Monday, March 23, 2015

A Love Of Literacy : Creating A Literacy Rich Culture In The Classroom


Creating A Literacy Rich Culture In The Classroom

I remember when I first opened Discovery, I was so eager to settle in and have a culture, a way, a feeling of our school. I was, like I often am, rushing what should happen naturally. As time went on I was reminded that a culture is something that is cultivated over time, it simmers and sizzles until it boils over. As much as I wanted to dig in.. I had to allow things to happen at it's own pace. I already knew this about children and how they learn, I knew that they could not be forced to learn and develop, that it would happen naturally in an environment full of rich material and a culture that supported play.. I used this same mindset to settle down my inner voice and let the classroom culture take shape.

One thing was for sure, play would be at the center of what children experienced at our school. Why play? Well because Play develops relationships, relationships with people, spaces, materials, and ones self. We understood that these relationships would be of great importance to the classroom culture.

With relationships as a main focus, we began to closely observe the children. Through our observations we noticed the connection and closeness that was nourished while sharing stories, books and simply chatting together. We had designed the classroom with ample access to reading and writing material, but with the new knowledge of the children, we began to fill the shelves with books that supported the interests of the children in the classroom. We blurred the lines between "Centers" in the classroom by adding reading and writing materials in all areas of the classroom, by doing this it became understood that writing and reading did not happen ONLY in designated centers.

By providing books that matched the interest of the children and allowing them to read  naturally in groupings of their choosing, on the lap of a teacher or alone at any given point in the school day, we created an environment that merged the joy of reading with the joy of play.  Children could be found deep into a book as a marching band marched on by, children giggling in delight didn't even threaten to tear a child away from his book.  

We also found it important to offer ample opportunities for children to write and mark make. blank books made of folded paper then stapled along the spine, blank paper, lined paper, chalk boards, journal books, memo pads, and any other type of paper we could find is nestled in all areas of the classroom. A myriad of writing tools accompany them. Clip boards, and mini notebooks create a mobile writing device that add to play of all kinds. cardboard, scraps of wood dry erase boards were also placed thoughtfully around the room. 

Simply adding an easel and large paper to the block area encourages plans to be mocked up and sketches to be made. 

We do not do worksheets, we do not practice any writing curriculum or have any teacher directed writing sessions, it's not a chore.. or work, it's PLAY..  

Children write and mark make ALL day, children read and tell stories ALL day. Our end of the day story is an event.. We call it the book vote. Everyone meets at the rug. Small blocks are passed out as tickets, three or four books are laid out after each title is read and displayed for all to see. Then the vote begins! The children are called up a few at a time to place their vote. It's always exciting to tally up the votes at the end and see which story won. This time fosters a sense of community, a sense of democracy and a love of and excitement for reading. 

We found that there are a few key things that helped to develop our literacy rich culture. 

- We provided ample accessible books and reading material 

- We talked with and listened to the children 

- We asked " How does your story start" ( Bev Bos) 

- We provided many tools for mark making and writing 

- Plenty of play give the children to opportunity to play out ideas and events in    stories and books. 

- Reading one on one, small groups, and whole group situations naturally. 

- Never having a forced reading time or a lesson in reading. 

We dictate the words of the children reading their own words back to them and their classmates. Dictation is so much a part of our program that now the children attempt to dictate for each other, the act of dictation is showing up in play!

Never before have I seen children flock to reading and choose it when play is an option, my theory for this is;  they are never forced to sit for group "reading time" they are never punished by being sent to " go read a book" they are not worried that they will miss play time because play is not scheduled between all of the other stuff.. it is the other stuff. They have associated reading and mark making or writing with spending time with loved ones, with laughter, sharing ideas, playing and learning.  They do it for pleasure, not because they are pressured. 

Their love for books and reading continued to grow, to the point that children began asking to take favorite books home. This prompted us to create a book borrowing corner in our classroom. The children and their families check out books to enjoy together at home, this home school connection reinforces the importance of reading to children and with loved ones.  

The children have truly developed a love of literacy

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