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The Importance of Early Literacy in Early Childhood Education (Picture Dictionary Strategy)

Did you know that Instructional Practices of Early Childhood educators may help eliminate the Achievement Gap in later years? (NELP, 2009). When teaching PreK and TK students, it is important to expose them to various types of literature, and at the same time teach them skills in oral language, reading, and writing. Keep reading for a fun, engaging strategy to target these components!

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Key Variables that Correlate with Later Literacy

There are 6 key variables that correlate with later literacy:

1. Alphabet knowledge: names & sounds of printed letters

2. Phonological awareness: auditory distinction of segment words, syllables, phonemes)

3. Rapid automatic naming (RAN) of letters or digits

4. RAN of objects or colors

5. Writing or writing name

6. Phonological memory: ability to remember spoken information for a short period of time

The Picture Dictionary is an effective instructional strategy that can target many of these skills. See below how to use the strategy in your own classroom!

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- Alphabet knowledge

- Phonemic awareness

- Letter formation

- Oral production

- Visual processing

- Concepts of print

- Random automatic naming of letters

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Supplies Needed

- Chart paper

- Markers

- Visuals (pictures, realia)

- Alphabet Strip


1. Teacher selects High-Level Academic Vocabulary word from the unit of study

2. Place chart at student eye-level

3. Introduce word to class by saying it

4. Teacher and student practice saying the word out loud together

5. Teacher and students count how many letters are in the word, while drawing a black line for each letter


6. Introduce sound of the initial letter (Students say it with you)

7. Invite one student to come up to the chart and find the letter that makes that sound on the alphabet strip (Scaffold as needed)

8. Once letter is identified, student is invited to write the letter on the first black line (scaffold by writing the letter in pencil first, so the student can trace it if needed)


9. Invite the rest of the class to trace the letter in the air to increase engagement and letter formation skills

10. Repeat the process with a new student for each letter until the word is written in full


11. Teacher models how to read the word, and class practices it together

12. Show the visual of the vocabulary word (picture or realia), and add a sketch above the word


13. Teach the meaning of the word throughout your other lessons (poetry, Big Books, videos, etc.)

Picture Dictionary Tip

Use this word as your ‘Signal Word’ of the day for transitions. The more the word is used and discussed, the more likely it is that the students will internalize the meaning. Once most of the class can orally produce the word, and understands the meaning, you can introduce a new word for the Picture Dictionary (new word may be every day or every few days).

Try this strategy to help your students increase those early literacy skills!

More Early Literacy Strategies

For more research-based PreK Strategies, check out the Self-Paced Online PreK Training

Be GLAD PreK Director:


National Early Literacy Panel. (2009). LINCS | Adult Education and Literacy | U.S. Department of Education.

NELP report: Developing early literacy. (2017, December 11).

Reading Rockets.

(2016, November 22). Be GLAD.

Hoff, E. (2014). Interpreting the early language trajectories of children from low SES and language minority homes: Implications for closing achievement gaps. PubMed Central (PMC).


Melissa Brooks, Be GLAD PreK Director


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