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A Literacy-Rich Classroom Environment

Practices Related to Developing a Literacy-Rich Classroom

The following practices identified by Project ELIPSS promote emergent literacy for preschool children.

Practices Promoting Emergent Literacy for Preschool Children
  • The classroom has an attractive, inviting reading center or classroom library.
  • Books are displayed so that children can see the pictures on the covers.
  • Adults read books aloud to children daily.
  • Labels with signs or pictures are present on toy containers, shelves, and learning centers.
  • Children are encouraged to write or draw every day.
  • Adults model writing for children daily.
  • The classroom has a well-stocked writing center and art center.
  • The classroom has a listening center with a supply of books, cassettes, and cds for children.
  • Children are encouraged to write and publish their own individual books.
  • Learning centers contain print props
  • Examples: grocery store coupons, notepads and pencils, magazines

  • Children’s books are placed throughout the room.

Accessible Centers

Reading Center

An inviting reading environment helps to stimulate children’s interests in books and reading. By arranging the furniture and materials in a comfortable, accessible manner, children will want to spend more time looking at books either alone or with peers in the reading center.

Components of a developmentally appropriate reading center include:

Reading Center Furnishings
  • Soft, comfortable chairs, such as bean bag chairs, giant pillows or a small foam couch
  • Child-sized rocking chair
  • Stuffed animals to “read with a friend”
  • Small table with two or more child-sized chairs if room permits
  • Bookshelves which allow books to be displayed with covers facing outward
  • Book bins
  • Crates for books
  • Boxes or large baskets for storing books
Reading Center Materials and Equipment
  • Head sets, tape recorders, cd players, and recorded books
  • Felt board and flannel story pieces
  • Magnetic board and magnetic story pieces
Books for a Developmentally Appropriate Reading Center
  • Five to eight books per child (this is the recommended minimum for classroom use)
  • Books for pleasure
  • Examples: picture books, pop-up books, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, song picture books, and poetry

  • Informational books
  • Examples: factual books on topics such as animals, insects, and machines; picture dictionaries; art and craft books

  • Language play books
  • Examples: alphabet books, books with simple pictures and single words or phrases, books with repetitive rhymes and phrases

  • Children’s self-authored books (books made by children)

[insert Graphics related to components of reading center] the top

Writing Center

Children should have opportunities to write in an area of the classroom that has furniture and materials for writing.

Components of the writing center may include:

Furnishings for a Writing Center
  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Small plastic tote boxes
  • Baskets and boxes as storage containers
Writing Center Materials
  • Variety of paper
  • Examples: lined, unlined, colored, white, paper stapled together as a book, memo pads, notebooks, envelopes

  • Materials that support writing
    • lists of the children’s names
    • chalk and chalkboards
    • magnetic board and letters
    • flannel board
    • letter tiles and blocks
    • alphabet chart
  • Letter and picture stamps and ink pads
  • Writing tools
    • Pencils (regular and chubby)
    • Colored pencils
    • Colored markers
    • Crayons

    Examples: regular and chubby; variety of colors; glitter crayons and scented ones

    • Chalkboards and chalk
    • Magic slates
    • Magnetic boards and letters
    • Letter stamps and ink pads

    Examples: washable stamp inks, various colors

    • Acetate sheets and wipe-off pens and cloths
    • Laminated poster board pieces and wipe-off pens and cloths
    • Letter and design stencils
    • Hole punch and yarn or ribbon for binding “books” made with hole-punch pages
    • Stapler
    • Glue, paste, and tape
    • Scissors

    Examples: child-sized with rounded points, adaptive scissors, decorative edged scissors

    • Pencil sharpener
    • Book of wallpaper samples for making covers for homemade “books”
    • Old magazines, catalogs, pictures, and postcards

Examples of writing centers:

View White Oak Preschool. White Oak Preschool
View Writing Center. Writing Center the top

Art Center

The art center should include a variety of materials that support development of art and literacy skills in different forms. Art can be a form of communication for young children. They develop emergent writing skills as they draw and paint.

Furnishings for an Art Center
  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Easels (at least two)
  • Low set of shelves for art supplies
  • Bins to organize art tools and materials
Materials for an Art Center
  • Paper of all kinds
  • Variety of colored construction paper, drawing paper, tissue paper, textured papers (natural, mulberry, vellums), different weights of cardstock, origami paper

    Rolls of newsprint, heavy paper, butcher paper, and easel paper

    Office discards, junk mail, greeting cards, magazines, paint chip samples, and wallpaper sample books

    All paper scraps, especially construction paper

  • Drawing and painting tools
    • Crayons without paper wrappers (a large variety to choose from)
    • Examples: fat crayons, adaptive crayons, multicolor crayons, homemade crayons, glitter crayons, gel crayons

    • Markers of different colors
    • Chalk, including fat chalks in many colors
    • Rulers and templates
    • Magna Doodle
    • Assortment of paint brushes (different sizes)
    • Adaptive grips and extended handles for brushes
    • Sponges and sponge shapes
    • Scissors (including decorative edged scissors and adapted scissors)
  • Modeling compounds
    • Playdough
    • Clay
  • Adhesive materials
    • Glue and glue sticks
    • Paste
    • Cellophane tape
    • Masking tape
    • Packing tape
    • Contact paper
    • Glue dots
    • Xyron machine - to make stickers, magnets, or to laminate
    • Sticker maker
    • Paper punches
    • Stencils and Embossing Stylus
    • Crimpers
    • Texture plates
  • See EC-TIIS Expressive Arts Workshop for more information on setting up the Art Center in the classroom.

    View Expressive Arts. the top

    Science Center

    A science center can be designed to encourage emergent literacy skills.

    Literacy Materials to Include in the Science Center:
    • Books about famous scientists
    • Books with simple science experiments
    • Informational books with science-related topics
    • Examples: animals, plants, insects, birds, oceanlife, and five senses

    • Writing pad and pencil for children to write notes about creatures in the center or to journal other observations
    • Chart paper and marker for children to mark daily progress of small animal in the center or plant growth
    • Labels for items in the center the top

    Dramatic Play Center

    Children’s interest in reading and writing will be sparked when print-related props are placed in the dramatic play areas. Children will use reading and writing in their play. They will also see reading and writing as purposeful, real-life activities. They will also enjoy imitating adult literacy behaviors as they play.

    Literacy items to include in the Housekeeping Area:
    • Notepads for making lists
    • Telephone book by the toy telephone
    • Grocery store coupons
    • Store advertisements
    • Empty food containers
    • Cookbooks
    • Recipe cards
    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Labels on items such as stove, refrigerator, and sink
    Literacy items to include in Block Area
    • Books about buildings, construction and construction workers
    • Books about vehicles (trains, cars, planes, buses)
    • Posters with names of different types of workers
    • Materials for making signs, such as “Gas Station”:
      • Markers
      • Strips of cardboard or posterboard
      • Tape
      • Tongue depressors, straws, or popsicle sticks
      • Paper cups

    Using Prop Boxes to Enhance Literacy

    The following tips have been compiled by Project ELIPSS to get the most out of a print-enriched dramatic play area.

    1. Dramatic play settings based on familiar real-world settings usually generate the most interest and participation from children.
    2. Children are more likely to play independently in dramatic play settings if they have prior knowledge or experience they can relate to the setting.
      Adults should be available to join in play in settings that are not as familiar to children.
    3. Adult modeling of print-related behaviors (making lists, writing notes, pretending to fill out order forms) is important.
    4. Dramatic play settings should be changed regularly in order to maintain the interest and participation of the children.

    Sample Prop Boxes

    • Office Prop Box
    • Flower Shop Prop Box
    • Veterinarian Prop Box
    • Fast Food Restaurant Prop Box
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