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Creating Literacy Classroom


Today's pre-kindergarten teacher is afforded the exceptional and unique opportunity to be the first to introduce literacy skills to many of his or her students. Some pre-K students will have enjoyed exposure to books since birth. Other will have had few opportunities to develop early reading skills. In addition to finding effective strategies to promote learning for all students, educators are also responsible for the design of their classroom. Object placement and learning tool selection are key aspects involved in the creation of a rich environment that supports literacy development for all.


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A cohesive classroom design should address all six elements of early literacy emergent. These elements include: oral language competencies, interest in literature, phonological/phonetic awareness, reading/writing for personal purposes, focus on print and metalinguistic knowledge (Otto, 2007). Elements of early literacy can be promoted through structured classroom activities, but perhaps the greatest learning can occur during independent, self-directed play. The classroom design is especially important to make ample use of this valuable time. For purposes of organization, this narrative will address the classroom's organization from the top and moving in a clockwise motion.

Computer Table

Classroom
This pre-K classroom will be equipped with two computers and multiple developmentally appropriate software options. The computers are located in an easily visible area of the room to allow the teacher to visit frequently and provide support when needed. Because the software options are nearly limitless, a computer center can promote nearly all of the six elements of early literacy. Specifically, e-books can increase an interest in literature while also providing opportunities to build phonological/phonetic awareness. Many e-book programs support learners by sounding out letters and words. Other programs are voice activated. These options could promote oral language competencies. Children will also learn to read and type for personal purposes.

Two Floor Reading Center

Placed across the room from the teacher's desk, the reading center will provide two large areas for independent reading. One area will allow floor play and multiple exchanges of books while the other area offers comfortable seating for more focused readers (Diller, 2008). The reading center itself will house a vast variety of books. Themed books aligned with curriculum will be rotated but there will always be a number of multicultural selections as well as books that focus on rhyming and alliteration. These books will promote phonological/phonetic awareness. Students will increase their focus on print during time spent in the reading center. They will also develop an interest in reading for personal purposes since they can select their own books. Metalinguistic knowledge will also be targeted through a shared responsibility of organizing the books by genre.

Circle Time

The Circle Time area of the classroom will be a central location for many teacher-led activities. Activities promoting literacy include: book talks, show and tell, read aloud story time, and dictated writing. A language arts and math board will be particularly helpful in the provision of these activities. During independent play, students can also use this area to read, play with a flannel board, or participate in teacher-assisted dictated writing on a large easel. Whenever possible, the teacher will utilize large print and illustrated books that will allow students to see the print as its being read. This area will also be decorated with positive statements and images about reading. Some signs will be captioned in other languages that students in the classroom speak. This will allow these children to develop a focus on print.

Art Center, Home Center, and Movement Learning Environment

While perhaps slightly less related to reading and writing, the art center, home center, and movement learning environment can certainly host a variety of activities that promote each of the six elements of literacy. First, the art center can be utilized to help students write and illustrate letters (Diller, 2008). These letters can be mailed in the pretend postal station of the home center. Students will learn a practical use for personal reading and writing. Many will reread their writing and they will be encouraged to share with the multiple students who can work at this station simultaneously. The home center promotes dramatic play, which offers rich opportunities for oral language development. Themes in this area will rotate but activities like pretend grocery shopping can involve list making and reading advertisements. Although housed in the adjacent room, this classroom setup also involves a movement learning environment. There are always opportunities to incorporate literacy, especially through spoken word, in motor play.

Conclusion

A well-designed classroom is the first opportunity to influence young learners. The proposed design includes a number of important learning centers as well as the flexibility to rotate and chance activities throughout the year (Diller, 2008). It will be the responsibility of the educator to observe his or her students and continually improve the design of the classroom by applying this knowledge. Consideration of whether and how a design element will impact a child's development of literacy skills should also be paramount in the decisions surrounding how to organize a classroom.

References

Diller, D. (2008). Spaces and places: Designing classrooms for literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Gimbert, D. & Cristol, D. (2004). Teaching curriculum with technology: Enhancing children's technological competence during early childhood. Early Childhood Education Journal, 31(3), 207-216.

Otto, B. (2007). Literacy development in early childhood: Reflective teaching from birth to age eight. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


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