The ABCs are the building blocks for kindergarten – not to mention the rest of school. Usually children start manipulating sounds in spoken words before they reach kindergarten.  They can make up silly rhyming words by manipulating beginning sounds–for example, Susie makes up a new name for her sister and calls her “Silly Jilly”. 

But in kindergarten, learning about the funny shapes called “letters” that we use to put our spoken language into writing begins in earnest.  Most kids in kindergarten have the phonemic awareness they need to really take off with using the alphabetic system.  Somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of children will need help with developing that phonemic awareness, however.

Word games are a delight in kindergarten, a joy that should never cease throughout life. Here are a few things that a kindergartener should be able to do by the end of the kindergarten year:

– orally identify beginning and ending sounds (not necessarily letters) in words AND

– orally identify the middle sound (not letter) in a short word like ‘cat’ or ‘play’ – recognizing different sounds in spoken words is an important step in language processing – the alphabet may be the building blocks, but we all know how English cheats. Sounds come first.

– be able to create rhyming words – because half the fun of childhood is rhyming

– be able to orally omit a sound in order to create a new word (what is ‘fat” without the /f/ sound?) – being able to manipulate sounds doesn’t come quite as easily as manipulating the parents, but it should be there by the end of the year.

recognize, name, and write the letters of the alphabet in both upper case and lower case – but it’s not a cause for worry if ‘b’ and ‘d’ really take some thought still. 

associate sounds with all the consonant letters and the five “main” vowel letters (a, e, i, o, u) – if only Old McDonald came with a few more vowel sounds, this would be a cinch.

recognize a few sight words (such as ‘the’) and read sentences containing simple one-syllable words – See Jane run with scissors – oops, that last word’s a little too big, probably a good thing.