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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Study Party Literacy Beginnings Chapter 1

Pre-K Pages

I hope you are following the Book Study Blog Party on Vanessa Levin's Pre-K Pages ! If not, hop over and hop right back. :) 
The book we are studying is Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C Fountas.
Do these names sound familiar? If you're a teacher, they should! According to OpenEducation.net: "When it comes to early literacy and the teaching of reading, Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell may well be the two most recognized experts in America." They forged the way for reading instruction as we know it today with their book released over a decade ago “Guided Reading, Good First Teaching for All Children”- the number one selling professional teacher resource in the US.

Now, Fountas and Pinnell have released a book that focuses solely on the Pre-K Literacy Experience titled Literacy Beginnings. Chapter 1: Living and Learning in the Pre-K Classroom starts out with a powerful statement truth: "Strong, literacy-rich prekindergartens are joyful, busy places...".
The first section of the chapter follows two children through a typical day in Pre-K. One a three- year- old boy and the other a four- year- old girl.

Here are some thoughts I had while reading this section (there are a lot):
  • I'm doing OK! (Phew!)
  • The Pre-K programs observed were 3 hour (1/2 day) programs. Eeek! How can you get it all done?
  • I read a comment from Karen at  PreKinders that many programs have a limit to the number of hours you can teach. Otherwise, the program is considered "Daycare". Doesn't that seem a little backwards?!?!
  • The class sizes were 12 and 14 students. Hmmmm... I wish!
  • The classrooms are gorgeous, well-ordered, and HUGE! This is not to say that everything was store-bought and matchy-matchy. They were filled with student-made materials!
  • Literacy is subtly built in throughout the entire day as shown here:
Routines: there are names on the cubbies and the students are responsible for placing their name on the attendance chart.

Arrival Activities: all activities have a literacy component- magnetic letters, book baskets, crayons and paper and are open-ended with quick clean-up.

Project Based Learning Centers: All options have a literacy component- scientific findings are recorded, math activities are tallied,etc.

Share Time: A) it exists! B) this is a time to connect and cement learning through encouraging the children's use of language and meaningful discussion.

Class-made Projects: are carried over and used in other areas of the classroom. (Ex.: a poster collage of foods was posted in the Dramatic Play area for reference).

Clean-Up time: Materials are labeled to match the spaces where they belong. Clean-up is easy and independent.

Snack: table spots can be marked by place mats with the students' name. This adds yet another subtle literacy element into the day as well as planning for any potential conflicts that may arise with certain student pairings since they are still learning appropriate behavior choices and self-control. 

Soft Transitions: early finishers take a bathroom break and look at books. They see themselves as readers and that reading looks different at different levels of literacy development. This is also an early version of D.E.A.R time.

Centers: Although the teacher chooses which activities and areas are available, he/she makes sure there is a variety to meet all learning styles. Students independently choose the activity or area out of what is "open". I personally like this style because A) I'm a control freak and B) I want to be sure that the learning opportunities I provide encourage immersion in the topic of study and C) the students still experience independent choice.

Clean-Up time: is a group effort. WE are responsible for OUR room.

Reading Time: principles of Building Blocks/Four Blocks with Interactive and Shared Reading. This keeps children interested and involved in learning and listening to stories. A little of this, a little of that works when you have so many unique "little" individuals. :)

Literacy Learning Block: there is a specific, concentrated time during the day to focus on literacy rather than being mixed with other/developmental or just for fun centers. This helps to scaffold learning into higher grades by providing a DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE early version introduction to work stations.

In addition, there are different options at each station/center that reminds me of the "I Can" signs from Debbie Diller's Work Stations books. This makes differentiated learning automatically built in!

End of the Day: Both classes have a time at the end of the day to come together as a class community and bond by singing. This also helps children transition from school to home by providing a tangible "goodbye" on a positive note.  Some great Hello and Goodbye songs can be found here: Mrs. Jones

Some Quotes that Struck a Chord

"Language and play are the child's major tools for learning everything about the world. Language and play are also the most important tools for early literacy learning."

"During these years, children do not distinguish between playing, reading, and writing. It all involves curiosity, learning, discovery, and excitement." (Amen!)

Okay, so that was only the first section of the first chapter. I got a little long-winded. :P I do hope that this will convince you that Literacy Beginnings is a book well worth reading!

Happy Book Studying!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I love your reflections on chapter 1! My first draft of chapter 1 was waaaay too long because I was just so thrilled! I also noticed the low class sizes - the ideal is not always the reality :(
    Can't wait to read your other reflections, thanks for linking up!
    Vanessa @pre-kpages.com