This semester students in READ 6306 were required to contribute a post that in some way related to the content of the course.

By Chris

Research has shown how important is it to incorporate real-life experiences with classroom activities for effective instruction.  There are various ways to help the literacy process along which involves using what children already know or are familiar with.  One way to accomplish this is by using environmental print.  Environmental print is the print and images that surround us and is found in our daily lives. 

At home print can be found on toy or game labels, on a favorite book, or cereal box.  Around the community it can be found in places where people shop such as fast food packaging material or a shopping bag.  At school, functional print, a type of environmental print, may be the sign for the office, the exits, or signs for the bathrooms.  It can also be found on traffic and community signs, food packages, logos, labels, billboards, clothing labels, and newspaper advertisements.  The list is almost endless.  It’s everywhere! 

Why Should I Use It?

Because environmental print includes symbols that create meaning, children have the ability to read print from the environment even before reading print in books.  Teachers should recognize that there are many types of literacy found in the home that students are exposed to such as receipts, comic books, bills, and pamphlets or brochures that are not normally seen at school.  Students might not be as familiar with school environmental print, perhaps the type needed to experience success, as with home environmental print and so students are missing out on making connections between home and their school experiences.  In response to a survey about a study involving teaching beginning reading skills with environmental print one teacher commented: “The students’ interest is there because the activities involve things that the students know and they are noticing the letters and sound are everywhere—not just at school.”  

Who Can Use it?

 Some people might think it is just for parents to use at home, or for pre-K and Kindergarten teachers but it can also be used with other grade levels.  Get creative with webs, diagrams, and graphs.

What Can I do with It?

There are many activities that can be used in the classroom which incorporate environmental print.  Students can bring in literacy artifacts (such as cereal boxes, movie guides, or personal cards) from home and present them to the class by demonstrating how they are read.  These are then displayed around the classroom.  Students can create a simple “All About Me” book with item brought in from home.  They can also use the print to make comparisons or find differences in print. 

Other activities:

  • Make an alphabet using letters found in the local community
  • Use the alphabet from the previous activity to create a book
  • Create a bulletin board of lists like: places we like to eat, things we like to eat, signs we can read
  • Use labels and logos to create graphs
  • Create Christmas or birthday wish list from newspaper/catalog cutouts
  • Create a graph using weather symbols

 To keep items organized, sort out environmental print in four ways: (a) by subject matter or themes (businesses, community), (b) by types (boxes or labels), (c) by literacy skill (color word examples), or (d) by a specific activity (travel, recipe books).  Keep in mind when using environmental print that some parents might be opposed to using or focusing on brand types such as Pokémon or other labels such as those from fast food restaurants.  

A good resource, Reading Is All Around Us: Using Environmental Print to Teach Beginning Literacy Skills, lists other activities.

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