A Day in an Inclusive Setting: Focus on Language and Literacy
The room bustles with activity as children arrive at our preschool program from all over the county. Children put their coats in their lockers and hang their back packs on hooks, both labeled with letter links, a combination of a child's printed name and a picture of an object that starts with the same letter and sound as the child's name. Children also check in by posting a magnetic tag with their letter link on it. A sign-up sheet provides space for children to write their name in what ever way they can. It is evident that language and literacy experiences are present right from the start of the day.
An Inclusive Setting
The setting of all this activity is Tipton School, a joint program operated by the Lenawee Intermediate School District and Adrian Head Start (run by Adrian Public Schools) in Adrian, Michigan. These school districts collaborate to provide an integrated preschool setting for typically developing children and children with special needs. Each program has a separate class room, and space is shared for part of the day.
Both agencies use the High/Scope Curriculum, a developmentally oriented educational approach used in a variety of settings. While High/Scope encompasses the development of the whole child, this article focuses on activities and strategies that help develop language and literacy.
High/Scope's approach to language and literacy is based on the following six key experiences:
- Talking with others about personally meaningful experiences
- Describing objects, events, and relations
- Having fun with language: listening to stories and poems, making up stories and rhymes
- Writing in var ious ways: drawing, scribbling, letterlike forms, in vented spelling, conventional forms
- Reading in various ways: reading storybooks, signs and symbols, one's own writing
- Dictating stories
Through these six key experiences in language and literacy, children develop skills in the four key areas of early literacy identified by the National Reading Panel and the No Child Left Behind Act:
- Comprehension and oral lan uage-speaking and listening, understanding what is spoken or read
- Phonological awareness-learning to recognize the smallest sounds that make up words (phonemic awareness refers to the smallest units of sound; phonological awareness is a broader reference to the sounds of speech and language)
- Alphabetic principle-recognizing letters and understanding how letters work
- Print aware ness-learning the way books and writing function in our world
In this article you will see how the six key ex periences in lan guage and lit er acy and the four lit er acy principles are woven through adult-child and child-child interactions dur ing each part of one day's routine to provide a language-rich environment for a wide variety of children.
Many of the language and literacy strategies and activities out lined here are ef fective for all children, but scaffold ing-support ing children where they are to help them move to the next level-is necessary to adapt each strategy for children working at different levels and for children with disabilities. For instance, some children need a photo of them selves in addition to their letter link. (Photos are more concrete than letters or drawings.) Some children with special needs may not need a picture on the front of their check-in tag, but they may want or need a picture on the back for a short period of time. It is important to remember, especially in special education, to remove such supports when they are no longer needed so children do not become depend ent on them.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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