Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Hands-On Practice for Tracking Print

By: Lyssa Sahadevan

Concepts of print are the basic understandings of reading and how books work; the ability to know and recognize the way in which “print” works for the purpose of reading. As you can imagine, this is really important in the world of preschool, kindergarten, and first grade.

Concepts of print include reading from left to right and top to bottom, moving from one line to the next in a return sweep, understanding that every book has a front and back, matching one-to-one correspondence, and most importantly, understanding that letters, words, and pictures convey a message. After all, print is what we read. 

You can dig deep with concepts of print, however this post will focus on the beginning of the hierarchy and ways to support readers in the early stage. One of the most crucial and basic concepts is tracking print. By helping students read the correct number of words on a page, we are supporting eyes on the print, as well as helping readers avoid insertions and omissions.

How do we teach readers about one-to-one correspondence? Start by having students practice tracking words by touching each word as they read it. This helps with directionality, too. Of course, it is not always that easy.  

Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep it fun and build the skill:

  • Orally say a short sentence and have students repeat the sentence, holding up one finger for each word OR step on a large sticky note for each word.

Tracking Print, Hameray Literacy Blog 

  • Touch and count each word on the page. If there are 3 words, the student should touch and read 3 words.
  • After counting the words, read the sentence. Have the student move one sticky note at a time as they read the sentence again.

Tracking Print, Hameray Literacy Blog, Beginning Readers

  • In a text, add sticky dots under each word or draw circles with a marker. Have students touch the dot as they read.
  • Have students use witch fingers, puppy claws, google eyes, or fun pointers to touch each word.
Tracking Print, Hameray Literacy Blog     Hameray Literacy Blog, Tracking Print, Beginning Readers     Tracking Print, Hameray Literacy Blog, Beginning Readers
  • If you are already using cubes for one-to-one correspondence in math, bring them out for reading. Have students match a cube to each word and count them. Then move each one to read.

Tracking Print, Hameray Literacy Blog, Beginning Readers

Tracking print is a crucial skill, and it should be taught early. Hands-on, engaging strategies are the most efficient way to build this skill. Other skills can be taught alongside tracking print, but this is the starting point. Spice up your small group time by trying a few of these hands-on ways to build one-to-one correspondence.


Looking for a series to use when practicing concepts of print with your beginning readers? Try Kid Lit! This paired text series for K–1 highlights meaningful childhood moments by bringing them to life through whimsical illustrations and diverse stories. Paired nonfiction helps build knowledge and boost vocabulary. Guided reading levels A–D. Also available in Spanish.

Kid Lit, Hameray Publishing, Beginning Readers, Guided Reading


Lyssa Turner Sahadevan has been an early childhood educator for over 20 years. She is passionate about all things literacy, is a former Teacher of the Year and loves sharing ideas with others. Lyssa lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and two silly boys.