work with the individual sounds in words. It is important to recognize the difference in sounds, but children need to understand that sounds are manipulative elements of our language. Hearing different sounds, knowing their positions, and understanding the role they play within a word will help them read efficiently.
Why is Phonemic Awareness important?
Children in the early stages of language development sometimes have difficulty sequencing sounds. It is essential for the progression of reading that children are able to hear sounds and patterns used to make up words. It requires children to notice how letters represent sounds. Children who lack phonemic awareness skills do not understand what letters represent. If they were asked to name the first letter in the word “duck,” they would likely say “quack quack.” Sounds are abstract, making this a hard concept for children to grasp.
Phonemic Awareness and Reading:
Children need to know letter sounds, but it is crucial to successful reading and spelling that they know how to apply these skills and recognize the necessary print-sound relationship. For example, children must be able to identify the letter d in words duck, dish, and bad and separate the phoneme from others before they can understand what the letter d represents in those words. Studies show that a lack of phonemic awareness is characteristic of students who are failing to read or at risk for reading difficulty compared to their peers.
One of the resources, Phonemic Awareness in Young Children, is rich in foundation-building games and activities. This year, 4K students play with spoken language through language games, listening games, rhyming, awareness of syllables, and using a multisensory approach to sound-symbol connections. While these skills are not new, our team approach is intentional, provides opportunities for student mastery, and assures consistency across all 4k classrooms. The curriculum includes early intervention resources crucial for reading success in later grades. Giving students the opportunity to acquire an early foundation of early literacy awareness is linked to later reading success.
The staff professional development around this curriculum has been extremely powerful in helping with instructional delivery and reflection. The 4k teacher team is already seeing strong results and is looking forward to next semester as we begin to add Heggerty Phonemic Awareness, the second resource, to enhance and practice early literacy and language skills already taught during the first semester.
We know literacy is vital to students’ success and are excited to implement a robust curriculum to target those skills. If you have any questions about the 4-Year-Old Kindergarten Program, please reach out to the program chair, Ms. Cindy Ceplina, at email@example.com.