Finding the Time to implement Literacy Experiences in the Preschool Classroom
Bringing literacy experiences such as interactive read alouds, shared reading or shared writing and interactive writing doesn't have to add more direct instruction time to your day. In fact, adding more direct instruction time would not be the goal when working with little learners!
So the questions remains: How can we find the time to implement literacy experiences in the preschool classroom?
Simple answer: Infuse, don't add!
Truth of the matter is, we most-likely already have direct instruction time built into our schedules and we can use that time to add in literacy experiences.
Let's take some common times of the day and see how we can add literacy...
Do you have a dedicated time on your schedule for reading a story? Take that time and choose a book that would allow you to create an interactive read aloud around it. Instead of just reading the story, could you add in discussion or 'thinking aloud' about the purpose of the book or a story element (such as where the story is taking place or who the characters are). You could also use the story to teach new vocabulary words or get children thinking by asking questions throughout the book.
Since you are already doing storytime, it's a great time to infuse more literacy skills through interactive read alouds!
You can learn more about interactive read alouds in this blogpost where I talk about infusing literacy into a fall unit (but the idea works with any theme or unit!).
If you already have a time in your day when the class meets together (probably on the carpet) and learns something together - you are already having whole group time. And whole group time is a fantastic time to add in some literacy experiences with BIG benefits.
DINO THEME EXAMPLE: Maybe your class is learning about dinosaurs. You've read dino books, you have dino themed activities in your centers and you do dino themed activities during whole group.
Take one of those whole group times and dedicate it to a shared reading time. Use the theme of dinos and create simple sentences such as 'The dino is red.' and add a red dino picture at the end of the sentence. Do this with more colors. Place the simple sentences in a pocket chart. Read the sentences with a pointer and ask children to join you.
Now, you have a shared reading experience where you are teaching children through modeling that we read from left to right and have a return sweep. We also teach them about the idea of a sentence and we can notice aloud how most of the words are the same. We can notice punctuation. We can notice color words. We can notice aloud SO much - all while exposing children to important literacy foundations.
PET THEMED EXAMPLE: Got a Pets theme? Again, take one of the whole group times, but this time dedicate it to Interactive Writing. Use chart paper or poster board. Model for children how you are writing a title at the top of the paper. Write 'Pets we Love'. Then, give each child a turn to come to the chart paper and write their name (or their first letter). Then, you ask them what their favorite pet is. You write the type of pet next to their name.
You can model aloud how to form a letter (I'm going to make a c. I'm going to start like I'm making a circle but then stop!), what to do if you run out of space, and how each child gets a different line of the chart. Then, you can read the sentences and tally up how many of each type of pet is liked and compare and contrast the results - all while modeling how to collect data in written form.
The goal here is to leave your whole group time fluid and allow for different experiences (be it math, literacy or science) to be had.
We can also use the time when children are free playing in centers to gather a group of children to work on specific literacy skills. During this small group time, you could easily do some activities focusing on letter recognition, letter sounds and letter recognition. You could also work on name recognition, name building and name writing.
Or, play some rhyming games, some visual discrimination games (to help children later distinguish between different letters) or listening games.
Small group time is a great time for focused learning with a specific group of children and literacy can easily be infused during this time too!
Let us not forget one of the most powerful places to infuse literacy experiences and that is in PLAY! Centers are naturally engaging to children because everything is hands-on. So, we can definitely add literacy experiences here.
While the 'Book Nook' or library is an obvious place that we can add amazing books for children to look at... don't discount these other centers for literacy infusion...
- Drama Center: add signs for environmental print and add writing opportunities such a order forms, message forms or just plain paper and a mini clipboard!
- Literacy Center: a place for hands-on literacy manipulatives, toys and games.
- Playdough Center: adding letter stampers or letter cookie cutters can help add literacy to this well loved center.
- Art Center: add letter stickers, letter stencils and letter rubbings.
- Writing Center: add all things writing - from letter hunts to writing invitations we can add some powerful activities to encourage writing.
- Block Center: we can even add letters to the block center with letter rocks, letter robots (from Lakeshore Learning) or even old school letter stacking blocks!
Don't forget about one of the most under utilized times of the day - transition time. Waiting in line for the bathroom? Waiting in line for specials? Waiting in line to wash hands? All these times are valuable.
You can infuse literacy into transitions very simple through songs (like the alphabet song), silly rhymes or tongue twisters! It doesn't take much to add a little language fun into transitions!
When you really stop and look at your schedule and intentionally look for ways to infuse literacy instead of add new time blocks - it makes the idea of implementing more literacy experiences not so overwhelming.
You don't need a dedicated 'Literacy' block in your day to make the most of literacy experiences. In fact, when these experiences are mixed into an already engaging theme or topic students are more likely to have meaningful connections to it. And meaning connections mean meaningful learning.
So, how do you plan on starting to implement more literacy into your day?
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