Literacy has its foundations in oral language. We believe that oral language develops through the social interactions and learning that abound during play. By creating diverse situations and opportunities for play, children explore, negotiate, problem solve, pretend, act, discover and share in a natural way that enhances both language and cognitive growth. These kinds of play within a learning environment where children are read to daily, are exposed to environmental print, and can choose to write for authentic purposes, enable children to develop the skills necessary for literacy growth and future academic success.
Oral language that develops through play also stimulates children’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Play allows students to develop the oral language needed to test concepts, explore social relationships and make sense of the world around them. Developing oral language through play is the pivotal time for students to develop resilience, independence, and a joy for learning.
In the Early Childhood class, reading develops by students being immersed in a language rich environment where children are read to daily. Talking about and engaging with books at an early stage, students begin to develop a strong identity as readers, which is critical to their future success as avid readers of text. Exposure to environmental print, and oral activities that promote phonological development and concepts of print, enable children to develop the skills necessary for literacy growth and future academic success.
Read Alouds and Shared Reading are used extensively in Early Childhood, and students are encouraged to think deeply about the books that are read aloud to them. In the Early Childhood class, students who are Kindergarten age, are introduced to formal reading instruction using levelled texts. Pre-Kindergarten aged students are immersed in a rich literature environment to promote a love of reading where their reading identity is nurtured, and for those students who show a readiness, formal reading instruction begins.
In Early Childhood as students engage in and enjoy story telling, they show a natural curiousity for becoming authors and making their own books. Most students have experience with books prior to coming to school and have developed a love for stories and reading. They identify with characters and are fascinated with illustrations. They relate to both imaginary stories and informational books. Bookmaking is engaging and developmentally appropriate for children of this age and they are able to enter into bookmaking at their own developmental stage.
All students should see themselves as authors. Bookmaking gives students a sense of purpose in their writing, and a context to communicate in meaningful ways. Young writers make books about topics they know a lot about. Encouraging students to choose their own topic empowers them and makes their books more meaningful. Bookmaking is an authentic avenue for children to begin developing their early literary skills and provides opportunities for the development of oral language, reading skills, composition and phonemic awareness. As students grow as writers they develop their ideas through drawings, scribbles and letter-like formations, gradually moving into conventional writing. Teacher’s honour and guide children’s approximation of writing, helping them to progress into the next stage of their writing development.
When independent work is underway, teachers are able to confer with students individually. This is a time for teachers to research and compliment a student's current level of performance, but more importantly an opportunity to teach specific strategies that will nudge them in their development as a reader or a writer.
Workshop lessons typically end with time to share the learning that has taken place. This sharing time provides an opportunity to learn from peers, reinforce concepts, celebrate new learning, and set up goals for future areas of work. This is an intentional teaching time and one that brings closure to the learning within the lesson.
Mini-lessons are used at the beginning of each lesson and are taught to the whole class focusing on a specific strategy or skill related to the current unit of study or concept. Students are given time to practice the strategy/skill, or talk with a partner before independently applying the strategy in their own reading and writing.
Within the workshop model, large amounts of time are devoted to independent practice. During this time, students practice the strategies/skills that have been taught through mini-lessons, conferring, or small group instruction.
Small Group Instruction
Within the workshop model, students are grouped in a variety of ways. A group might focus on specific strategies that have been identified as an area of growth, a group might read a book at a particular level together, or a group might come together as a result of a shared interest around a certain topic. Flexible groupings provide an effective way for differentiating instruction within the multi-age classroom.