From standalone activities to everyday routines, pre-reading lessons are essential in early childhood classrooms. To develop successful, lifelong readers, early childhood educators must ensure that the proper foundation is laid for literacy development. This includes developing visual discrimination skills, phonemic awareness, oral language, and background knowledge. To cultivate both a love of reading and these essential skills, choose a few of the activities from this list of engaging pre-reading tasks!
1. Tray Game
The tray memory game is excellent for growing students’ visual discrimination skills which will help them to differentiate between letters and words in later elementary years. Arrange several items on a tray, let children look for 30 or so seconds, and then remove one item to see if they can determine what’s missing!
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2. Spot the Differences
These engaging pre-reading activities help hone children’s ability to spot differences between two items and, again, develop their visual discrimination abilities. These are excellent activities to laminate and set out again and again in centers!
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3. Hidden Pictures
Hidden pictures are a great activity for practicing key vocabulary. You can set these out as a center or for early finishers to complete with their extra time. There are tons of printables available for any topic or theme, and at various levels of challenge.
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4. Odd One Out
“Odd One Out” is a fun take on promoting visual discrimination between letters. Instead of sorting, children will look at a strip of letters to identify which one differs. Increase the challenge by progressing from pairings that are visually distinct (a, k) to those that are more similar (b, d).
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5. Work On Letter Knowledge
Elementary students must develop letter knowledge, a concept that includes letter recognition and the understanding that letters represent sounds, before they can begin to read! This can be achieved in many ways, including working with different fonts, multisensory flashcards, singing the alphabet song while following an alphabet chart, and other hands-on activities!
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6. Letter Sorts
Letter sorts are a simple pre-reading activity that you can revisit as you cover more letters! Children can cut and sort paper letters or use letter manipulatives and sort them into groups. This helps them identify differences between letters to promote fluency in the future.
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7. Rhyming Songs
Rhyming is a key phonemic awareness skill for young students to master before beginning reading. One of the best ways to tune their ears to hear rhyme is through song! Raffi, The Learning Station, The Laurie Berkner Band, and The Kidboomers are great channels to check out on YouTube!
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8. Nursery Rhymes
The canonical nursery rhymes serve a distinct purpose in helping students eventually learn to read! Whether they are the original renditions, versions featuring favorite characters like Pete the Cat, or something like Nursery Rhymes for Social Good, they all benefit our children’s ability to identify and manipulate sounds in words!
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9. Rhyming Books
Stories written with a rhyming pattern are a great way to incorporate the pre-reading skills of phonemic awareness into your everyday classroom routine. Incorporate hand signals or handheld signs for students to use when they hear a rhyme as you read!
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A great way to get children outdoors and moving as they learn is to play Find-a-Rhyme! All you need is a few hula hoops for sorting and rhyming words written on plates. Hide the plates for children to find and then have them sort the words into rhyming groups.
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The most engaging activities for little ones are typically full of movement! Erase-a-rhyme is a great way to get students up and moving as they practice rhyming. You will simply draw a picture on a dry-erase board and your learners will erase a part that rhymes with the word you provide!
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12. Blending and Segmenting with Play Dough
Utilize play dough in your literacy small groups as an engaging way to practice blending and segmenting sounds, syllables, or onset and rhyme. Students will love the sensory element this adds while they squash balls representing words’ parts as they blend or segment them.
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13. Blending and Segmenting with Bingo Chips
Bingo chips are another excellent manipulative to incorporate into your small group time. One fun game to play with them is Zap! Students segment a spoken word into its phonemes and represent each sound with a chip. Then, they’ll use a magnetic wand to sweep them up as they blend them back together!
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14. Counting Syllables
Breaking words into syllables is an important pre-reading skill for children to develop before encountering challenging, multisyllabic words in a text. Use any small object to represent the number of syllables in a pictured word with this card set!
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15. Word Clouds
Having subject-specific background knowledge is imperative before students can engage with new topics. A unique way to do this is with a word cloud! In the whole group, show a photograph or book cover and have students brainstorm words it makes them think of! Display the word cloud as an anchor chart throughout your theme.
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Epic is an excellent, free resource for teachers to use as an introductory activity for any topic. Teachers can assign audiobooks that students can listen to and learn about a subject. This is a great way to develop some front-loaded vocabulary for new literacy themes!
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17. Story Baskets
Get children excited about your class read-aloud by creating storytelling baskets! Children can use props, figures, or popsicle stick characters to practice orally retelling stories, creating sequels, or coming up with alternate endings. This teaches them about the elements of a plot, figurative language, and more.
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18. Story Stones
Story stones are another DIY way of encouraging children to become storytellers before they are capable of actually reading or writing them. Simply Mod-Podge pictures of animals, dwellings, etc. to stones and then let children use them to tell tales! Teachers should model elements like having a beginning, middle, and end to each story.
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19. KWL Charts
KWL charts (know, want to know, learned) are a great way to engage students in conversations about books and get them thinking about thinking. It’s one of those basic activities that teach children to focus on a topic and comprehend what they’re hearing. Revisit and add to it periodically as you reread stories!
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20. Read Together
The simplest way to support children’s future reading development is to read with them every day! Let children make their own book choices at the school library. Give parents ideas for reading at home with their child, like asking simple questions and making predictions to develop comprehension strategies.
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