Friday, March 2, 2012

Literacy in the Classroom

Literacy in the Classroom

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a Community Partnerships for Children meeting, where one of the presenters was a kindergarten teacher from the Newton public schools.  She shared with us what it means to the "READY" for kindergarten and what the expectations are.

She emphasized that the most important criteria for a successful start in kindergarten are: ROUTINES for children, self-help skills, social-emotional skills, being able to follow directions and also their organizational skills (i.e. can they open their own lunchbox, remove their own food, and put it back again.)  As early childhood educators, we focus on all of those things, and it's a nice reminder that these important skills are what's going to help the children to have a successful experience in their future schooling. These skills start in our Toddler groups and move all the way up to Pre-K.  It's not JUST the Pre-K year that is getting them "ready" for kindergarten.

She also emphasized that an EXPOSURE to letters and numbers are what sets the children in kindergarten up for success.  Let me repeat myself: an EXPOSURE.  So that doesn't mean that every child should be reading and writing by the time they leave pre-kindergarten, and it also doesn't mean that they shouldn't have any awareness of phonics and letters.  As you know, some children do leave our programs reading and writing, while others just have an understanding of letters and sound recognition.

There are SO MANY ways to introduce literacy to the children in your classroom in a fun and meaningful way.  As you know, we do not introduce letters to the children as the "Letter of the Week".  Removing letters from their meaningful context removes the meaning and purpose from the letter.  Here are some ideas for inspiration!!  

Have the children "sign in" to school each morning as they arrive to school.  If you put a dry-erase board on the door, then they also need to practice writing on a vertical surface.
When Savannah did this in the Needham school last year in her mixed age preschool classroom, the children started with their first names, and then progressed to writing their last names.  Some children started out by only wrote a few letters in their names, and then others started working on writing lower case letters and in a smaller space. The toddlers started seeing the older kids "sign in" each day, and they wanted to practice too!  So they would sometimes just put a "mark" on the board as their way of signing in!!  

Another way to do it, is to put out a notebook, and have the children sign in on the paper each morning upon arrival as Alicia does in the Brighton school in her preschool classroom.  If you keep the date on it, then you can easily cut these out as samples for your PORTFOLIOS to see the progress of each child.

Circle Time Idea!
Reading aloud to the children EVERY DAY is one of the best ways to share an appreciation for the written word.  Here are a few other ways to introduce literacy to children of all ages!
Claudia in Needham has a catchy song that she sings with her pre-k class each day during circle time.  It's sung to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle" and it requires a response from the children so they HAVE to practice their ESPANOL, while also READING their friends last names. This can be adapted to different ages and even with the child's first name.

1.)  She shows the nametag to the class and asks who it belongs to.
2.)  She begins the song, "Noah Siegal esta aqui?"
2.)  The child either responds , "Si, Si, ESTOY  aqui."  or they all sing as a group, "No, no, no esta aqui."  

Write down a DAILY  message to the children and read it all together.   Have one of the "jobs" be to help you point to letters that are in the Morning Message.  

Print Rich Environment:
By LABELING toys with pictures and the WORDS in both English and Spanish it helps to not only keep your classroom space organized, but also is another way for children to experience literacy on a daily basis.
Here Alicia in Brighton organizes her markers in her writing center BY COLOR and is labeled in ESPANOL.
Alicia's crayons are organized by color as well and have the words in both Spanish and English.

Everything has a label and a spot for it to go.
Even the blocks are separated by shape and LABELED in Spanish!

Here is a shelf in the pre-k class in Jamaica Plain (Elba and Janette's room) with photo labels with the words on it too.

Writing and storytelling:
Children of all ages "write" in their own way, and by offering a lot of different medium to explore these writing skills, it gives them lots of opportunities to enhance their love of letters!
Here are some children writing on a dry erase board on top of two chairs in our Needham school!  They are collaborating together as well as exploring the idea of writing, erasing and starting all over again!

Another great way to model writing is by taking STORY DICTATIONS.  These are one of the monthly requirements for the PORTFOLIOS that is an easy thing to do!  After the children create their art, ask them to describe what they did.  While they tell their story, write it down and add it to your display of their art.  The children see you modelling writing and valuing what they have to say about their art.  It's a great way to monitor their language development as well!  Older children in Pre-K can  use INVENTED SPELLING  to write their own stories!  They have to sound it out and write as they hear the sounds.  
Here's a sample of a picture and a story in Spanish that one of the children wrote in the Pre-K class in Denise and Alejandra's room in Kendall Square!!  Check out the creative way that it is hung up!

All of you have seen my "Bolsa de Canciones", that has an image of the song as well as the title.  The teachers in Kendall Square have an adaptation of the song bag, and have their own Song Box made out of a  Baby Wipes container which they use with their TODDLER class!  

The kids pick the songs out of the box and "read" what it is by looking at the picture.  
The song box is a Baby Wipes container that is covered in all sorts of decorations!  
They all sing the song together and they all take turned picking!  So fun and it's a great way to introduce the idea that pictures and words are meaningful!


The dramatic area is a great place to introduce literacy to the children.  Here's Maru's POST OFFICE that she created for the kids.  They can write letters, send them and pretend to be a community helper! 

This is just one way to play a letter game with the kids in your class!

Savi in Needham is doing a letter hunt for the word "CALABAZA".  

The children used magnifying glasses to search for the hidden letters in the room.  

They had to match the letters that they found to the letters on the white board.  They talked about the sounds that each letter made and even counted all 8 letters.  

Here's one other cool way to use clothespins and literacy!  
  • 2 dowels from craft store
  • 2 empty yogurt containers or similar with lids
  • Yarn or string
  • Mini-clothespins
  • Envelopes
  • Sentence strips or index cards
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Scissors
  • Permanent marker
  • Hot glue
  • Colored markers, colored index cards, or colored sentence strips (optional)
Start by writing each child’s name on a sentence strip or index card with a permanent marker. Make sure to leave enough space between each letter so you can easily cut the names apart. Next, cut the names apart between each letter and place them inside an envelope. Write each child’s name on the front of an envelope and add a digital picture of the child to the envelope if extra support is needed.
Now, make a small X cut in the top of each container lid big enough to slide the dowel through. Fill the containers with Plaster of Paris and put the lids on. Push the dowels through the hole in the lids and let dry. Attach your string or yarn to the top of the two dowels and secure with hot glue.
The children then need to spell out their name on the clothelsine!

This could easily be used with Sight Words, last names, and other thematic words too!

Encourage the PARENTS to read at least x number of minutes a night to their children.  After they read the story, have them color in a happy face if they liked the story, a "so so" face if it was just OK, or a sad face if they didn't like the book.  It's a nice way to involve the parents in exposing the kids to more literacy activities.

THE IDEAS ARE ENDLESS and these are just a SAMPLE of things you can do!  MORE IDEAS TO COME!!!

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