Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Perhaps I was spurred on by my husband’s question, “So how many times do your children read on the first day? Have you ever done a tally?”

Maybe I was nudged by Frank Smith’s powerful words, “A child can only learn to read by reading,” (1975).

Or was it spending time with our first grandchild, developing in so many ways, so rapidly, that all I want to do is stop and gaze in wonder. She gives me a second chance to see the early years again – and to grasp how precious and fleeting those first years really are…  She inspires me to take another look at what parents and teachers do with children to build their oral language and later, their written language in reading and writing. 

So how many times do the children read on the first day? I count each opportunity to read in the previous two blogs and find 28 (15 in the morning, 13 in the afternoon). The number sounds like a lot but doesn’t give any other details. Ah! Why not describe the reading opportunities through the eyes of a child? To find out not just how many times s/he reads, but who was reading (individuals or group), what was being read and when it was read. After all, I’ve lived that first day with children for many years as a teacher.

There’s no time to waste. Let’s walk through the first day in a child’s shoes and read through a child’s eyes…

How many ways did I read today?

1.When I found the class list on the message board and read my name, I knew I was in the right room

2.I read my first name tag and stuck it on my shirt

3.I read my second name tag and stuck it on the backpack shelf

4.I read labels of things I played with in ‘activities’, Stickle bricks, Our Block Area…

First day, boy playing with stickle bricks

5.I read ‘Mrs Swan’ after watching her write her name on the whiteboard

6.I read my name on the name cards and stood up so kids would know me

7.I read the names on the big class list on the whiteboard, with the other kids

8.I read rhymes with the other kids after Mrs Swan read four action and nursery rhymes to us

9.I read my name on my name card again, then drew a picture of myself on it

10.I read the ‘class rules’ with the others after helping make the list and watching Mrs Swan write the list on the whiteboard

11.I read signs around the school like Boys and Girls at the toilets and Library

12.I read the titles of Little Critter Goes to School (Mercer Mayer) and Spot Goes to School (Eric Hill) when the teacher pointed to the words before she read the stories to us. She said that when we start ‘home-reading’ next week, we can take these books home to read with our families

13.I read action rhymes with the other kids and then we got to jump up and down in the Jump rhyme

14.I read the class news with the others after helping make the sentences and watching Mrs Swan write the sentences on the whiteboard

15.I read a new rhyme with the other kids as Mrs Swan put the words in the pocket chart for 1, 2 buckle my shoe

We had lunch

16.I read the book titles of No David, Boo to a Goose and Where is the Green sheep? when Mrs Swan pointed to the words before she read the stories – these books are for ‘home-reading’ too!

17.I read the days of the week with the class when the teacher told us how the ‘calendar wall’ works. She said we’d do the calendar first thing each morning morning

18.I read action rhymes with the others and got to stretch in Tall as a House

19.I read my name on a prepared name page and then drew a big picture of myself on it for Our Class Book of all our names

20.I read the names in Our Class Book with the other kids

21.I read the class rules (or ‘behaviours’) with the others before activity time. I read some books and then played with the teddy bear counters

22.I read the ‘Teddy Bears’ label on the maths shelf with my friend Harry and put the ‘Teddy Bears’ container in the right place

First day, girl drawing

We had afternoon tea

23.I read the titles of six easy books with the teacher and the class. I read some words in the easy books like ‘is, I, piggy and horse’ – more ‘home-reading’ books

24.I read my name after I wrote it on my ‘journal’ paper then drew my dog and wrote some words about playing with him at home. I like drawing and writing about my dog so I hope we do journals again tomorrow

25.I read my writing about my dog to the others in sharing time

26.I read the ‘Insects’ label on the maths shelf after the teacher told me, and then put the container of toy ‘insects’ in the right place

27.I read the names in Our Class Book again with all the others

28.I read the words and sang All the Fish…with Mrs Swan and the kids just before my dad came to pick me up

???????????????????????????????

I can’t wait to come back tomorrow to play in the Block Area, to sit on the big red cushions with a book in the Reading Corner, to start drawing and writing in my ‘real Journal book’, to see if I can read the Shared Writing that’s still on the whiteboard, to read the new message on our Message Board, to read Our Class Book again, to begin writing the letters on our small, individual ‘whiteboards’ and to see how the Calendar Wall works first thing in the morning.

Quiet reflections

Reading – still something of a mystery. How did I learn to read?

I remember sitting on the floor in the first grade classroom at Hopetoun Primary School, reading sentence cards: long, white, cardboard cards with black print and small coloured pictures. The sentences were about a small boy ‘John’, his sister ‘Betty’ and their pets, a dog ‘Scottie’ and a cat, ‘Fluff’. I remember that the sentences on the long, white cards were the same as the sentences in the first Reader: ‘This is John.’ ‘This is Betty.’ ‘John can jump.’ ‘Scottie can jump.’ And so on.

I remember the day in the group when I boldly said, “John can run,” for the card that looked like this: John can run. Mrs Tidey smiled and called me a “good girl”. So this was reading!

Soon, I was allowed to take home the real book that had all the sentences in it – the thin, reddish-orange, soft cover book with off-white glossy pages. I read my ‘John and Betty’ book – but I have no recollection of special delight or praise from anyone. This is so unlike my students today with whom I celebrate loudly and lavishly when a child realises s/he is really reading.

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