Reading books with children is certainly one perfect way to enhance early literacy skills, and I love, love, love children's books! But there are a zillion other ways to provide early literacy opportunities in the classroom (or at home). Today I'm sharing just a couple of ideas for your Dramatic Play area.
A well-equipped Dramatic Play area has child sized furniture and accessories for pretend play endeavors and escapades. Think dress up clothes, baby dolls, play food and dishes. There might be doctor's kits and stuffed animals to take care of; toy or real cameras and phones; accessories like watches, bracelets and sunglasses; purses and bags for imaginary trips to the moon or the beach. Among other benefits, these props encourage creativity and socialization--which in and of themselves also enhance early literacy by building vocabulary and conversation skills.
To add an even more direct early literacy element, you only need a few extra props! My favorites are a can or cup of thick, stubby pencils, a container of notepads and loose paper, and old computer keyboards. Place them on shelves (labeled with pictures so they can be put back at clean up time--another early literacy tool!) and let the children play.
What I love about simply providing these tools, rather than doing some sort of teacher-led, potentially developmentally-inappropriate activity, is that the children can use them in open-ended, self-directed ways. This naturally leads them to learn more, because they are engaged in something they have chosen to do themselves. Aside from the obvious letter recognition that may occur with the keyboards (especially as you interact with the children during play), simply providing them with these tools is exposing them to the idea that written communication is important and a needed part of life. This is enforced even more as you ask them to take your order at a restaurant, or write out a prescription for you at a doctor's office, or write down directions on where to meet them at the beach trip... And of course as they play with these tools on a regular basis, they learn how to manipulate them, their fingers gain strength, and they learn to love writing even before they are capable of doing it!
What are your favorite ways to sneak early literacy into your classroom? Do you have pencils and paper in various areas of the room? I'd love to hear your ideas--drop them in the comments below!
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