Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Opening New Doors

A Culture of Literacy

Kindergartners spend a great deal of time telling stories. There is always a story brewing during morning and afternoon experiences.  We have stories unfolding at the block, sensory and light table in the classroom currently.

"Pretend that I am a giraffe and I am going on an adventure with my mommy."
"Ok but pretend that I am a teenager and I am lost in the jungle."
"Everyone this is the lake where the animals take a bath."

The children are listening to each other and adding on to the story. It may not be a sequential storyline with a problem and solution but the story is widening. The children are clarifying the story, establishing their place and negotiating the plot line.

Sometimes a child prefers fact to fiction but they are still creating a literacy as they pursue and catalog these facts in their head.

As teachers, we promote the understanding  that stories and facts exist between the pages of a book. This provides a reason to read and hopefully the motivation to sustain the process. We scaffold the children as they take small steps (and sometimes leaps) towards decoding the lexicon of our language.  Our work is to understand the social emotional being of each child and this understanding is essential as we create an environment that allows for risk and embraces mistakes as necessary for learning.

We host a session each fall for the Kindergarten parents as they navigate this part of their child's development. A child's literacy is another milestone in their journey which also means that it will occur when there is an internal readiness. However, we can intentionally offer experiences that match their zone of proximal development and scaffold the incremental steps some children will require to break the code.

Each year parents ask questions and we have collected a few of the most frequently asked questions.

What is the difference between phonics and phonemic awareness?

 Phonemic awareness is auditory and does not rely on print. Children listen to and manipulate the sounds of speech as they rhyme, delete, segment and blend sounds. Children often arrive in Kindergarten with a working knowledge of  letters and even their matching sounds  but we continue to play with sounds as we read, sing and enjoy games. The work of phonemic awareness appeals to young children and is also a fundamental piece of both reading and writing literacy.

Phonics supports students as they begin to understand the relationship between phonemes
( the smallest unit of language) and the printed letters. The lower school classrooms use Words Their Way curriculum to structure the skill set of phonics but we primarily examine phonemes in context----in the midst of the books the children read.
"Is it possible for that word to read as horse when it begins with the letter m?" Why does the vowel in the middle of the word say its name?

"My child has memorized the book sent home and is relying on the pictures to read. They are not really reading. "

Many parents each year express this observation. We read each book at school with the children so they often do not need  to decode the words when they read at home for the second time. As children reread a book they are practicing good reading habits such as pointing to  each word, sweeping their eyes from left to right, using the illustrations to support  decoding and repetition of bridge words (the, and, you, me etc.). If there is interest you might consider asking your child to spell words, identify blends, count the number of words in a sentence, look for words with matching beginning or ending sounds or ask them to think of a word that rhymes with one in the text.

Books were coming home and now we have short stories on xeroxed paper without pictures.

At some point during the next few months, we begin to look at stories with a controlled predictable text and without the support of pictures. The text has patterns that we are identifying and considering. It is often a challenging experience for some children so we use this type of text intermittently with early readers.

My child seems to be a strong writer rather than reader. 

Children often come to reading through the back door. Writing text offers more control to the writer than reading offers to the reader. A writer has the freedom to change direction or write what they hear when capturing words on paper. A reader must stick with decoding the words on paper to make meaning and connect the text.  For some children it is easier to segment sounds when writing than blending sounds when reading.

My child is noticing what the other children are reading and is beginning to feel anxious.

Anxiety during the reading process should be avoided. We make every effort to keep it fun, inclusive and free of stress. If you observe the stakes becoming high for your child please let Mary and I know immediately and resume read alouds only (add some additional cuddles and laughter) The reading process will unfold for each child in their own way and at their own time. Stress will interfere with their excitement and perseverance.

We will continue this conversation discussing literacy in the Kindergarten. We invite you to read an earlier blog entitled "The Nuances of Literacy".

Additional thoughts regarding literacy

Children are made readers on the laps 

of their parents. —Emilie Buchwald

Happy Reading to You.

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