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Capitalizing on Curiosity: The Early Childhood Approach to Literacy

Ximena Pereira

Pre-Kinder Teacher

Uruguayan American School

The early childhood years are times of rapid learning. Through curiosity and play, children explore and understand the world around them. By allowing students to understand their surroundings, literacy lays the foundation to becoming a successful learner in the future. From identifying the McDonald´s logo to reading basic signs while riding on a car, children feel empowered by their ability to understand a symbolic system that represents meaning.

Literacy learning starts early in life. Wanting to make meaning out of a sign is a natural process as print is all around us. Children are motivated to decode and understand it. At the Pre-Kinder level, literacy is all about learning the letter names, letter sounds and the conventions of print. The letters of the alphabet are not introduced in the ABC order but in order of complexity when writing them.

L is the first letter introduced because it is the easiest to reproduce (one line down and one across). Letter Z is the last one since it involves making strokes in two different directions. While learning how to form a letter, students also learn its sound and focus on vocabulary words that begin with that sound.

In order to consolidate students’ learning of letter names and sounds, instructional activities require students to use multiple senses such as sight, sound, and touch. Classes incorporate singing, dancing, speaking and playing in order to address different learning styles and to provide repeated practice. For example, when the letter T is introduced in Pre-Kinder, students practice forming the letter by manipulating wooden shapes and playdough. To learn to pronounce the letter students sing and role-play the song “Tiny Tim the Turtle.” In Art students work on a project decorating a paper plate with the image of a turtle.

Children realize the importance of learning the letters and are self-motivated to become more independent and to emulate older children and adults. One student stated that he wants to learn the letters so when he goes to his dad´s office he can write just like him. Another student mentioned the importance of knowing the letters to be able to write to Santa Claus.

Pre-Kinder instruction harnesses students’ desire to imitate their elders and their natural curiosity to give them the tools to interpret their surroundings and to begin reading. And, as Dr. Seuss once said, “The more that you read, the more things you know. The more you learn, the more places you´ll go.”

“Children feel empowered by their ability to understand a symbolic system that represents meaning.”

Bio: Ximena is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the Uruguayan American School

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