Thursday, January 19, 2012

Digging into Literacy

One very important aspect of literacy development is recognizing that literacy is all around us. An excellent way to help your child or class learn this is to take them into their community to find literacy. We often hear about classes going on field trips, but I would like to introduce the idea of "field work" for elementary classes. Using this term helps children see that, even though leaving the school is a fun break from the regular routine, they will also be doing important learning.

One idea for literacy field work is to create a scavenger hunt so that children have specific items, letters, or words to search for. The children would become "literacy detectives" and would carry clipboards with checklists so that they can check off found items and make notes about their discoveries.

Another way to explore and observe literacy in the world is to do a community literacy dig. The class visits a location in their community, such as a store or city building, and children work in teams to record observations about the environment. Roles in each group might include:
~making a map of the environment ~describing the surroundings
~observing people and activities
~observing and recording talk
~recording vocabulary unique to the location
~collecting print samples ~taking photos and video

If a class is unable to go into the community, a teacher might do a community literacy dig on his or her own and bring back as much information and sample literacy as possible so that children can experience a part of the location in their classroom. I recently went to a local store where I found an incredible amount of literacy:
~labels ~price tags ~advertisements ~signs ~books
~cash registers ~employee aprons
~carts and bags

Bringing back samples, photos, and videos of these things helps children understand the print environment, even if they were not in the store.

Literacy field work gives children a chance to explore the scope of literacy in their world. It provides a chance for a new kind of meaning-making by showing them that literacy exists outside of the classroom and outside of books. So head out into the community with your kids or students and see what kind of literacy you can find!

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