I’ve had numerous parents and fellow teachers question how I teach the children letter recognition and letter sounds. Although I have seen for myself the power of loose parts and tactile learning within the classroom and completely trust the process of learning that is happening, I also understand the scepticism. (I once had these beliefs as well.) So, does it really work? Can children really learn the alphabet and be successful in their cognitive development if I don’t do drill and practice or those cute little printing books?
Umm, yup you can.
So there has been a lot of research done that supports the fact that learning is best done through hands-on-experiences, at home and at school. One of my favourite quotes that encapsulates this is from our friend, Benjamin Franklin. He states, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I will learn.” So, let’s think about that statement from Mr.Franklin and then look at how to use invitations and play based learning to engage children in authentic literacy experiences.
I have said time and time again to parents, educators, student teachers (those learning through the University of Saskatchewan), and here to my readers, that it’s all about the process, not the product. The way that we invite children to learn is much more important then the end result. Yes, we want them to learn the alphabet. Yes we want them to be able to print well enough that you or I could read it without having to ask a million times what is written. And yes, we want children to be able to write with proper form and all those little tricks to English words. However, I promise that you can teach all of these things through an invitation.
You want to engage children in literacy. Personally, I don’t think little printing books are that engaging. I always found when I used them before that I was constantly telling kids to finish their page, go back and sit down, use a pencil, and on and on. So instead, in the mornings when the children come to school, I have 4-5 different invitations that focus on literacy.
At the beginning of the year, these invitations may be more focused on alphabet awareness. As the year progresses, this can move onto names of students, sight words, colour words, words that pertain to a project that the children are working on related to science, health, or social studies, or even words related to holidays. As the children gain this knowledge, we move to building sentences, playful storytelling, writing documentation, etc.
1. Books that relate to the learning that is happening.
Once you have these things, you can pretty much use them interchangeably with a variety of invitations. One of the best ways I found to keep items accessible is through creating two large “tinker trays.” You can literally find a gazillion examples on Pinterest (the holy grail for all things related to teaching) if you’re looking for a visual.
Okay, so here’s what I’m really saying…if you love worksheets, or you have a group of children that love to cut and glue and colour little pre-drawn picture of all things that start with the letter B, that’s OK! This does not make you a bad person! Me, personally, I just don’t. I’m truly and honestly not that organized to deal with making little books, clipping the corners, or not losing them by the next day. And honestly, I find that there the options are endless with invitations. The children are much more engaged. I promise!
And guess what? When I test their alphabet recognition and alphabet sounds (yes I know, this is not very Reggio of me, but I have to… it’s expected by our school board, hence the inspired part) they not only know the majority of letters and their corresponding sound, but they are able to apply that knowledge to independent writing. And as teachers, we know, once they can do that, they are golden! It’s stuck!
Cue fist pump.