Our latest Family “Open Door Day” was focused on literacy and young children. After joining a parent discussion, family members joined their children in the classroom where teachers had set up centers featuring a variety of playful literacy activities. Teachers also posted suggestions for play and the rational behind using these materials. The final element was a documentation wall featuring photos of children engaged in playful literacy activities, along with sample work.
What a terrific turnout we had! We were happy to see so many family members spending the morning with us, and the children were so pleased to have their families participate at school!
There was a lot to talk about, but some highlights from our discussion follow:
- Foundations ideally focus on reading and writing as communication – children who understand the values of these activities will learn the complex set of inter-related skills associated with reading and writing because they are excited about learning, connecting, remembering, and sharing ideas
- Spend lots of time reading with children at home and at school
- Good readers develop strong language skills and knowledge of words:
o Children need environments in which they experience language in meaningful contexts (children need lots of meaningful experiences to talk about!)
o Language develops through talking, singing, interacting, and social play
o Children need to feel they are listened to – the responsiveness of adults in children’s lives to their language is crucial
- Read high quality literature to children:
o Children develop language and vocabulary through interactions around reading literature
o Children become comfortable with the differences between book language and conversational language
o Children develop an understanding of story structures
- Support children’s growing phonological awareness:
o Children develop awareness of the sound structure of language
o Word play, rhyming, musical activities, use of nursery rhymes all support phonological awareness
- Support comprehension:
o Children need context and background knowledge to draw on as they develop comprehension skills
o Encourage children to talk about book content, share ideas, make connections to their own experience, and ask questions
- Writing depends on sound physical development, which can be supported in a wide variety of sensory experiences and informal activities that support each child’s use of their fingers and hands
- It takes time before children understand that writing is recorded speech
- To write letters, children need to understand that letters are symbols that come together to represent sounds and meaning.
- Symbolic thinking is supported by pretend play.
- Writing skills grow out of drawing – encourage children to make a mark!
- With experience and by noticing more and more details, children discover that lines come together to form letters (how letters look), and then that letters are used to form words
There is a lot going on as children move along the continuum of learning in their own way. We can take cues from the children, support their interests, encourage conversations, questions, and finding out more about interesting topics, make sure there is time for meaningful pretend play, and enjoy a wide variety of books and stories together!