Emergent Literacy Skills in the Elm Room

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by Monica

Elm Room children are interested in and ready to explore aspects of literacy! Some of the ways young children prepare for reading and writing are by building their verbal language skills by talking with adults, listening to stories, and singing songs–the kids have been engaged in this work their whole lives ūüôā In the Elm Room we have also begun preparing ¬†for reading and writing in more specialized ways lately.¬†I wanted to share with you some of the¬†new¬†ways we have been working with written language¬†in the Elm Room over the last few weeks.

Text in the classroom: Ants and Beetles

Text in the classroom: Ants and Beetles sorting task

Sign in sheet

There is now a laminated sign in sheet for the children to use when they come into the Elm Room in the morning. Please encourage your child to sign in using the dry erase marker when you come in–this is an opportunity to connect with your child over what they are learning during drop-off!

Ways to help your child use the sign in sheet to develop literacy skills:

  • Ask your¬†child to find their own name: “Where is your name?”
  • Ask your¬†child to name the first letter in their name and eventually all of the letters in their name: point to the first letter and say “What letter is this?” If they don’t know, you can tell them “This letter is called X!”
  • Watch for developmental changes in the way they “sign” their name: Do they go from left to right? Do they work on one letter at a time? Do they trace the shapes of the letters? You can comment on what you observe: “I notice you are writing your name one letter at a time!”
  • Help your child use the sign in sheet as a functional document that shows who is at school: “I see Emil and Ianto have both already signed their names–that shows me that Emil and Ianto are at school today!”

Environmental text

I have added the children’s names to their cubbies and coat hooks. This is to give the kids more exposure to the overall appearance of and letters contained in their own names (a child’s own name is usually the first word they learn how to spell and knowledge of the first letter of the child’s name helps them learn additional written words).

Over time, I plan to include more words in the classroom environment. For environmental text I use the Zaner-Bloser font, which is the font used for handwriting instruction in most Portland schools.

Alphabet magnets

We now have colorful alphabet and letter magnets on our magnet board! Children can manipulate the magnets on their own and observe properties of the letters and numbers or practice identifying them. They can also work with adults to connect names and sounds to the letters or to build words. The children are very excited about these magnets!

White boards

We have purchased small student whiteboards with lined and unlined sides. The children practice sitting at the table and using dry erase markers to make marks on the whiteboards. This open ended prewriting helps children build musculature in the hands and coordination that they will need to write down the line. Some children in the Elm Room are beginning to make scribbles that look like written English and even report what the “words” say (they might point to the writing and say “It says ‘I love you, Mommy!'”).


Are you already working with your child on reading and writing skills at home? What does this practice look like at home?

One Comment on “Emergent Literacy Skills in the Elm Room”

  1. I am taking Emil’s lead when it comes to literacy and numeracy. He’s always liked books, but now is interested in letters and words and sometimes insists that I read every word on the page. He’ll point to words and I’ll read them for him. He’s noticing specific letters, E, O, I….

    His counting is pretty funny. He can count to 3 automatically, but after that it’s a little random. There seems to be 11 of a lot of things!

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