Five-year-olds begin to extend their oral language skills to reading and writing. They know their uppercase and most lowercase letters, and understand that letters represent specific sounds in spoken words. This knowledge helps them to sound out words in print and write out words based on their sounds. They also understand the basic conventions of print, can discuss stories and are able to tell their own tales.
By the end of this year, almost all children can quickly generate 4-5 words that rhyme, name 4-5 words that begin with the same sound, and blend sound segments provided by adults to produce the word made by these segments (e.g., Adult pauses after each sound for man, "m"-"a"-"n," and asks the child to put the sounds together into a word). By the end of this year, many children are inventing spellings by isolating individual beginning and ending sounds in words they wish to write. Some children are segmenting all or almost all sounds in words they wish to write, including words that begin with two or more consonants (e.g., "fl-", "str-", etc.). Many children's invented spellings show a single or two-letter symbol for each sound segment in words that they write.
Acquiring an awareness of sounds can be encouraged by asking children to isolate beginning and ending sounds in words, spelling words for children by sounding them out, helping children sound out printed words, encouraging them to spell words by sounding them out, and playing word games that involve deletion or substitution of speech sounds (e.g., "What word would we have if we took /k/ off of ‘cat'?").
During this year, becomes acquainted with the Table of Contents that is provided in non-fiction books, and with the idea of a glossary and index. Many children also become familiar with chapter designations for longer fiction books.
Attention for stories continues to increase among children who have a long history of hearing stories read aloud. Many children can tolerate waiting until the next day for an adult to finish a long story or another chapter in a chapter book. Many children can tolerate discussions during a story that stop the reading for a period of time, without losing interest.
Many children begin to fingerpoint read (e.g., point word for word as the text is recited) familiar predictable text books.
By the end of this year, many children are quite coherent in retelling fairly long stories. The recently-developed skill of using complex sentences enables many children to relate stories more efficiently than they could a year earlier.
Many children ask all kinds of questions, and make evaluative comments about characters' actions (e.g., "That wasn't very nice!"). Children become better able to respond to questions for which little information is provided by the text, and to which children bring less personal experience.
Knows the author of many familiar books. May show a preference for an author or two.
May show strong preferences for story versus non-fiction, or vice versa. May show preferences for specific authors.
Interest and enjoyment of books is highly variable, depending on availability of books and whether adults spend time sharing these with children in positive ways.
May choose books from among things available to entertain self. Shows strong preference for familiar books when using books independently, but may also show interest in books that have not been read aloud. May request visits to the library to get books, if library use has been encouraged by adults.
By the end of this year, knows that space separates printed words. Many children are familiar with common punctuation marks (e.g., "?," "!," and ".") and know that these are not letters. During this year, many children begin to understand the differences between uppercase and lowercase letters.
Speech to print relationships are understood well enough by many children to allow them to begin to fingerpoint read words in familiar books. As they do this, they use the correct left to right and top to bottom direction of accessing print, they know that spaces separate words in print, they can isolate the first sounds in words in the texts they have memorized, and they can link these sounds to the letter or letters they know represent them. Some children attempt to read unfamiliar words by sounding out their letters.
Continues to improve letter formation. Most children use conventional line segments in the letters they write, and many children are beginning to use correct sequences and direction of movement when they create a letter. A few children continue to struggle with letter formation.
Letter-like designs, or mock letters, have virtually disappeared, except in play contexts where children need to create a lot of writing quickly. During such play, children know the marks are "pretend," and not real writing.
Fine motor skills continue to influence the quality and size of writing marks for a few children. Many children now have a grip that is pretty close to a mature tripod, and they use fingers flexibly to control the writing tool.
A child's lack of knowledge of letters (visual images), and lack of experience in mark making, continue to be the major factors that distinguish children with considerable skill in forming letters from children with less skill.
During this year, most children establish the habit of returning to the left to begin a new line of print. Many children begin to put space in between words in phrases and sentences they write.
Increases understanding of the uses for writing. Writes stories, notes to friends, labels for displayed artwork, observations of science phenomena, and creates print props needed for play (e.g., tickets, menus, signs). Expands knowledge of various formats of writing needed in different contexts, and adds appropriate details to own writing (e.g., category headings for items on a menu, author and illustrator listed for a story, date of observation entered with notes about a science project, items in a list might be numbered).
Invented spelling (i.e., phoneme based sounding out, and representation of these sounds, without regard for the correct spelling) is the dominant strategy of most children during this year.
Repertoire of known spellings (sight words) increases (e.g., the, to, for, it, and, was, stop, go, on, up, at, cat, dog).
A few children (usually those who have begun to read) may stop inventing spellings, given that incorrect spellings of common words do not look right to them. They may ask for most spellings rather than attempt to create them. If helped by adults, these children will start to learn orthographic rules for English (e.g., "a final silent e marks the vowel preceding the consonant as a tense rather than lax vowel", "when a vowel is doubled, the tense pronunciation of the vowel is used").
During this year, most children develop skills in composing simple fictional stories with a setting, characters, events, and a problem to be solved. Most children also develop skills in composing information that they have obtained from observation, or in composing summaries of information that they have gathered about something.
Some children do most of their own writing of messages they compose, but many children need adult assistance with messages that are longer than a few sentences. If assistance is not readily available, the child then greatly reduces the length and complexity of messages so that he or she can cope with the physical writing task.
By the end of this year, almost all typical children know their uppercase letters and most lowercase letters. For many children, recognition and naming of uppercase is very rapid by the end of this year, as is the naming of many lowercase letters.
By the end of this year, the majority of children can clearly distinguish letters with similar shapes, and have a good understanding that letters represent a specific sound or sounds in spoken words. (They have acquired the insight known as the "alphabetic principle.") Many children know some specific sound-letter associations, especially those with a letter name-sound match (e.g., d for /d/, m for /m/). Some children have learned sound-letter associations that are not based on letter name knowledge (e.g., use of "ch," "sh," and "th" to represent specific sounds).
Learning the alphabet can be encouraged by alphabet exposure in kindergarten in the form of games, explicit instruction, and continued involvement in a wide range of writing activities. Other stimulation may include continued use of alphabet books, exposure to word "families," and adult modeling of the spelling of words, including the spellings for sounds that do not have a letter-name match (i.e., "th," "wh," "sh," "ch," etc.).