Transportation Ideas for Literacy

When you think about how literacy is made up of reading, writing, listening, speaking (and sometimes representing and viewing!) it is obvious that everything we do with Kindergartners supports our Language Arts curriculum.  Oral language development is probably the most important skill we teach – including stuff like developing vocabulary, asking and answering questions, recalling information, exposing children to higher levels of language – not just directives… it is huge!!  Some school districts, and some principals, require teachers to justify activities in their classroom to show how they are helping students reach benchmarks.  I agree that it is important to know why you are doing any activity and to be able to explain how it supports the district curriculum, but we can still do lots of fun activities!

Singing is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and help children feel comfortable participating.  We learned songs to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  Of course we added simple motions!

Drive, drive, drive your car

Up and down the street

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

Isn’t driving neat?


Fly, fly, fly your plane

Way up in the sky

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

It’s so fun to fly!


Sail, sail, sail your boat

On the ocean blue

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

I’m captain – you’re the crew!


Chug, chug, chug your train

Up and down the track

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Going and coming back!


We sang and read old familiar songs too:


It was fun to change the words to “The wheels on the car…”  or “Old MacDonald had a car…”  You could use any kind of vehicle!

Recognizing environmental print is a great emergent reading activity.  Most children learn best when they make personal connections with what they are learning.  Children love recognizing signs and logos – I tied these with some sight words.

I prefolded this paper to make a little book with 4 pages all saying ‘we can go to…’

The children each got a half sheet of logos and cut one out for each page.  Then they read their book to me or a parent volunteer before taking it home.  Of course we practiced reading this sentence on a wipe off board before they each completed their own book.  There were some years I used even simpler sight words – like “I go to …”  You could even differentiate it for individual children.

logos to copy

I used this sheet to get a quick assessment of how well my children were able to stretch out the sounds of a word, match the sounds to the correct letters, and write the letters.  I called children to do this a few at a time, and spaced them so they could not see each other’s paper, because I used it as an assessment.  We talked about what the words were, but I didn’t help them at all to stretch out the word or write.  I did this type of assessment very often during the second half of the year.  It gave me a lot of good information about each child.  When I could not read something a child wrote during Writer’s Workshop – I was never sure if they were struggling with expressing their idea, matching sounds, or forming letters.  This assessment just focused on writing one word for each picture, but I could see if they left spaces between hot air balloon.


I loved including this book that focuses on trying your best.  Sometimes we acted it out.  Sometimes we drew and wrote about the story elements – here is a generic paper to record characters, setting, problem and solution.


I copied these sheets on colored construction paper.  The children could match the pictures – or play Memory to reinforce rhyming.

Here are some more masters:

rhyme cards to copy


Here are some more of the books I used:


If you are not familiar with Margaret Hillert – she was a 1st grade teacher who wrote a number of very simple emergent level books on topics that interested children.

I liked this simple Sesame Street book to use at the beginning of our unit because it talks about lots of kinds of transportation.

I got this simple board book at a dollar store, it has one vehicle on each page, labeled with one word.  It would be a great model for a concept book (see my Language Arts section if you don’t know what I mean!)  You could also extend that idea and ask the children to write a simple patterned sentence using sight words you are working on now – “This is a red fire truck.  This is a blue garbage truck.”

Donald Crews has other good transportation books too.

This little Rookie Reader book, Joshua James Likes Trucks; was one of my favorites!  We remade it as a class book – changing it to We Like Trucks.  I typed out the text – one sentence on each page and the children illustrated it either by cutting and pasting or drawing.

The book is full of comparative language, long trucks, short trucks, high trucks, low trucks, etc.  It would be great to use for simple descriptive language too.  After we did the class book remake we did lots of copy changes and made more books for different subjects – We like Dinosaurs;  We Like Farm Animals, etc.   When I first began teaching everyone was making copy change books for Brown Bear, Brown Bear; and I do some of those also, but this was just a little different.  I tried to make enough class books so that each child could take one home to keep at the end of the year.

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