Kindergarten to Grade 4 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: K-4
Literacy Learning Through the Six Language Arts - Part 3

Language Cueing Systems

Each of the language arts is governed by various cueing systems. Students make meaning by combining their background knowledge with their use of cueing systems. In order to communicate, students need to learn how to maximize their use of linguistic and textual cues.

Semantic Cues

Semantic cues refer to the meaning in language that assists in comprehending texts, including words, speech, signs, symbols, and other meaning-bearing forms. Semantic cues involve the learners’ prior knowledge of language, text, and visual media, and their prior life experiences. Many of the conventions of visual media fall under the umbrella of semantic cues. Teachers can scaffold students’ use of semantic knowledge by relating new concepts to concepts already familiar to the students. Gradually, students independently relate new information to what is known and personally meaningful.

Syntactic Cues

Syntactic cues involve word order, rules and patterns of language (grammar), and punctuation. For example, the position a word holds in a sentence will cue the listener or reader as to whether the word is a noun or a verb. Conversely, listeners and readers use their intuitive knowledge of grammar to predict what words are likely to appear next. Oral punctuation provides cues to meaning through rhythm and flow, pauses, inflection, and voice modulation.

Graphophonic Cues

Graphophonic cues involve the letter-sound or sound-symbol relationships of language. Readers identifying unknown words by relating speech sounds to letters or letter patterns are using graphophonic cues. This process is often called decoding. Decoding is not, as the word may imply, a mechanical process but an essential means of making meaning. Graphophonic cues are used to support semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic cues to help readers determine if a word is logical or makes sense. In early literacy development, some students over-rely on graphophonic cues and attempt to sound out every word. They need to be encouraged to think about what word would make sense and fit in the sentence pattern or context.

Textual Cues

Learners use cues in text such as titles, headings and sub-headings, bold print or italics, captions, and other text features to construct meaning. Learning to read graphs and charts is also part of the comprehension process. Text-structure cues give insight into the author’s organizational patterns and thought processes in different types of texts, such as narrative, expository, dramatic, and poetic. Students who attend to textual cues are better able to comprehend, organize, and remember information presented in texts than those who do not.

What Do Students Need for Success in Language Arts Learning?

In order for students to be successful in language arts they need:

  • Uninterrupted Time for Sustained Engagement with Texts
    Readers, writers, listeners, viewers, speakers, and representers all need time in order to learn their craft. They need time to explore, to read, to compose and revise, and to think and rethink. They need to become engaged in a variety of oral, print, and other media texts. Students need time to discover that the language arts are powerful tools for observing, exploring, and shaping the world, and learning about themselves.
  • Ownership
    Students learn to read and write by reading and writing real texts daily for real purposes at school and at home. Students need to use reading, viewing, and talking to pursue personal inquiry questions and interests, and writing and representing to construct meaning for themselves and for an audience they perceive as important. Readers need to choose their own reading materials from a wide variety of texts at an appropriate reading level.
  • Collaborative Learning
    Students need to learn from each other in goal-directed group activities where they are expected to combine ideas and negotiate meanings. Structured activities such as brainstorming, sorting, and predicting offer the opportunity for students to learn teamwork skills. Collaborative learning activities enable students to exchange ideas and perspectives, develop a sense of purpose, and build a sense of community. The ability to work collaboratively is a lifelong skill at home, in school, and in the workplace.
  • Instruction
    Students need to be taught learning strategies in all the language arts through demonstration, instruction, guided practice, and independent practice with feedback. They need instruction in the mechanics and conventions of their chosen form of representation (e.g., writing, drama, illustration, or creating a video) while they are revising or editing.
  • Response and Celebration
    Language arts learners need responses from their teachers and peers as they explore and construct meaning through various texts. Teachers may model ways of responding effectively. Literature Circles and Author’s Chair provide a natural forum for both personal and critical response. By serving as audience, students learn to support and promote each others’ learning. Students need to celebrate their own and each others’ learning progress and achievements within a supportive community of learners.
  • Models
    Role models are essential to literacy learning. Adults, siblings, or peers can shape students’ attitudes to literacy by sharing their love of reading and listening, by writing and sharing their writing strategies, and by demonstrating their enjoyment in representing, viewing, and discussing ideas.
  • Support for Risk-taking
    Students require the freedom and encouragement to compose and create in risk-free environments. They may attend to the conventions of spelling, grammar, and punctuation after they are satisfied with the content of their work and have decided to proceed beyond first draft. While most work should be edited, not everything students produce will be published, performed, or displayed. Much of what students create or write is shared informally.


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