How Young Children Learn to Read in HighScope Programs (page 3)
This set of position papers explains how young children learn to read and write in High/Scope’s infant-toddler, preschool, and early elementary programs. Papers for each developmental level (a) describe how children at that level acquire these closely related and complementary literacy skills; (b) list the strategies High/Scope-trained teachers and caregivers use, in partnership with parents, to support reading and writing development in their programs and at home; (c) cite scientific research proving that the High/Scope approach works; and (d) answer questions frequently asked by educators, families, and policymakers. This summary presents the literacy development principles and strategies common to all three papers and describes the research findings that allow us to state unequivocally: Children learn to read and write in High/Scope programs.
Why High/Scope values children's development of reading and writing skills
High/Scope recognizes that learning to read and write are two of the most essential educational achievements. In High/Scope programs, reading and writing are viewed as interdependent abilities; children learn to read as they write and learn to write as they read. These twin components of literacy—reading and writing—are the gateway to learning and productivity in today’s information age. They open the door to academic advancement and job success and provide a pathway to lifelong learning, exploration, personal expression, and pleasure. While High/Scope is not unique in its attention to these literacy skills, it is unique in the comprehensiveness of its approach to literacy. Experiences that prepare children for reading and writing are included in every part of the High/Scope daily routine, and literacy-related materials are included in every area of the classroom, center, or home setting.
How young children learn to read and write: Underlying principles
Learning to read and write begins at birth and builds on children’s basic need to communicate. Reading and writing take place within a broader context of language development. In an active learning environment, children want to use language—indeed they eagerly choose to read, write, and converse with others—because they have meaningful things to communicate about and caring people to communicate with. Teachers and caregivers, in partnership with parents at home, promote this process by supporting and extending children’s emerging interests and by providing varied and stimulating materials and experiences.
Children learn to read and write at different rates and in different ways. High/Scope teachers and caregivers use a variety of educational strategies so children at all developmental levels and with a variety of learning styles can be successful in learning to read and write.
Children acquire literacy through key experiences in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Teachers and caregivers use these High/Scope key experiences, along with relevant state and local standards, as guidelines for structuring the learning environment, choosing educational materials, planning challenging activities, and supporting children’s literacy development with age-appropriate and individualized instructional methods. Since teachers and parents are equal partners in High/Scope’s educational approach, parents learn to recognize, support, and extend the key experiences in interactions with their children at home.
Reading and writing are best learned in contexts in which literacy skills are tied to meaning and comprehension. For infants and toddlers, this context might be reading and talking about stories while snuggling with a trusted caregiver or parent. For preschoolers, meaningful context may be representing a plan or personal experience through hand-drawn symbols and written words. For early elementary students, the context may be reading a book to gather background information and then writing a report related to a science or history project.
Children learn to read and write because they enjoy it and want to emulate adults. For young children, reading and writing should be generally pleasurable, not tedious. Over-attention to teaching correct form and the mechanics of spelling, grammar, and punctuation can discourage children’s early attempts to read and write. When young children are first encouraged to communicate by using their emerging literacy skills and are appropriately supported and guided by adults, they will learn to master conventional standards of literacy.
How High/Scope-trained teachers and caregivers support reading and writing in young children
At all levels, High/Scope teachers and caregivers receive systematic training to learn specific strategies for promoting literacy in partnership with parents. Teachers and caregivers share control of the learning process with children by embracing the following intentional methods of teaching as they promote literacy experiences in the classroom, center, and home.
Create a print-rich environment. Every High/Scope center or classroom has a book or reading area with a wide variety of age-appropriate books and other reading materials. Parents are encouraged to provide lots of reading materials at home as well. All the learning areas and materials in the room are labeled with symbols and words. Additional printed materials are found throughout the room and outdoor play areas (e.g., posters, maps, measuring cups, messages, tool catalogs, group stories, instructions, seed packets, story tapes, and so on).
Make reading a team effort and part of the daily routine. Teachers and caregivers read with children every day and encourage parents and other family members to do the same. Adults read to the youngest children individually and in small intimate groups. For older children, adults establish daily story times during which they read to children and listen as children read to them or to one another.
Explore oral language sounds. Children learn to make the sounds of words and letters by listening, talking, and having fun with oral language—singing, reciting rhymes, hearing, inventing and acting out stories. They build phonological awareness by identifying rhymes, alliterations, and syllables and by creating their own rhymes, alliterations, and word plays. As they write and hear individual letter sounds, they develop phonemic awareness and use phonics to connect letter sounds to print.
Provide an array of writing materials and reasons to write. Writing materials, chosen for different developmental levels, include crayons, markers, brushes, chalk, pencils, pens, all types of paper, and computers (at the preschool and early elementary levels). As children make choices and pursue their interests, they have many reasons to write—to explore writing tools, make a birthday card, or keep a journal. In the elementary grades, writing is often a required part of children’s projects in science, social studies, and other subject areas. Younger children acquire handwriting skills by starting with scribbles and letter-like forms and progressing to conventional forms. Teachers, caregivers, and parents recognize and accept all forms of children’s writing.
Introduce the idea of letters and words as written symbols early. Toddlers and preschoolers each have a personal written symbol they learn to associate with their name. Preschoolers begin exploring written symbols by writing the letters of their names and then move on to familiar words they see around the room. Early elementary students write by using a growing vocabulary of words they encounter in reading and project activities.
Plan for and support children’s learning by assessing their literacy development. Teachers observe children daily to plan experiences that will strengthen and extend their reading and writing skills. They take anecdotal notes, compile portfolios, and use the High/Scope Child Observation Record (COR) and other appropriate measures to document what children are able to do and provide experiences that encourage them to advance to the next level. They also convey this information to parents so they can better understand their child’s progress.
What research says about children’s reading and writing success in High/Scope programs
Four decades of research proves that children in High/Scope programs acquire and sustain better reading and writing skills than children without comparable active learning experiences. Data show that for infants and toddlers, supportive adult-child communication helped to develop children’s pre-reading skills and facilitated their language and cognitive development. For children who attended High/Scope preschool programs, early gains in reading and general achievement resulted in greater success in later years as manifested in higher adult literacy, economic attainment, and emotional adjustment. Children attending High/Scope early elementary programs scored higher on standardized achievement tests than peers in non-High/Scope classrooms. This series of scientifically rigorous studies demonstrates the effectiveness of the High/Scope approach in promoting reading and writing in young children from diverse backgrounds in multiple sites around the United States and in other countries.
Reprinted with the permission of the HighScope Educational Research Foundation. © 2007 All rights reserved.
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