Helping Young Learners Make the Connection between Oral Language and Print

When you sit down to read a book, you may not think about all of the parts of the book and how you read it: the front and back covers, turning the pages, recognizing letters and words, what the spaces and punctuation means, starting at the top and reading left to right. These are just a few examples of concepts about print and print awareness.

Concepts about print refers to a child’s knowledge about how books work. Print awareness refers to the knowledge that spoken words match written words. These two ideas go hand-in-hand, and even though you might not remember it, these are concepts you had to learn before becoming a successful reader. To a young learner who does not yet know how to read or who may have limited experience with books, reading materials, or reading with a caring adult, these concepts may be unfamiliar.

Shared reading offers the perfect opportunity to help young children understand these print concepts that experienced readers take for granted. During shared reading, a teacher reads a story, poem, or similar text with enlarged print and pictures that a group of children can see, modeling the strategies and skills of a proficient reader. Repeated readings and modeling allows the students to learn these concepts of print, practice them with their teacher and group, and then demonstrate them on their own.

Here are some examples of what teachers may do in the classroom to help students make the connection between the words being spoken and the printed text. These actions can easily be repeated at home when reading together with your child:

  • Point to each word as you read it: This demonstrates one-to-one match (each spoken word corresponds with a printed word) as well as directionality (e.g., where to start reading, which direction to read, where to go at the end of a line).
  • Ask the child to locate a letter or word in a sentence as it is spoken: Explain that individual letters make up words and words make up sentences. You can also teach the concepts of first and last by asking them to find the first and last letters of words and first and last words in sentences.
  • Point out punctuation marks and use expression in your voice: Demonstrate, for example, how your voice goes up when you read a question, or explain how the period indicates the end of a sentence and that you stop before reading the next sentence. This helps the child understand the meaning of the punctuation.

GrapeSEED trainers discuss tips and strategies for helping young students develop concepts about print with teachers during the GrapeSEED Foundation Training. The GrapeSEED shared reading materials allow teachers and students to focus on the print, which repeats letters, words and phrases they have heard and practiced in other GrapeSEED activities and materials.

literacy improved in GrapeSEED classrooms by connecting oral and printed language

In this picture, a GrapeSEED student from Southern Huntingdon County School District in Pennsylvania is using highlighter tape to locate a punctuation mark in the GrapeSEED Unit 4 Shared Reading Big Book Green.

Concepts about print and print awareness have been identified by the National Early Literacy Panel as predictors of reading success. The sooner we can help young learners make the connection between oral language and print, the more prepared they will be to begin reading successfully on their own.

Do you have more tips for teaching concepts about print and print awareness? Share them with us on the GrapeSEED Facebook page!