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Observing Early Literacy


Observing for Early Literacy Learning in a Preschool Setting

You have been learning about specific materials, strategies, interactions, and activities that help young children expand their vocabularies and develop concepts of print, phonemic awareness, and alphabet knowledge. For the Application this week, you will apply what you have learned as you observe in a preschool setting. Your goal is to expand your awareness and understanding of how teacher interactions, the physical environment, and learning experiences can support early literacy development.

To complete this Application, do the following:

Step 1: Plan and Prepare for the Observation

Confirm the observation date and time.
Click the link below to download and print out the Early Literacy Observation Worksheet that will help you complete this assignment:

Early Literacy Observation Worksheet

Read through the worksheet.
Review the Learning Resources for this week.
Step 2: Observe

Use the questions and checklist on the Early Literacy Observation Worksheet for guidance. Keep these points in mind as you observe:

Remember that you are observing at a particular moment in time without the benefit of knowing what has come before, i.e., children’s challenges, strengths and/or circumstances; interactions with teachers and other children; previous learning experiences, etc.. Your goal is to be objective and take in information based on what you observe during this time period.
Ask the teacher to help you find a place to observe where you can see and hear clearly but will not distract the children.
Change the names of any children and/or adults you identify in your summaries to protect their privacy.
Do not share any comments about the children or adults you observe. Remember that you are the learner in this situation.
Be sure to thank everyone involved for the opportunity to observe.
Step 3: Reflect

Considering what you have learned in your coursework, summarize the following in a reflection:

Strengths of this classroom environment, adult-child interactions, and children’s interactions for supporting early literacy development;
If appropriate, specific concerns about the use of developmentally appropriate early literacy learning/instruction/interactions;
Any questions would you like to ask the adults you observed; and
Suggestions you would make for encouraging early literacy learning based on what you have learned, citing your sources to substantiate your thinking.
Submit your written reflection and your completed Checklist for Print Exposure and Using Materials from the Early Literacy Observation Worksheet. You do not need to submit the Questions page of the Worksheet.

Assignment length: 2 pages
This Application assignment entails observing in a preschool setting for evidence of a “print-rich” classroom environment and activities and interactions that help children develop emergent reading and writing skills.

Observation Guidelines:

• Use the Guiding Questions to help you observe for interactions between the teacher and children and among children that foster early literacy learning.
• Record notes as you observe and immediately following the observation.
• Remember you are observing only a “slice in time.” You are the learner and observer in this situation.
• You are required to submit the completed Checklist for Print Exposure and Using Materials as part of your Application assignment. You do not need to submit your Guiding Questions notes.

Note: The Guiding Questions and Checklist are based on checklists from Learning About Print in Preschool (Strickland & Schickedanz, pp. 18–20).

Guiding Questions

Use the following questions to guide your observation. Keep in mind that you may not observe each situation during the limited time that you are in the preschool setting. Specify what you observe by noting examples as well as adults’ and children’s words and actions.

Adult-Child Interactions

• How do adults respond to children’s questions about print?
• How do adults respond when children attempt to read and write?
• How do adults model the functions of print for children?
• How do adults support oral language development?
• Are adults working with children to expand vocabulary or using specific strategies for language development you have learned about?
• What adult interactions seem designed to build on children’s own linguistic and cultural backgrounds to help them move from the known to the unknown?
• What adult interactions seem designed to foster children’s literacy learning through play?
• Are adults taking advantage of “teachable moments” to relate children’s new discoveries to what they know?
• Are adults instructing children in concepts of print, phonemic awareness, and/or alphabet knowledge?
• Are adults using strategies, such as shared writing and shared reading, that you have learned about this week?
Children’s Interactions/Behaviors

• Are there examples of children using print or modeling the functions of print during play?

• Are there examples of rich oral language use in conversations between and among children?
Preschool Environment

• Is there anything else that stands out about this preschool setting with regard to what you have been learning in your coursework about fostering early literacy development? If so, please explain.
Checklist for Print Exposure and Using Materials

Mark off each feature that you observe in the preschool setting. Make any notes that you want to remember next to each point on the list. Fill in specific examples where indicated.
__​Print is used in meaningful ways throughout the setting. Examples:
__ ​Environmental print is clear, easy to read, and displayed at children’s eye level.
__ ​Environmental print includes words that are familiar to children from daily activities and routines. Examples:
__ ​Some print is written in the home languages of children, families, and staff.
__ ​Children’s names are visible, i.e., printed on their cubbies, placemats, and other items.
__ ​Name cards and other carefully printed words are available for children to copy or “read.”
__ ​Children write their own names or letters from their names on their paintings and drawings.
__ ​Children’s writing/dictation/invented spelling is displayed around the room. Examples:
__ ​There is a writing center equipped with a variety of age-appropriate supplies.
__ ​There is an easily accessible library center or book corner with quality children’s fiction and nonfiction books and comfortable places to sit.
__ ​The library center includes books that children have authored.
__ ​There is a computer area equipped with developmentally appropriate interactive software for manipulating letters, drawing, following directions, and using electronic books.
__ ​There is a printer for the children’s use.
__ ​Bulletin boards or pocket charts display daily activities, weekly jobs, or center choices.
__ ​Mailboxes are available for each child and family.

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