Sunday, January 22, 2012

Digging for Early Literacy

Children learn and absorb literacy experiences constantly throughout their lives. This natural process is harshly and dramatically contradicted in traditional teaching methods in elementary schools. We expect children to conform to worksheets, word walls, memorization, speed reading tests, and spelling tests when these assessments and requirements oppose how children learn best: through experience. A great way to create this experience and encourage natural literacy acquisition in children is by creating a “Literacy Dig.” A Literacy Dig is a full, rich, and wonderful method to set up a classroom to boost literacy practices. To initiate the Literacy Dig, a teacher should search for some sort of outside community connection that could enrich the child as a whole. An example that a group of teachers and I are currently working on starts with a Goodwill store. We plan on starting the experience with a “field study,” where we will bring our students to Goodwill equipped with clipboards for notes, drawings, and recorded environmental print; cameras for videos and pictures; audio recorders; and plenty of writing utensils. At Goodwill, the children will try to document as much information as possible to bring back to the classroom. When back in the classroom, we will share our artifacts, notes, and pictures, speaking about these processes. To move the process further, we plan on encouraging the children to create their own “Goodwill” in our classroom/school. This will require planning for a wide range of relevant, real-life situations and the children will be using, developing, and acquiring literacy skills during the entire month(s) long process. Teachers can prearrange for members of the community to come into the classroom to share knowledge about the finance of running a Goodwill store, the environmental benefits of thrift shops, an owner of the store to talk about the business of hiring and managing employees, a banker to demonstrate how to ask for a loan to start the store, and many other community members. Then, with their new knowledge, the students can begin to form their store with very specific and accurate representations. A Literacy Dig like this has endless possibilities and can only be taken as far as the teacher is willing to run with it. A wonderful, involved, and spontaneous teacher can make a small idea like creating a Goodwill store a quarter-long event that covers all the curriculum and required standards. This is a great way to encourage, teach, and make meaning of literacy with children. 

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