7        Questions About Learning to Read.  Q 3:  What..do students need to learn?

There are quite a few models for what children need to know in the K-2 range.  Some models are for “all children”; other models are for particular groups of children.  Looking at just a few of those models, we see a lot of commonality.  Almost every “model”—in its simplest form– suggests teaching something about books, phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension.  Of course, there are significant differences in how finely or extensively those components are defined.  If there is so much overlap in stated reading curricula, what questions remain about “what” to teach.  I’ll look at three things (in later blogs) to complete a picture of a “reading” curriculum for K-2:  (l) the role of oral language, (2) differences across populations of children (as well as individual children within a population, of course), and (3) pedagogy—how to teach.

 For now, below is a listing of a few of the common models of what to teach. 

1 Starting with the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten  (http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards ) the following set of skills is listed:

Foundational Skills (See Appendix A for even more details)

Print Concepts

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.1 Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features of print.

Phonological Awareness CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.2 Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).

Phonics and Word Recognition CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3a Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3b Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3c Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do, does).
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3d Distinguish between similarly spelled words by identifying the sounds of the letters that differ.

Fluency CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.4 Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.

Reading Literature (with the same categories for Information Texts)

             *Key Ideas and Details

                CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text                            CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.2 With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.                            CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.3 With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

*Craft and Structure

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.4  Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.5  Recognize common types of texts (e.g., story books, poems).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.6  With prompting and support, name the author and illustrator of a story; define the role of each in telling the story.

*Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.7 With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they   appear.

(RL.K.8 not applicable to literature)

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.9 With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

2.  Reading Rockets offers a list of components based on “Reading Intervention Programs that are commercially available and address Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Comprehension, and Vocabulary.


3 Heibert and Raphael, in Early Literacy Instruction, list the following skill

From Chapter 3: What Do Young Readers and Writers Learn in Becoming Literate?

Processes of Literacy Learning and Their Components (Table 3.1)

Central: Comprehension and Composing

Necessary:  Word Recognition, Spelling, Literary Elements

Interim:  Concepts of Print, Phonemic Awareness, Letter Naming

Oral language

Reading and writing

4 William Teale

Addressing needs of children “in” the achievement gap.  “Three significant dimensions to the curriculum gap:  comprehension, knowledge of the world in general and core concepts in content domains like science and social studies, writing instruction.” https://www.academia.edu/3550552/What_do_children_need_to_succeed_in_early_literacy-And_beyond

5 There is a vast literature on struggling readers with learning disabilities, including the work of Shawitz, Mather, Moats, and Lyon.  (More in a subsequent blog.)

6 Lastly (for now) a widely used (?) reading program:  F and P, Guided Reading

Type of Reading Interactive Reading

Shared & Performance Reading

Guided Reading

Across Levels—Selecting “child appropriate” text levelsGrade 1*Genre*Forms

*Text Structure



*Language/Literacy Features

*Sentence Complexity



*Book and Print Features

Phonics, Spelling & Word Study: 9 Areas*Early Literacy Concepts*Phonological Awareness*Letter Knowledge

*Letter-Sound Relationships

*Spelling Patterns

*Letter-Sound Relationships

*Spelling Patterns

*High Frequency Words

*Word Meanings and Vocabulary

*Word Structure (Base/Affixes)

*Word Solving Actions

Text Within Text

Beyond Text

About Text

Cognitive Actions*Solving words using flexible strategies*Self-Monitoring *Searching for & using information

*Remembering information in summary form

*Sustaining fluent, phrased reading

*Adjusting reading in order to process a variety of texts

*Making predictions

*Synthesizing new information

*Making connections

*Reading between the lines to infer

*Thinking analytically

*Thinking critically about text

And so?  So, how do stakeholders make sense of the “what to teach” question?  Do parents, beginning teachers, specialists working with struggling readers, preschool teachers, or community stakeholders, for example, know what is being taught as “early literacy skills” in their school in the K-2 classrooms?  Is there continuity across the K-2 range?  How are decisions about what to teach made?  Does it matter what a teacher or school decides to use as an early literacy curriculum?