How Much Preschool and Kindergarten Literacy Instruction is the Right Amount?

  • 11 February, 2010

I just received this request for information from a friend:

The question being posed is, "how many minutes of literacy instruction is  recommended for early childhood, ages such as preschool and kindergarten?"

The amount recommended in our district for grades 1-8 is 120 minutes, so we obviously need to rethink our message to the early childhood program. I'm not sure if you are familiar with or if this is relevant, but the early childhood program (preschool - kindergarten) uses Creative Curriculum, which incorporates center choices with whole group reading and writing instruction. 

Thank you in advance for your advice!

My response:

There are no data that I am aware of on that issue, so anything I can tell you will be conjecture.

When I answer this question (and I do with some regularity), my first response to is ask a question back: “how long are the preschoolers and kindergartners there?” The answer to that usually varies from half day to full day. Because literacy and language aren’t the only issues that need to be addressed in instruction, it is important that literacy be a good curricular neighbor (not crowding everyone else unnecessarily). 

If it is a whole day situation, then I would argue for the full 2 hours that you are spending in grades 1-8, and if it is half day, then about 1 hour will have to do it.

What should go into that 1-2 hours? Your curriculum does a good job of supporting teachers in some of these categories, and you might consider supplementing where it does not. We don’t provide children with much oral language stimulation in grades 1-8 (except incidentally across the day), but with young children some direct attention to oral language instruction and stimulation is appropriate as part of the literacy time. 

In 2 hours, I would expect some code work (with letters and sounds), some fluency work (like pretend reading, choral reading, fingerpoint reading), some listening comprehension (or reading comprehension if the kids have started reading), some language work (including vocabulary), and some writing time. For a smaller amount of time, I would teach the same things (just not as much of them, but I wouldn’t leave any of them out). 

Your curriculum presents letters and sounds whole group, and that is iffy. While juggling times with small groups can be tricky, the studies of code instruction have only been done with small groups at these age levels. This means it will take more than two hours to deliver two real hours of instruction and experience. 

Finally, 2 hours does not necessarily mean a block of time. This does not have to be done from 9-11AM; with young kids, short time spans for activities is necessary and these various activities can be interspersed through the day. A little harder to keep track of whether you have hit the time goal, but a lot more sensible to deliver.


See what others have to say about this topic.

Becky Schaller Apr 02, 2017 06:47 PM

I am struck by how different literacy instruction for preschoolers is by your description here than it was ten years ago. Back then, we also included teaching literacy by encouraging pretend writing in the different areas of the room. In the dramatic play area, children might pretend to write out a grocery list. In the block area, they might make a sign. Does literacy during play time count any more? Or is the focus more teacher directed now?
Becky Schaller

Timothy Shanahan Apr 02, 2017 06:49 PM


I'm not sure it needs to be that different than what you are describing. Research is very supportive of teaching what I described within a play environment. In the recent past, we've seen the opposite (can't have a pretend writing center because that is academic, but we can have block corner because that's play). I would strongly encourage everything that you described within your comment, none of which would change these time allotments -- nor my emphasis.

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How Much Preschool and Kindergarten Literacy Instruction is the Right Amount?


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