The experts in early literacy development know the importance of immersion in the discourse and language of the community. Simply: experiences with language build understanding of language. Classrooms should be text rich environments. Whether it is a kindergarten class or year 10 class, their learning environment must be filled with subject based vocabulary and environmental print that supports it.
Word Walls for Vocabulary Development
I’ve written about Word Walls before. They are specific spaces in the classroom that display key words related to the current unit of study. They are spaces that develop over time and are constantly being used by students and teachers. If students are not using the word wall, it isn’t fulfilling it’s purpose. Every classroom should have a word wall and it should be a dynamic space which includes images as well as words. Here is the most recent word wall in my classroom. My students are completing their final assessment for the unit during our next lesson, so it is in it’s final stages. The students completed a matching activity in order to construct the word wall.
Our Latest Word Wall: students matched vocabulary words to definitions and drew images or provided examples (in the yellow circles) that helped them to remember what the word meant. They particularly enjoyed the cut/paste/create aspect of this activity.
Charts for Reading Strategies
Charts can be a great reference for students during independent literacy tasks. Charts can remind students of reading strategies, text type features, activity instructions and locations of resources. When explicitly teaching a reading strategy – especially in the upper grades – a chart can list the steps of a process and provide symbols or visual cues that assist students in eventually using the strategy themselves. For example: using post-its to mark text and signpost important information for summary, comprehension and perhaps analysis. Here is a chart that displays symbols for marking text using sticky notes – it also reminds students of the text features that can be important for readers to signpost.
The next chart shows a mnemonic for CLOSE. The teacher used it to teach the students the steps involved in Close Reading.
Checklists with visual cues make excellent charts for student reference during any of their classroom activities. Students referencing these charts involves them in purposeful reading too – it’s win/win.
I’m not the definitive source on classroom charts supporting literacy. There are hundreds of great teachers using charts in their classrooms and sharing them online!
Something to Think About
What vocabulary is essential to understanding key concepts in your subject?
What visual displays have you made available to your students that will help them to develop their understanding of key vocabulary?
What skills or processes do your students need to learn for success in your classroom?
How can you help students develop these skills and enhance their literacy skills at the same time?
What visual aids do you use in your classroom? Do they contribute to positive literacy outcomes as well?
I will be back with more about the use and importance of charts in the classroom – hopefully before the end of the month.