A Day in an Inclusive Setting: Focus on Language and Literacy (page 2)
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.
As children sign in and check in, many use a name chart to "read" their classmates' names or have conversations about who is at school that day or at home. Some children read a classmate's name and then his or her letter link: "Jacob, jet. . . ." They may continue that sound with other words: "Jonathan has a J, too!" Children love to talk about themselves, their letter links, and other sounds that start with the first letter in their name.
The children join one of several small groups for different activities. One group of children draw and write in their journals. For some children, the adult writes down what they say in quotes and asks the children to read back what was writ ten.
Another group is guided by an adult in practicing name-writing skills. As children write their name, the adult fo cuses on directionality, saying words like short line, long line, small curve, and big curve while referring to the specific letters in children's names. These comments promote rich conversations about children's names. "I can write my first and last name now," Lyric says. "My L and lion [let ter link] is like Lilly's leaf." I am with a small group of very active children quietly look ing at books and listening to classical music through earphones. These calm activities help some children better organize themselves and become ready to focus and learn.
After an active time in the gym and eat ing break fast, the children gather in groups of three to five to read with an adult. Children in one group are predicting what they think might happen next as they listen to the story. Children in an other group, exploring a book they are familiar with, enjoy changing the ending of the story. After a group of four children and I take turns picture-reading, they smile broadly and say, "Hey, Brink, I'm reading!" And indeed they are.
Interactive reading provides a calm, cozy environment for a handful of children to enjoy a book as well as share their own experiences related to the story. It is also a time to develop chil dren's listening skills, phonemic awareness, and ability to have fun with language. Several types of reading may take place, depending on children's needs and in terests and the type of book: it may be a traditional read (reading from the title page to the end), a picture-read where the children talk about what is happening in the book by looking at the pictures, or a retelling-hav ing children tell a story they have heard several times.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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