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Concepts of print, sometimes called print awareness, is a person's understanding of how writing works. Without understanding these very basic concepts, one would not be able to read.

Imagine a child walking into a classroom who has never seen a book before. They might have no idea how to hold a book, where to start reading, or even that the jumble of confusing scribbles on the inside (yes, words) have meaning.

concepts of print example front cover of book

What are the concepts of print?

Directionality of text-

Mechanics-

Parts of a book -

Alphabetic principle-

Diagram of concepts of print
Diagram of some concepts of print from the book The Suitcase by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros

What's the best way to teach concepts of print?

Reading, reading, and more reading! The more you read, the more exposure your child has to the concepts of print.

If you're already reading aloud to your child, they have probably picked up a lot of concepts of print by now.

Questions that will build concepts of print while reading books:

  1. Notice where the front and back covers are before you read.
  2. Discuss where the names of the author and illustrators are and what their jobs are.
  3. Point to each word as you read, or for books with more words, follow under the words with your finger, sweeping from left to right and from top to bottom. (This motion reinforces directionality and is called a return sweep).
  4. Take a few moments to point out the text features of the book like the table of contents, illustrations, titles, and page numbers.
  5. Show them the difference between words and letters. One way is to count how many words are on a line? How do we know that?
  6. Make a point to show that the text holds the meaning. We aren't just making up words each time we read a book; we are saying the words on the page, and they share the author's message or story.

Ways to develop concepts of print without books:

Reading doesn't just happen when we open a book.

As adults we are reading constantly and automatically, everywhere we go: in the car, on our phones, reading mail, writing a note, food labels, advertisements, billboards etc.

There are many wonderful ways of noticing environmental print with your child such as:

Build Concepts of Print along with Reading Comprehension:

In my read aloud remastered checklist, I help you maximize that bedtime story. You're already reading it...why not make it even more valuable by asking the right questions?

Download the READ ALOUD CHECKLIST and pick one category of questions to focus on each night to skyrocket reading comprehension.

One mom said, "I know reading is important, but I didn't really know which questions to ask. What are kids even supposed to know?"

read aloud checklist includes concepts of print

The checklist focuses on all the questions you should be asking your 4-6 year old during reading and includes concepts of print! So don't wait to grab it. Right now, I'm including a bonus cheat sheet at the end of the 2 pages of questions.

Once your child has mastered a set of questions, check them right off and focus on something else! I LOVE CHECKLISTS.

Text features are all the parts of a text that are not the main text itself. They include title, headings, captions, pictures, diagrams, table of contents, glossary, and more.

You can find text features in both fiction and nonfiction texts but are more common in nonfiction text.

The main text features in kindergarten:

Title

On the cover of each book is our first text feature, the title. The title of a text can be found in both fiction and nonfiction texts. The title tells you what the text will be about before even opening it. Titles are sometimes called headers or headings as well. Don't let those terms confuse you!

Animal bottoms title
Title: Let's Look at Animal Bottoms

Knowing the parts of a book including the where we can find the front and back cover along with the title is part of a set of early reading skills called concepts of print.

Title Page

In kindergarten teachers teach that the title page shares the title of the book, but instead of being on the cover, it has it's own page.

text feature: title page
Title Page of Sea Otter by Suzi Eszterhas

Table of Contents

A table of contents precedes the story or main content of a book and can be found in nonfiction as well as fictional texts. We use the table of contents to view a list of what is included in that book/magazine and what page we can find it on!

table of contents
Example of a table of contents in a fictional book: 5 Minute Princess Stories by Disney

Diagrams

A diagram is a picture with labels and can be found in both fiction and nonfiction books as well as textbooks. It serves to give the reader more detail about the picture.

In kindergarten, children often learn to write by first labeling pictures that they draw with one or two words. Seeing diagrams in mentor texts helps kids with their own labeling. Creating diagrams also gives children a way to practice writing without having to write full sentences. Kids are often excited to create diagrams of their favorite things, to demonstrate their expert knowledge about preferred things such as princesses, construction vehicles, flowers, etc.

diagram example
Example of a human skeleton diagram from The Human Body

Photograph

Photographs are found in nonfiction texts and are taken with a camera to show what something actually looks like. They're often accompanied by captions or sometimes labels like a diagram.

Captions

A caption explains or describes an image found on the page. Captions are most often seen with pictures, charts or graphs. In many children's nonfiction texts the caption can be a "Did you know?" fact or just gives a bit more detail about the picture. See the next graphic for an example.

Headings (< a literal text feature right here right now!)

These can be chapter names in fictional stories but are more commonly used in nonfiction text. Much like the title, a heading will tell you what the next page(s) will be about.

heading text feature examples
A great example of headings and captions plus a diagram of the Southern Sky from Maps of the World by Enrico Lavagno

Additional Text Features

Some texts may include other text features like glossary, sidebars, timelines, maps, index charts etc., while others do not have any. Though we might see some of these in kindergarten, they're more a focus for older grades.

difference between index and glossary

What are the best ways to teach text features in kindergarten?

  1. Mentor texts - As a parent or teacher, find books with specific text features that you want to teach your child. Point out those text features in each of the mentor texts. As you read together, point out the features that you see in your read aloud stories.
  2. Teach text features through Writer's Workshop. Kids can write their own nonfiction books to include the focus text features: title, headings, diagram, and even table of contents. Not only is this a great way to teach text features, it also allows children to take pride in writing by becoming authors themselves.
  3. Anchor charts - Create an anchor chart that includes all the text features from table of contents to headings to diagrams. Create bullet points for a brief description of each and include pictures. Kindergarteners always benefit from seeing many visuals.
anchor chart to teach text features
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