Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting A Perspective on Literacy as A Part of the Overall Growth of A Child

Certainly literacy is an essential and often focused upon topic when it comes to early childhood. Whether we are reading favorite books like Nancy Carlson's Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! or exposing children to rich conversations about language and letters, we are building important skills. However, as I travel the country and visit preschools, I sometimes see an out-of-balance, isolated instruction focus that concerns me.


Young children learn best in exploratory, playful environments.  The guidelines from the findings of the National Early Literacy Panel can be used within that context and that's how you will gain the best results.

This group met first in 2002 and was charged with identifying from a review of high-quality research the areas essential for later reading proficiency. These guidelines were released in 2009 and can help us focus on what will bring identifiable results and pave the way for children to learn to read at their prime time.

Six Early Skills Predictive of Later Literacy Achievement

Alphabetic Knowledge
Phonological Awareness
Rapid Automatic Naming of Letters and Digits
Rapid Automatic Naming of Colors and or Objects
Writing or Writing Name
Phonological Memory

Let's look at the first one. ALPHABETIC KNOWLEDGE.

See the girls to the right? They aren't readers yet in the conventional sense but they are exploring that book. The girl on the left is pointing to a letter and they are discussing it.

Don't think strict lesson, sitting at tables or responding to flash cards while children squirm because they are being asked to sit longer than their natural attention span allows.

Instead, think of how you can teach these skills in a playful environment.  These girls just sat down with a book and, in fact, had just been prompted by the teacher to look for letters they knew.

Learning the alphabet can really be facilitated through such positive experiences and games.

Explore the shapes in sand or with sponges on the sidewalk.

Let children feel the letter as they draw their fingers over them.

Sing the ABC song with them while hopping from one letter to another on the floor or ground.

Have a game where children can walk quickly to the other end of the room and pick up a letter that they know, bring it back to you and tell you the name (it can be a race but be careful of untied shoes!)

As you take dictation for them, on artwork or notepaper or wherever, show them how you write that letter of focus and allow them to try the same.

Consistently point out letters you want to emphasize when they appear in print you are sharing with the children (big books, individual or circle time stories, posters on the wall, street signs, and print throughout your center).

As children become more familiar with more letters, you can have all kinds of hunting and finding games to reinforce their rapid recall and identification.  We want them to be able to quickly name any letter we point to eventually and they will be able to do that when they reach a level of automaticity (quick delivery) of the names of letters.

Letter of the week is fine but make sure you aren't drilling the children.  Think of this cool progression: FRIG

Familiarity and exposure to seeing the letters in lots of different contexts
Recognition - children begin to associate the letter shape with its name
Identification - children can point out the letter when you say "show me" or "where is the A?"
Generation - children can look at a letter and say its correct name

This progression from strong support and modeling through limited support to independent mastery is evident in most anything your children learn.

Next time we'll talk about phonological awareness.

Have fun!

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    I have taught in special education for 13 years. I have been rapidly approaching burnout, but have recently reenergized myself by acquiring a preschool class where the students will be typical acheivers, but qualify based on low screening scores. Your blog is great!!! I am excited about my new job and having your blog as a supportive resource.