A Day in an Inclusive Setting: Focus on Language and Literacy (page 3)
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.
At greeting time children gather as a large group to share announcements, preview the day, and sing songs, recite nursery rhymes, or join in chants. Songs, rhymes, and chants all provide opportunities for children to hear and reproduce the sounds of language. Rhymes help build phonological awareness by focusing on ending sounds or syllables of words, while alliterative songs and chants call attention to initial sounds and phonemes. Children add verses or change the words in familiar songs and poems to make up rhymes and alliterations of their own.
At the message board, children decode messages written in pictures, symbols, and words. To help them understand the sequence of events and special events that will happen to day, children help put up cards showing the parts of the routine.
Children build vocabulary and awareness of rhymes as they use a pocket chart with pictures. The leader of the day touches each picture on the chart as the class names it: dog, hat, log. An other child points to the pictures that rhyme. Josh says, "Dog/log-I hear the rhyme" as he touches the pictures with the pointer. For children who are not yet rhyming, talking about each picture helps build their vocabulary. Other oral language activities at greeting time include a share bag and songs or games, chosen from a song book or activity book.
During greeting time, some children with special needs need support to be successful. For instance, a visually impaired child sits on a carpet square to help define her sitting space. Sitting on a ball helps a child with attention difficulties focus and stay alert-attention is needed to balance while sitting on a ball! Some children hold "fidgets," a small item that they can manipulate. This helps improve their concentration and ability to listen.
Small-group activities offer an opportunity to celebrate the many types of children in our class room. Children benefit from watching, interacting, and communicating with each other while using the materials in their own way. While all small-group times provide language and literacy opportunities, some are planned to fo cus specifically on literacy concepts. Today, the children in one group take turns reaching into a discovery box to find an item and guess what they are holding be fore they look at it. They have lots of un usual looks on their faces as they try to guess what is in their hand, and they talk excitedly to one an other.
This activity can be modified to have children look at a picture with the corresponding word on it; then they try to find that item in the bag without looking. Often the children want to extend this activity by making pictures of some of the items and labeling them with letters or words, using phonetic or actual spelling. Some children may need special support during small-group time, and typical children may need to be challenged with additional activities. For ex ample, children in an other group are using rhyming puzzles with words and pictures. A developmentally younger child enjoys exploring the pieces; an other child names the pictures, building vocabulary; and a developmentally older child matches the puzzle pieces, says the rhyme, and thinks up other words that rhyme with the pictures on the puzzle pieces. Through observations the adult knows where each child is at and what the next step in language and literacy develop ment might be. She can then challenge children with additional materials by asking questions like "I wonder what would happen if . . . ?" and using other strategies to extend children's explorations and thinking.
At planning time, children meet in a small group and individually communicate what they want to do at work time. A wide variety of planning strategies are used. Children may plan verbally-using words to describe where they will work, what they will do, and who they will work with-or they may communicate their ideas by point ing or using other gestures, fetching materials, drawing, miming, and so on. Some children choose from a collection of objects from each area to indicate what they wish to work with; others simply move to the area they are interested in. Adults adjust their support strategies to encourage each child to be as specific as possible in describing his or her plans. Whenever possible, we try to in corporate literacy into planning activities. Today one group of children are recording their plans on tape. Children in an other group are moving magnetic animals and people around on pictures of the interest areas, explaining their plan as they do so.
Austin is creating in the art area: "Look, I made a frame for my picture." He displays his work on the bulletin board along with his name and letter link. He smiles as he goes back and "reads" what is on his art work.
In the book area a few children are "reading" interactive books, using props and other materials that support related play. Some children ask an adult to read to them; others "read" books to an adult or to one another. All of these materials and activities build important comprehension skills. Rhyming words and magnetic letters are available next to the book area. Children match the rhyming words and find the magnetic letters that make up each word.
Four children (two typical and two with special needs) are singing into "microphones" made out of toilet paper rolls, as if they are in a rock 'n' roll group. They sing at the top of their voices over and over again, giggling and dancing together. Tyler turns the Rolodex and sings "A, b, c, d. . . ." as he turns the handle and looks at the pictures, names, and letter links of his classmates. When he comes to his own picture he says, "That's me, look." He pauses and says, "There's Thomas, we both have /t/."
As these examples show, at work time children have many opportunities to play together, explore new ideas, develop skills, and build on their own interests. Some children will carry out their original plan; others may choose something else to do or adjust their plan. Adults help children extend their play, often to include literacy-related concepts.
The classroom areas are print filled and stocked with writing materials to encourage children to use listening, speaking, reading, and writ ing as a natural part of their play. This literacy-rich environment helps to develop print awareness and an understanding of what reading and writing are used for. For example,
- Children have small clipboards on which they can "write" things down.
- The house area has menus, order pads, phone books, empty food containers with labels, telephones and kitchen timers with numbers, and so on.
- The paint containers and markers in the art area have the color names written on them. Teachers write down children's descriptions of their artwork.
- In the block area, children work with in teractive nursery rhymes, arranging Velcro pictures and words to tell the rhyme.
As work time comes to a close, a child leader goes around the classroom holding the five-minute man to let everyone know that work time will end in five minutes (the five-minute-man has five fingers and the numeral 5 written on it). As music plays, children clean up by matching items to the words, pictures, and other representations that label the areas in the room where items go.
At recall time, children communicate about and reflect on what they did at work time. Adults support them in a variety of ways-by making comments, repeating and expanding on children's statements, asking open-ended questions, and so on.
Today we replay the children's plans they taped earlier. They listen to their plan, talk about what happened at work time, and relate their plans to what they actually did. The idea is not to hold them to their original plans but to encourage them to reflect and compare their plans and actions, using as much vocabulary and detail as possible. Because they are talking about personally meaningful experiences-things they have chosen to do-their language is of ten rich and varied.
Teachers consciously plan transitions to ensure that children are supported in moving smoothly from one activity to the next. Language and literacy experiences can help with these transitions. For example, we say nursery rhymes and sing songs as we move from one place to another. Children choose different ways to move as we chant and sing. As children wait in the hall - way to return to the class room from the restroom, they read word cards on the Word Wall. The cards have children's pictures and first names on them, with the first letter highlighted, and Velcro fasteners so they can manipulate the cards. Other pictures that interest the children are also included.
Meals and snacks are an opportunity for children to communicate with each other about a wide variety of topics. Some children with speech and language challenges use pictures to help them communicate their food choices.
A child who needs help getting ready to go outside is sitting in a chair labeled the "helping chair." An adult guides the child visually and verbally through the process of zipping, snapping, and so on, giving only as many cues as needed to help the child be successful. Children who are all set to go out sit on the "ready bench." Adults prompt them if they have left out a step in dress ing. Outdoor play leads to many natural opportunities for con versation about what children are doing with their bodies, the equip ment they are using, the things they see, hear, and smell out doors, and soon. As children leave the play area to go home, they talk excitedly about what they did today and what they are looking forward to tomorrow!
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Whether your program is a Head Start program, a public school program, an integrated or self-contained special needs setting, or a home-based program, this developentally appropriate approach is an effective way to support language and literacy for all children through out the daily routine. The strategies and activities you have read here are just a few that High/Scope providers use to promote active learning to meet children's varying needs.
Watch for the upcoming video on the daily routine in preschool special education and inclusive set tings. Check the High/Scope Web site for up dates: www.highscope.org/welcome.asp.
Reprinted from High/Scope ReSource, Spring 2005, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 21-22 & 27
©2005 High/Scope Educational Research Foundation
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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