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The Teacher's Role
A preschool teacher is a child's guide on their first foray into the world of reading and writing. Teachers should read up on the history and stages of emergent writing and reading to get a better idea of what to expect from their students. By providing developmentally appropriate experiences, materials and environments, teachers can encourage early literacy skills and behaviors to flourish and develop into conventional reading and writing down the road.
Literacy experts have identified several key strategies for pre-K teachers wishing to nurture and strengthen early literacy, and there are plenty of games, materials and activities that teachers can use in conjunction with these teaching strategies to build a dynamic and supportive preschool curriculum around emergent reading and writing.
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Essential Teaching Strategies
Experts in the fields of Curriculum Instruction and Literacy Education have identified these teaching strategies and curriculum components as being imperative to the formation of positive early literacy outcomes.
Use rich language - Expose children to new words and concepts by engaging in conversation whenever possible. Elaborate on children's' speech by extending ideas, adding descriptive words, and varying grammatical structures. The new words and concepts will stimulate curiosity, an essential trait for early literacy development.
Read everything and often - Reading together several times a day fosters positive associations about books and reading. Reading a variety of materials like stories, poems, and informative books expands children's horizons and nurtures curiosity. Reading and re-reading of favorite books builds familiarity with sounds and words, one of the first ways children begin to exhibit emergent reading skills.
Build sound and letter awareness - Research shows that games and activities that expose children to elements like rhyme and alliteration promotes early awareness of phonological structures. Even simple sound matching exercises, in which children decide which items out of a group start with the same sound, can help children develop literacy. Similarly, exposure to the letters of the alphabet via books, songs, and manipulatives (such as magnetic letters, puzzles, and building blocks) builds awareness and fosters literacy development. Use direct associations, such as names of people or places the child knows to teach new letters.
Support Emergent Reading - Expose children to print in a variety of settings. Maintain a well-designed, well-stocked library area and add new books regularly. Use printed labels, possibly with an associated image or picture to label objects and organize cubbies and toy shelves. incorporate printed materials like books, newspapers, signs, menus, product labels, keyboards, or nametags into dramatic play and other areas. Use printed materials to organize class activities with daily schedules, job charts, and calendars.
Support Emergent Writing - Provide ample opportunities for engaging in emergent forms of writing such as drawing, scribbling or random letter strings. Maintain a comfortable, well-stocked writing center with plenty of paper and writing utensils that is large enough for a few children to work in at once. Engage children in the writing process by writing dictations from them, perhaps as captions to their art work or for a daily or weekly journal. Use writing to facilitate daily activities by making sign-sheets for play areas or check-out slips for library books. Include writing materials like notepads and keyboards in dramatic play.
Make reading interactive - Although most preschool students can't yet read printed words, they can actively participate in the reading process through choral repetition, pointing and picture associations. Use oversized books to engage many children at once and encourage children to chime in on frequently used or repeated words and phrases. Point to words as you read them, and call attention to the sequencing of letters and words (i.e., from left to right, from top to bottom). Foster a distinction between words and pictures by discussing these elements separately, and teach children the various components of a book such as front cover, back cover, title, author and illustrator.
Scaffold interests and provide learning opportunities - The overall intentional of emergent literacy curriculum is for students to use literacy to express themselves and learn about the world. To further that goal, encourage students to express interest in subjects both orally and on paper (via pictures or voting activities), and create a variety of activities that allow children to explore the subject independently or in groups. Provide books and hands-on experiences, organize interviews or visits with an expert, encourage emergent writing to record thoughts and observations and culminate the project with dramatic play in which children can use and express what they've learned.
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Resources for Building an Emergent Curriculum
Need help designing a preschool emergent literacy curriculum? These resources include games, books, activities and other materials and ideas for creating a dynamic, developmentally appropriate preschool curriculum that supports emergent reading and writing.
Scholastic Teachers Extensive list of lesson plans and activities for teaching phonics.
The Classroom Kit: Literacy Resources Includes flashcards, posters, booklets and activity ideas for literacy development.
ProTeacher! Read, Write, Now: Early Years A collection of activities and games that promote early literacy in young children.
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NAEYC Journal: The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction (PDF)
Ideas and Advice for an Emergent Literacy Curriculum
What is emergent literacy, and what can teachers and other caregivers do to support and develop it? Learn the what, when, why, and how of early reading and writing with this helpful Bright Hub series.