By Carol Seefeldt Ph.D
1 > Goals
- To evaluate functional print in the classroom and the print environment in learning centers.
- To develop strategies to actively engage children in using environmental print for a variety of purposes.
2 > In Advance
* Have a flip chart and marker available. Spend time observing the use of environmental print in learning centers and functional print in each classroom. Make a list of the excellent uses of print you observe and bring it to the workshop. Be sure to have an example from each teacher. You might note:
- number and type of charts and signs in and around learning centers.
- materials in the different centers that encourage children to use print.
- how teachers use labels functionally in learning centers.
- lists of children's names.
* Have teachers conduct an observation as well. Ask them to keep a record of:
- conversations with individual children that revolved around the use of print.
- what they said or did to foster a child's understanding of writing.
- which signs, charts or other print materials children gravitated to.
- when they listened to children talk about their involvement with print.
3 > Begin the Workshop
Start by complimenting teachers on their excellent use of functional print in learning centers around the room. As you recognize each teacher, list examples of how each used print.
Arrange for teachers to work in groups of three or four and assign each group to a learning center. Have each group brainstorm ways of increasing print in their assigned center. They might suggest adding a set of name cards to the manipulative area or putting two copies of the same catalog in the library area so children can play "guess what I'm looking at games." After the groups have finished, ask them to report their findings to the total group.
4 > Continue the Workshop
Now ask teachers to describe the strategies they used to foster children's awareness and use of print. They might list questions they ask children such as "How can you use this?" or "Where will you write your list?" They might describe how they kept the play moving along by adding writing props, saying, "Here's some paper and scissors so you can make money to spend at the store" or "Let's put that in the address book" or "Maybe your baby will sleep if you read this book to her."
5 > Summarize and Make Plans
Conclude the workshop by brainstorming ways of using print to label something to think about, do, or observe. Emphasize that not every space in the room or center needs to be covered with print. When children can focus on print that really communicates, they will be better able to take meaning from the print. Remind teachers that labels, signs, and other print needs to be changed as children mature and their interests change.
Ask teachers to add at least one new print item to three learning centers before the next workshop. Have them observe how children use these new items and report back at the next workshop.
About the Author
Carol Seefeldt, Ph.D., professor emeritus of the University of Maryland, College Park, and visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University, has worked in early childhood education for more than 30 years.