Welcome to the Literacy Beginnings book study blog party! Today I am covering the introduction “Living and Learning in the Pre-Kindergarten Classroom” as well as the first chapter, “Growing Up Literate: PreKindergarten for the Future Generation“. I hope you will join in the conversation by leaving a comment below or posting reflections on your own blog. Bloggers, you can grab the button at the bottom of this post. I plan on offering several resources you can print and use in your classroom throughout the book study so make sure you are following Pre-K Pages and all the other participating blogs so you don’t miss anything.
Literacy Beginnings is written by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Irene Fountas is a professor at Lesley University and Gay Su Pinnell is a professor at The Ohio State Univeristy. Fountas and Pinnell have researched and published many books about literacy learning. In Literacy Beginnings they have applied their vast knowledge and expertise to the prekindergarten classroom; their recommendations are based on observations conducted in those classrooms.
After reading the entire book on an airplane (oh yes I did!) the message of this book came through loud and clear:
- Children learn through play
- A pre-k classroom should be full of joy and fun
- A strong foundation for literacy learning must be established from the very beginning
I feel badly for the passengers sitting near me on the plane because I know I shouted “Hallelujah” a few times and there might have even been a few “Amen’s” in there too. Much of this book affirms what I have been doing in the classroom for almost 20 years. What “a-ha” moments did you have while reading this chapter?
In the introduction, Living and Learning in the Pre-Kindergarten Classroom, the authors describe a typical day in two different classrooms, one is a class of three year-olds and the other is a four year-old class. What I liked most about the daily routines they describe is that literacy is infused throughout the day, not isolated in one big chunk. The day alternates between brief whole group times and opportunities for play and hands-on learning. I know that when my day is not well balanced my students are not as focused and not as much learning takes place. We will explore full and half-day schedules in more detail in Chapter 5.
Chapter 1, Growing Up Literate, begins with a fantastic quote by John Dewey,
“If we teach today, as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow.”
I can recall my preschool experience very clearly, I remember singing “Where is Thumbkin?” blowing bubbles with a straw in the sand and water table, and eating sugar cookies with milk for snack every single day. Today’s prekindergarten classrooms may look a little different, but different doesn’t mean “wrong” or “inappropriate”. A quote from the book sums it up nicely:
“The playtime and social training of traditional prekindergartens has not been replaced but rather infused with literacy”
We are preparing children for a different tomorrow therefore the instruction they receive today will also look a little different. Another point the authors make is that teachers in today’s pre-k classrooms are intentional in planning their literacy instruction, I like to think of it as guiding the students. A good teacher focuses on the natural curiosity of his or her students and uses that curiosity to guide them towards literacy learning. We can motivate our students to want to read and write by providing plenty of fun, playful, and hands-on experiences.
The picture above shows my classroom library which we will discuss in more detail in Chapter 4.
The authors reference the International Reading Association (IRA) and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) joint position statement which recommends including the following in the pre-k classroom:
- Classroom Library
- Environmental Print
- Big Books
- Alphabetic Principle
- Phonemic Awareness
- Drawing & Writing
The picture above shows my Alphabet Center. We will be discussing letter learning in more detail in Chapter 5. The item on the list above that poses the most difficulty for teachers is finding appropriate big books for shared reading. The authors address selecting texts for shared reading in Chapter 12 and offer suggestions.
Finally, my favorite part of Chapter 1 comes near the end when the authors denounce the use of worksheets and advocate for play and play activities that support language and literacy. I can’t tell you how great it is to see these words in print from the gurus of early literacy. As a public pre-k teacher I have become accustomed to not having my voice heard or being dismissed because there is nobody to back up my beliefs- at least nobody the people in charge have ever heard of. Now that Fountas and Pinnell have added prekindergarten to their repertoire I know administrators will listen because they are already familiar with and respect their work. I am certain this book will become the foundation of early literacy learning for many years to come. Do you think this book will change the way you are perceived as an early childhood educator?
Deb from Teach Preschool will be discussing Chapter 2 soon so stay tuned!
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