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What Does Literacy Look Like in Preschool?

February 8, 2023 | Kristen Jordan

Literacy comes in many forms in the preschool classroom. 

Teachers read to children, while having discussions together about types of books and the topics or stories within those books.  Children have a natural interest in pictures and stories.  Hearing books read aloud helps children to engage in active listening, and contributes to building vocabulary, and an understanding of how stories go.   

Each day, children spend time looking at books on their own or with friends.  As they look at books on their own, children notice letters or words, details in the pictures, think about what is happening in the story, and make connections to their lives or to other information they know; each of these cognitive processes are things that proficient readers do when they read to themselves.  

But books are not the only kind of literacy experiences in the preschool! When children play with one of the story baskets we have, or work with the worship basket, they are building storytelling skills as they create their own narratives or retell stories they have heard. 

During our day, children engage in Rhymes and Chants.  When they hear, say and act out rhymes, children are playing with words and sounds, vocabulary, and the rhythm and cadence of language, all of which contribute to literacy development. 

There are also many opportunities for children to be exposed to letters through puzzles, games and conversation.  “If your name starts with the letter E, stand up!”  “I have an E in my name!  It’s in the middle!”

For the past few weeks, children have been working in a concentrated way on making the first or more letters in their name, using a multi-sensory approach.  Each letter can be formed using big and little lines and curves, that we have been working to make Mat Man and other designs. 

First, they practice making the letters using wooden forms, and tracing them with their fingers on cards with textured letters.

Any time they are making their letters, children say hello to “Smiley”, who resides in the upper left hand corner and helps anchor children to the top left side of the chalkboard. It helps them to make their letters from the top down and also guides children with directionality– forming letters from left to right. Ask your child about Smiley.  He is a favorite! 

After saying hello to Smiley, children make letters with an approach called “Wet, Dry, Try”: writing on small chalkboard with a tiny sponge, a tiny paper towel and a tiny piece of chalk (so 3 times), while saying the lines used to form the letter.  “Big line down. Frog jump (back to the top). Little line, little line, little line. E!”  

We also enjoy singing a song that helps with efficient letter making: “Where do you start your letters? At the top!”

Some of the older children have also been working on making books using illustrations.  They have been thinking about the setting and characters in their books.  Many have also incorporated a problem and solution, which is common in most stories.  Those who are ready or are asking to add letters and sounds have been enjoying that process!

And just this week, mailboxes were opened up and children have begun making messages for their friends. They have been writing the letters they know and adding pictures. They are enjoying thinking about friends’ interests as they decide what kind of a message to make and deliver.

Throughout our day, children are exposed to many activities that help to develop their literacy muscles!

Kristen Jordan

Teacher, Rivers Class

Kristen Jordan began helping at Mustard Seed School in 2006, after her daughter had been a student in the preschool. She substituted for many years in all grades; in 2011, she returned to the classroom and has been a teacher in The Nest ever since.

Prior to the birth of her daughter Clara, in 2002, Ms. Jordan worked in Brooklyn as a first grade teacher with the New York City Public Schools. During this time, her school collaborated with the Brooklyn Museum, and this work helped Ms. Jordan develop a real interest in the parallels between the process of making art and the process of writing in the classroom. She thoroughly enjoys teaching both art and literacy to preschoolers.

Ms Jordan’s background includes work with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While at Teachers College, she trained with esteemed educator and author Lucy Calkins. Early in her teaching career, Ms. Jordan did not think that she wanted to teach very young children but her view has changed! She now really enjoys and takes great interest in young children and their development.

Ms. Jordan enjoys reading, working out, hiking, cooking, and spending time with her daughter and family. Although she has lived on the East Coast for a very long time, as a native of Oregon, she really loves the mountains!

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