Friday, September 9, 2011

Creating a Literary-Rich Environment for Kids

Found this excellent article by Alta Allen which lists out different ways in which one can create a literary-rich environment for kids. Alta says, "As an elementary educator who structures her classroom environment by focusing on reading across the curriculum, I want to share some of the successful strategies and practices I have found. Together, I call them SEARS — "Students Engaged Authentically with Reading Strategies."
Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) time is a time that is set aside daily for independent reading by both students and teachers. Every person in the class is to drop everything and read. DEAR time takes in consideration a variety of student interests and ability levels, because each student selects for himself or herself the book or books he or she wishes to read.

The major goal of DEAR is to encourage students to read independently for extended periods of time. I usually begin the year with 5 minutes, later increase the time to 10 minutes, and get students to read for longer periods of time as the year progresses. By the end of the year, my students are usually reading for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Many times they will beg for more time to read.

It is a fun way to read literature books and makes them more genuine and appealing to students. I usually copy the book and then highlight the parts for each student to read. Actors and actresses get together to practice reading their parts. There are no props or costumes. They will rehearse several times as a group before presenting their production to other classmates. Students are assessed according to clarity of voice, appropriate volume, inflection when reading dialogue, and overall group cooperation. My main purpose for using this kind of reading is to get students enthusiastic about reading stories by allowing play with oral language and giving students opportunities to feel at ease and not threatened when reading in front of their classmates.

In literature circles, students choose their own reading books. I provide a list of books that are available for circle time and copies of the actual books. Sometimes I focus the selections on a specific theme, literary strategy or genre of literature. Then we create temporary groups based on the students’ book choices. There will be several different structured groups of four to five students in each literature circle. Groups meet at a regularly scheduled time to read, take notes, and, finally, discuss their books. As students read their books silently, they are encouraged to take notes in written or graphic form on ideas or topics that they may want to discuss with their group. Students have different roles as they openly discuss their literature. The roles that I include in my literature circles are the discussion director, graphics guru, culminating project chairman, debriefing dictator, and word wizard. The discussions are informal, and, upon completion of the discussion, students write or illustrate individual reflections in their literacy response notebooks.
Click here to read all the tips that Alta shares.

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