OAD 02/07-02/11 (Plus Literacy in the OAD)

Hi OAD families! 

If you haven’t checked out our hallway documentation, please do so! This week our classroom read the book “Polly and the Plain Piece of Paper”, a book about creativity and originality. After reading, we decided we wanted to create our very own work of art on a plain piece of paper. 

We started this activity by recalling and retelling the story (an early literacy skill). Then, we made plans to work on our art each day (an introduction to the planning process). The OAD’s have had a pretty big fascination with scissors, so our first plan was just to cut and snip materials for our collage (great fine motor practice). After our materials were glued in place, we revisited the piece and decided that we needed writing and drawing materials to add to our masterpiece (a great opportunity for collaboration and language development).  I think their work speaks for itself!

If you want to catch a glimpse of our OAD’s in action, here’s the link to our album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JcDnCEceJSzJkHYS7

Now, I wanted to talk a little about something else that is on everyone’s mind… Literacy seemed to be a hot topic at our last conferences. Really, it seems to be a hot topic in our classroom at the moment. This isn’t because we’re pushing children to chant the alphabet or forcing children to write their names; in all honesty, we aren’t concerned about the exact number of letters and letter-sounds your child can produce for us. What does catch our attention, however, is that writing, reading, and other literacy based activities (like rhyming games) have been particularly important and exciting to your OAD’s. 

Our classroom is rich with early literacy experiences; reading is a part of many of our daily rituals; our classroom library is stocked with plenty of books that cover different interests and genres; print is abundant around the room; writing materials are readily available and used often. There are so many opportunities for literacy development, and one thing I love so much about this group is that they really are enthusiastic about it. This week children have dictated their own “soup recipes” to be written down. They’ve acted out a favorite children’s story using dolls and props in the library. They’ve proudly displayed their names in art all over their classroom (their very own exhibit). 

Amaya and Lilly reenacting the story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” using props and scripts from the story

All of these examples took place during play, and were child directed. At TCS, we value meaningful learning experiences. Our developmental interaction philosophy is backed by research; we know that children (most people, really) are better able to recall, conceptualize, and apply new information when it is learned actively and meaningfully. This isn’t to say that rote learning doesn’t have its benefits or is completely absent in our classroom- we do still have short games and activities that introduce isolated skills during meetings or are embedded into transitions. We just know that we can introduce most early literacy skills in ways that are engaging and developmentally appropriate for young children through play.

So, are we ensuring that the OAD’s have all the literacy skills they need for the future? Will they be on track for future school experiences? Yes. We also aren’t pressuring children to perform for us. In a time where preschools are advertising “teaching your preschooler to read!”, we’re more concerned about the whole picture that is your child right now than rushing children to demonstrate academic skills that are not developmentally appropriate. If you are curious about what most children at this age are able to do (and I can assure you, we do see all of these things in the classroom), here are some of the early literacy skills to look for:

Age appropriate literacy skills for ages 3-4:

  • Show interest in books and enjoy reading or being read to
  • Look at books using the correct positioning and by turning pages from left to right.
  • Answer questions or have discussions about stories
  • Begin to write their own names or “write” other words. Letter strings, linear scribbles, and letter-like forms are all age appropriate. (Keep in mind that fine motor skills play a role in a child’s ability to write)
  • Participate in rhyming games or songs
  • Identify a few words (such as familiar names or signs in the environment)
  • Identify some letters and their corresponding sounds (especially those in their own names)
  • Demonstrate an understanding of print and its meaning 

It’s also important to keep in mind that the skills required to read and write cannot simply and quickly be acquired. Reading is a combination of alphabetic knowledge, phonological awareness, vocabulary understanding of print, and oral language skills. Here’s a great visual I found to better illustrate my point:

To put into perspective the number of skills you need just to identify a word that starts with a certain letter, here’s an example… Let’s say you ask your child, “What letter does ‘Elephant’ start with?” If they don’t already have this answer memorized, they will have to start this task by isolating the first sound that they hear in elephant (which, by the way, can be tricky considering when you say the word, you might hear /l/ instead of /e/). Then, they will need the cognitive ability to store this information while they connect the sound to a letter. When they do attempt to make this connection, the fact that the name for letter ‘E’ doesn’t sound like its short phoneme (which is usually how children first learn letter sounds), so this might be a little confusing as well. My point of this example is that this simple request actually requires multiple complex skills for three year olds. 

Now, let’s talk about writing. For children, writing doesn’t always mean creating letters to form words and meaning. It starts by creating symbols that hold meaning. Writing, like all other learning follows stages of development. 

Even if we believed that our children had the alphabetic knowledge to write letters and words, we need to keep in mind that they would have to possess all of the early literacy skills I described earlier. This is in addition to the fine motor skills it takes to form these letters on the page.

My intention with this blog was to, hopefully, provide some developmental context for what your children are doing and help alleviate any pressure or worries you might have about your child’s literacy development. From my own experiences with your children, this love of books and learning have not suddenly blossomed overnight or in our classroom; your family has done most of this work at home! During conferences, here are some of the things I heard parents trying at home:

  • Writing letters to friends and family together using pictures or examples of writing
  • Reading bedtime stories
  • Doing “homework” (drawing pictures, playing letter games, etc.) with big siblings. 

If you want some more ideas about how you can support literacy at home, here are some ideas. Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to sneak skills into everyday play or routines (you do not have to feel pressure to create activities that don’t work with your family!)

Encouraging and reinforcing early literacy development: