Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Print with a Purpose

As you set up your centers/stations and add to and rearrange/refresh them during the year (please tell me you do that), I want to encourage you to step back and look at the print you have in your children's environment. Although exposure to print is a great tool, it can become just visual "white noise" unless you plan carefully.

When you post ANY print, make sure you have a specific, scientifically-based purpose behind it. I'd rather see 10 things labeled purposefully in your classroom than 20 things labeled just for the sake of having a label. Here's an example:

If we label every piece of furniture and fixture in home living but we never call our children's attention to the print and talk about it (the number of letters in the word, that it is a "word", recognizing letters the child may have mastered or is at least familiar with, talking about the meaning of the word), then we are being wasteful and missing incredible opportunity. A few children might learn conventionally to read that word but all can identify that the word on the thing you sit in, with four legs, is a "chair" and talk about what chairs are used for. Don't let your focus be on decoding; let it be on seeing that print has a purpose and celebrate icing on the cake for your most advanced children if they can decode the word conventionally. It is all about meeting children where they are in their spectrum of development and not skipping over important milestones in the "rush to read".

Use print to show children how print is used in the real world (making lists, charts, comparisons, writing letters home to family, taking dictation from children to caption their artwork or record a retelling or original story).

Also post chilidren's artwork with captions dictated by the children to celebrate their already-present literacy.

You can find out more about environmental print and purposeful print in preschool classrooms through these great resources:

Play in the Preschool Classroom

What Works

An excerpt from Pat Kuby, et al's book on Environmental Print (preschool and early elementary)

The Impact of Environmental Print

How do you purposefully place print in your classroom? Stay tuned next time for how reading aloud adds to print awareness.

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