by Carol Seefeldt, Ph.D. 

1 > Goals

  • To increase the use of meaningful print throughout the room.
  • To develop strategies for fostering children's awareness of letters and words.
  • To create new games or activities designed to foster children's awareness of letters and words and their uses.

2 > In Advance

You'll need a flip chart and marker and for the teachers, manuscript paper and markers.

After teachers read the handout on (p. 10), ask them to:

* Observe the use of letters and words in their room and record the following:

  • How many labels, signs and charts are in the room and where?
  • How many times do children look at, talk about, or ask about available print?
  • How long have the signs, labels, and charts been in the room? Which print materials, such as the EXIT sign and work chart, are constants in the room and which signs need to be changed?

* Observe and record their own interactions with children around letters and words.

3 > Begin the Workshop

Begin the workshop with a show and tell game. Ask teachers to talk about how much and what kind of print is constant in their rooms. What signs and labels change as children's interests and skills increase?

Ask teachers to discuss letters and words that children were attracted to. What about the letters or words drew children's attention? Focus on the need to relate letter learning to something that has deep personal meaning to children, such as their names. Discuss other ways of making letters and words more meaningful as described in the cover story on pages 34-41.

Because children use teachers' print as a model, point out the importance of teachers' use of clear manuscript writing. Then talk about the strategies teachers used to increase children's awareness of letters and words. You might add:

  • saying the letter names as you write or take dictation from the children.
  • stop occasionally when reading Big Books and use your hands to frame a word, saying "This word is caterpillar. When you see it, read it with me."
  • use teachable moments to point out sounds of letters. For example, when you are zipping a coat, say, "Zip, zip all the way up-zip begins with the letter z."

4 > Continue the Workshop

Group teachers according to the age level they teach. Have each group select a recorder. Ask each group to develop one game or activity designed to increase children's awareness of letters and words. An example might be making two sets of word cards using children's first names. Children can then use these any way they wish, or teachers could show them how to play a matching or a sorting game with the cards.

One teacher talked about taking a "letter walk" in the school. Children identified lettered signs they found throughout the school. The teacher read the sign, identified the letters, and told them what the sign meant.

5 > Conclude the Workshop

Close the workshop with a little dreaming. What letters and words would teachers like to see displayed throughout the school and how? For example, teachers may dream of a bulletin board that illustrates what children are learning as they play-one that is designed to engage children and families alike in literacy experiences.