Creating literacy-rich environments is certainly a buzz-phrase in preschool classrooms. It seems that everyone is always looking for new ideas to make their classrooms literacy rich. What seems to be missing from a lot of these conversations is meaning. It’s not enough to just have a lot of print in your environment. Research has shown us that just putting a lot of print in the environment doesn’t really help children attend to it. In fact, they may even start to ignore it. Rather, current research suggests that we should make sure that we create print-rich environments that are meaningful. Gone are the days when we label everything in the classroom, such as the door, the chair, and the window. These labels have little to no meaning to children. Instead, we have to look at the children in our classroom and determine what type of print would be meaningful to them. There are some universal activities that are meaningful to preschoolers, such as anything having to do with their name. However, what might be meaningful to one classroom might not be so meaningful to another classroom.
I encourage you to question everything you put in your environment to determine if it is actually meaningful to the children. Are the signs that label each area (Dramatic Play, Blocks, etc.) meaningful to children? Or are they just something that someone, somewhere along the way, told you that you had to have? (I’ve yet to see these signs as actually being required in any quality improvement program or accreditation standards even though many teachers insist that they are required). Are the labels you have on your shelves helpful to the children? Or are they a nuisance? Is the alphabet poster something that children use, or does it add to the visual clutter of the room? The answers to all of these questions may be different for every classroom. My point is that you have to be the one to critically evaluate whether something is meaningful or not.
So….what are some examples of activities that other teachers have found meaningful? Let’s take a look…..but even with these suggested activities….don’t forget to ask yourself if these will be meaningful for YOUR group of children!
Some labels are meaningful. These labels help children know where to put the art materials when they are returning them to the shelves.
This science center has an example of meaningful print. While the children are not able to read this print yet in this preschool classroom, they will notice that the print has changed and will likely as the teacher what it says.
This cozy reading area is a big hit with children. It includes many cozy features, including pillows, rugs, and plants.
This listening center was made from PVC pipe and a cheap curtain. You can imagine how much children loved getting away to this area!
Don’t forget to include books in other areas though!
When children walk into this classroom, they locate their name on the woodchip and then place it into a basket. Teachers can then use the basket to talk about who is here (or not) at group time or other times during the day.
This writing table is inviting to children. The table is set up for 2 children, because writing during the preschool years tends to be a social experience. The table has blank paper, blank books, fill-in strips with the words to a popular song the children were singing, children’s name cards (and teachers), pencils, alphabet samples, and word cards to put in the fill-in strip blanks.
Job charts are another way to include meaningful print into your classroom!
These small alphabet blocks are fun to put on top of these laminated name cards. Note: The name cards had all capital letters because the alphabet blocks were not available with lower case letters and this class was not yet able to match case on the letters. Typically, all name cards should use Sentence Case – with a capital first letter and lower case letters for the rest of the name.
This compound word activity can be fun for older preschoolers. Children try to find the two words that make up the compound word.
In this activity, children sort word cards by the number of syllables they hear.
This is just a sampling of activities to start your literacy program. What ideas do you have, and what makes them meaningful to children?