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Pre-K English language arts skills: Find out what you need to know

In preschool, your child is starting to learn the fundamentals of reading and writing.
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Pre-kindergartners hear and understand language through conversations, stories, and songs. They also lay the groundwork for reading and writing as they explore books and other printed material. Below is a summary of the skills they'll be developing during their pre-K years.

Language development

Using new words

Understand and use new words.

Expressing ideas and needs

Use language to express a variety of ideas and needs, like telling a story, explaining, or making a request.

Complex sentences

Understand and speak in increasingly complex ways; for example, use longer sentences, and understand and ask questions with words like who or what.

Conversational skills

Engage in classroom conversations, and use conversational skills like taking turns speaking, and responding to what a friend has to say.

Reading & writing

Exploring sounds

Explore sounds; for example, detect the beginning and ending sounds of familiar words and names, or listen for words that rhyme.

Learning letters

Learn about letters of the alphabet; for example, recognize and name letters, understand that letters are associated with a sound or sounds, and name some of those sounds.

Appreciating print

Appreciate print and understand that it carries meaning. Recognize common print, such as familiar signs and logos.

Understanding print

Understand the way print works: that it moves from left to right and top to bottom, and that letters are grouped to form words.

Enthusiasm for books

Show enthusiasm for books; for example, pretend to read a book, or listen to stories read aloud. Ask and answer questions about a story, or retell information using words, pictures, or movement.

How books work

Understand how books work; for example, how to hold a book correctly, turn the pages from front to back, and recognize features such as the title or author.

Engage with a variety of texts

Actively engage with a wide variety of rich texts including stories, poems, plays, and informational books read aloud.

Exploring writing

Explore writing and recognize that it’s a way of communicating. Experiment with writing tools; use scribbling, shapes, letter-like forms, or letters to represent ideas.

Writing letters

Copy, trace, or independently write letters.

For tips to help your pre-K student in English Language Arts class, check out our pre-K English Language Arts tips page.

TODAY's Parenting Guides were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Sky Marietta, Assistant Professor, University of the Cumberlands; Gary Troia, Associate Professor, Michigan State University; and Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan, and align with the Common Core State Standards.