Monday, February 2, 2015

The Nuances of Literacy in Kindergarten

Dolphins swim in low water. Lira

Kindergarten is a year to continue to investigate the many languages of expression. These languages release creativity and promote collaboration and include painting, dance, drama, sketching and collage. These experiences begin at home or in the preschool. 

How do I connect to others?
 How do I share my ideas and find the intersection between my understanding and the understanding of others?

Many students arrive understanding that letters can be placed  together to create messages that have meaning and convey ideas or information to others.  Kindergartners  have an appreciation for letters and have spent time using letters in their play and creating alternative codes of correspondence or symbol making. 

The firefighters are saving someone from the fire. Harper

 This is the great white shark. Gabriel   

This is my house in Spring. Sabine

Kindergartners  assemble letters into their understanding of words. Words, sentences and and letters do not often have a separate identity for children at the beginning of their literacy journey.

Matching the letter symbols to the letter sounds is part of the work of a kindergartner. It is essential that they have the resources to break the code when ready but as educators we also need to empower children to rely on the skills as they  develop so children do not see adults as the expert. Kindergartners  realize that the sequence of the letters in the written word matches the sequence of the  sounds heard in the word. They then begin the process of segmenting and blending sounds, holding sounds in their head as they consider the matching symbol. 

Using the code means taking risks and making mistakes. 

 Children also do not always see letters as stable consistent symbols. For example, many children see   the letter "c" in a letter "g" or perhaps a letter "n" in the letter "h". The letters b, d, p and q are often transposed and confused. Young brains are versatile and do not look at our world through a fixed lens. These symbols are broken apart, reassembled, flipped, flopped and turned upside down. Add this piece to the nuances of holding a pencil and writing letters with developing motor skills and one begins to wonder how any of us ever learn to read and write.

Another component of reading and writing that is sometimes overlooked is training the eye to scan left to right and from top to bottom. This skills is essential for both reading and writing and is an intentional part of our work. 

We describe our classroom as being full of word sleuths stealthily examining all of the clues to uncover the meaning of each written word. The sleuths consider the words around the unknown word, picture clues, beginning sounds and what word would make sense (context). 

Many children are attracted to reading and the desire to hear  stories or gather facts and details. Other students are drawn to sharing their own stories through illustration or writing. This diversity and excitement generates a culture of literacy. Students are eager and excited to share their latest journal entry or the humor in a book read. 

Jail is not a good place.  Evan

I am having a snowball fight. Oliver

The journal entries capture the fun of a snow day, the memories of a field trip or the facts of a Kindergarten obsession, Star Wars. The journal is a private retreat for some and for others a way to connect to their friends. As the year progresses, the journal becomes a valued possession worn and tattered with use and love.

I am having a dream. Tucker

Satellite in the sky. Carter

I had a playdate with Brian. Luke

The Nutcracker is fighting the rat king. Cole

I slid down my hill. Sadie

I had fun in the snow snow boarding. Reed

I am throwing snowballs at my car. Tavish

The death star is blocking the good guys. Nathan

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