Pre-Reading Activities

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This is the second of my “Back in the old days when I first started teaching” posts. As I mentioned in my previous post,  Year 1 was the first year of formal learning and there were three terms each year.  In Year 1, students spent the first term participating in pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-maths activities.  These activities provided students with the skills underpinning reading, writing and maths. Unfortunately, many students are now not exposed to these activities which make learning reading, writing and mathematics more difficult. If your child has not yet started school, then the following pre-reading activities could be of benefit.


Being able to identify and produce rhyming words is the first step in making connections between the sounds in words. Some activities for teaching rhyming:

  1. Teach nursery rhymes. Once your child can confidently recite a nursery rhyme, miss out the rhyming words at the end for your child to say.
  2. Make up your own nonsense nursery rhymes together by substituting your own rhyming word at the end.
    Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great ball
    (Type/write up these creations and paste in a book to share)
  3. Read Doctor Seuss books and other books with rhyming verse (when the child is familiar with the story encourage them to put in their own rhyming words).
  4. Use puppet or other toys and give them names such as Ed, Bill, Sam etc. Make up stories about the things the toys like to do that rhyme with their names.
    *The toys only like things that rhyme with their names.
    *Ed likes his bed and Ted, but he doesn’t like bead or Tod
    *Bill likes to climb a hill, but he doesn’t like to climb a house.
    *Sam likes to eat jam, but he doesn’t like jelly.
  5. Play I spy using rhyming words. For example, “I spy with my little eye something rhyming with bed” (answer – head).
  6. Play I went shopping – buy things that all have the same rhyming sound1st person:  I went shopping and I bought a cat.
    2nd person:  I went shopping and I bought a cat and a bat.
    3rd person (or 1st person):  I went shopping and I bought a cat, a bat and a hat.
  7. Sort pictures into rhyming pairs.


A syllable is a word or a part of a word said with one mouth movement and containing one vowel.  An easy way to identify a syllable is to lightly hold the back of your hand under your jaw as you say the word.  Your jaw will drop for each syllable.  By counting the number of ‘jaw drops’ you can determine the number of syllables in the word. Some activities for teaching about syllabification:

  1. Clap the syllables in words – use familiar names to begin with then progress to other words.
  2. Play clapping games where the clapping pattern matches the syllables in the sentences.  For ideas see To begin with choose simple patterns and songs like ‘Who stole the cookie’.
  3. Make up picture cards that when they are put together form compound words (e.g. cup/cake, foot/ball, hair/brush).  Use the cards to play games such as Fish and Concentration.
  4. Say the syllables of a word with a gap between each syllable and ask your child to tell you the word.  For example: ”I’m thinking of a word ….bas….ket….ball.  What is it?”
  5. Teach your child skipping chants – for variation the child can bounce a ball or jump on a trampoline in time with the syllables.  For ideas see
  6. Instead of clapping the syllables in a word, ask your child to put down a block for each syllable.  When your child is comfortable doing this:
    *  point to one of the blocks and see if he/she can tell you the syllable it represents.
    *  say the word and miss out one of the syllables – see if your child can point to the block that represents the missing syllable

 Phonemes (individual sounds)

We have approximately 44 different phonemes or sounds in English.  It is important that your child can segment a word into its individual sounds and blend individual sounds to make a word as this is the basis of reading and spelling. Some activities for teaching phonemes:

  1. Say the sounds in a word with a gap between each sound when asking your child to get or do something. For example: “James, please get me the /ch/-/ee/-/z/.”
  1. Play I spy using the sounds with which an object begins or ends. For example, “I spy with my little eye something that stars with /sh/” (answer-shop).
  1. Tell your child a word and ask him/her to place small objects or blocks on the table to represent each sound as he/she says the sound.
  1. Use picture cards to play games like Fish or Concentration. A matching pair would be two pictures that begin with the same sound, end with the same sound or have the same sound in the middle.  Only choose one of these ideas at a time.  Initial sounds are the easiest, followed by final sounds, while medial sounds are the most difficult to identify.

Size and Direction

To form and read letters correctly you need to have a good idea about size and direction.  Find activity books which have a line of objects and require children to find the object that is going in a different direction or is a different size or requires them to finish a pattern.

Print Knowledge

Prior to actually learning to read, students require (among other things) a good understanding of the forms, functions and features of print. This includes understanding that the written language is a code for the spoken language, that the function of print is to carry meaning, being able to differentiate between letters, words and sentences, and knowing the order and direction in which pages and print is read. Your child should be able to identify the following:

  1. The cover and back of a book.
  2. The direction the pages are turned.
  3. The starting point and direction we read (start at the top left and move to the right).
  4. A word.
  5. A letter.
  6. A sentence.
  7. The title of the book (they don’t need to be able to read the title just be able to point to it).


If children find it difficult to comprehend verbal instructions and stories read aloud, then they will often find it difficult to comprehend text once they start reading.  Some comprehension activities:

  1. Follow instructions. This can easily be incorporated into your child’s daily activities. Begin with one or two instructions and gradually increase.  If you child finds it difficult to remember more than one instruction, use strategies such as asking your child to repeat back the instructions, putting up one finger for each instruction.
  2. Ask you child to help put groceries away. You could do this by items or by categories.  For example, put away all the cleaning products.
  3. Describe objects to see your child can identify the object.
  4. Read lots of books to your child. Discuss and locate favourite sections (yours and your child’s).
  5. Play memory games like, I went to the shop and bought…..You need to remember all the items bought previously before adding on your item. You can take this to the next level by having all the items begin with a particular sound or be in a particular category.