1 > Goals

  • To expand children's knowledge of their print-rich society.
  • To sense teachable moments and develop substantive ways of responding to them.

2 > In Advance

  • Get a flip chart and marker.
  • Distribute the handout (pages 17-19) one week before the workshop. After teachers read the handout, ask them to complete two observations.

Observation 1

Observe children at play over a week. Record the themes children choose and the props they use for pretend writing and reading.

Observation 2

Over a week, observe and identify teachable moments. Have teachers record each moment and how they responded in substantive ways to the moment.

3 > Begin the Workshop

Ask teachers to list the themes they observed children playing, describing what children were playing and how they used writing and reading. Go over the list again, noting themes that did not lead to literacy-rich play. Make the point that children must experience a literacyrich world in order to be able to expand and extend their knowledge of literacy through play.

Show teachers a "Talking Stick," a stick Native Americans used during tribal meetings to ensure that all would be able to speak freely. The stick has an eagle feather at one end and rabbit fur at the other, signifying that one should speak honestly and with courage, and at the same time, with gentleness. Pass the stick around as you brainstorm ways of increasing children's literacy experiences. Teachers might suggest trips through the neighborhood to observe a nearby business, store, fastfood restaurant, or other place where people will be writing and reading as a part of their work. Then brainstorm ways of enriching children's play environment with props and materials that will stimulate writing and reading.

4 > Continue the Workshop

Use the "Talking Stick" again. This time the stick is passed around so all teachers will have a turn describing a "teachable moment" and how they responded.

5 > Conclude the Workshop

To conclude, practice responding to teachable moments in substantive ways. Responses that are substantive describe both the process and product, are specific, occur in a timely fashion (at the moment), are not judgmental, and extend and expand on children's ideas.

Working in groups of four or five, ask teachers to come up with substantive responses for the following situations or situations you've observed during the week, and report their ideas back to the group.

A child:

  • presents you with a series of scribbles on a page and says, "Look what I made." (A possible response withholds judgment and might focus on describing the process. "Your whole body moved when you did that.")
  • gives you a letter and an envelope with pictures on both and says, "I wrote this letter to my Grandmother." (Substantive responses might focus on the product"You drew three red flowers and four blue flowers"-and extend the child's ideas. "Let's find an envelope and look up your Grandmother's address so we can mail it to her.)

Ask teachers to try using a variety of substantive responses over the next week. Meet again to discuss how children responded to these, what learning was taking place, and how teachers could increase the effectiveness of their substantive responses.