Teaching Basic Numeracy & Literacy

There are many different techniques we can use to teach our children Literacy and Numeracy skills. There are also a number of important factors to consider, the most important being the age of the child, and of course, the child’s specific learning style. All children learn differently. My four year old may not yet be able to recite the alphabet or count to 100 like yours, however he is able to impressively colour within the lines. At the age of four, neither child is smarter than the other, they simply learn using different parts of their brain, predominantly. 

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method of teaching language or vocabulary that can be applied to all young children. It uses physical movement to react to verbal input. This technique can be divided into two sub categories: instructional TPR and educational TPR.

Instructional TPR encourages the child to learn through means of  doing something, or following an instruction. This instruction links different cognitive reactions in the brain (listening and visual) for the child to understand the basics of the word they are expected to write or learn. If we are learning how to count, we will encourage the child to use their fingers, and point to each finger as they are counting. If, for example we are learning how to write the word ear, we would first form an understanding of what ear is. Instructional TPR would guide the student to cup their ear to grasp the concept that we hear with our ears. Once this basic understanding is formed, the child can easier learn to write out the words. Additionally, instructional TPR could be used to guide the child to create a certain letter using their fingers.

Educational TPR looks at the “what” & “how”: 

  • WHAT are literacy and numeracy? 
  • HOW exactly do we teach literacy and numeracy?  

Educational TPR is a method of teaching languages, numeracy, or vocabulary (basic concepts) through using physical movements to get a verbal reaction from the child. Young children are visual learners and at the ages of three or four they are constantly wanting to touch, taste or see things. While a distracted toddler may seem like a difficult student, we should use this to our advantage. A child of three or four is surely not going to sit down quietly and diligently repeat the alphabet, or repeat counting to ten three times. This is where educational TPR comes in: using physical gestures to help the child understand a specific letter, number, word, sentence pattern or even a specific counting pattern. TPR is a method of learning that mimics the way that infants learn their first language. The purpose is to establish a brain link between speech and action to boost language and vocabulary learning. This can include using facial expressions, large hand gestures, body movement or props. The key here is to teach numeracy and literacy in a way that it is linked to an action that the child can physically see!

It is essential to ensure that your child is learning basic literacy and numeracy skills at the right age, and at the right speed for their specific learning needs and style. In the early years of childhood development, literacy is more than just writing and learning letters. It is movement, music, drawing and many other activities which encourage  communication. Just as important is reading and talking to your child from a young age, These are vital first steps in encouraging the development of literacy skills. Use fun outings and activities as a way to teach your child new vocabulary and communicative skills. When it comes to numeracy skills, it is important to remember that it goes beyond merely teaching your child maths and numbers. Teaching them about patterns and shapes can be a fun and interactive introduction to numeracy too. 

This is where BrightSparkz can help you and your child! Our Little Sparkz Kindergarten readiness program focuses on helping children to master essential skills that they will need to enter Kindergarten with confidence. Our fun and interactive program helps to build basic literacy and numeracy skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination, memory and improved vocabulary. The program comprises 10 themed lessons made up of worksheets and activities that engage all the senses and encourage learning for children with any learning style. The program is suitable from the age of three upwards, as well as for children currently in Kindergarten needing a refresher on basic skills.


Written by Sula Cooper, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer