Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

3 Ideas That Help Language Learners Practice Literacy Strategies [Pre-K–1]

By Sarah Maze, M.S. Ed., Guest Blogger

As classrooms across the country become more linguistically diverse, you may be looking for strategies to support a multiliteracy approach to language arts instruction. Many students are entering classrooms as second language learners; some know English while others know little to no English. Today's blog post will answer the following question: How do we support the growth of the English language with a multiliteracy approach?

Enriching the classroom environment with labels is one way to build visual literacy. Everyday items such as tissues, pencils, crayons, and books can be labeled with both the word and a picture of the item. When labels contain both a picture and the word students make a connection between print and the physical object.

Another strategy that supports a multiliteracy approach that is connected to writing is creating classroom library books. As students read wordless books or text with a simple sentence structure, they begin to improve vocabulary and English grammar. When a classroom book is created, students apply the sentence structure or ideas from the book in their own sentences. Students may also add an illustration or photographs can be taken. Below are a few ways to create classroom books using narrative texts as models for students.

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Practice Oral Language Development with Wordless Books

Wordless books provide rich opportunities for oral language development and to improve vocabulary. Detailed pictures are critical in wordless books. Popular themes for wordless books could include classroom items, families, food, etc.

Having Fun is a book that shows children participating in a variety of activities. This book also provides an opportunity to engage your students in a discussion about how they like to have fun before reading. Tell students that reading pictures is one of the ways they can read a book.

Model how students should read the pictures on each page. Point out details in the picture and discuss any vocabulary that may be new to students. As you read ask students if they enjoy the activities on each page. You ca also ask them who they do these activities with. After the discussion, have students write a sentence, such as I like to have fun by ___ with ___. Then collect each student’s page to create a classroom book.

Improve Grammar Skills with Repetitive and Simple Sentence Structure

Books with a simple sentence structure help to build English grammar. When the text is repetitive, students do not have to focus so much on sounding out each word. Instead, they can build reading fluency by relying heavily on photographs or illustrations. As they read repetitive text on each page, their sight word recognition also improves.

In the Garden is a wonderful book to use to build these skills. It is full of sight words, repetitive text, and also builds an understanding of prepositions and location words. Each page names an object that can be seen in the garden and then says where it is located.

After reading this book, encourage students to use the same language structure to talk about items around the school: I can see a ___. It is ___. You can choose items in places like the gym, cafeteria, playground, or classroom. Take students to each location and have them choose an object they can see. This is an excellent way to build vocabulary and familiarize students with the school environment.

Improve Vocabulary by Encouraging a Search for Context Clues

Helping students use picture clues supports a multiliteracy approach, and My Noisy House is a great narrative text that includes repetitive text and picture clues. Each page contains an item in the house that makes noise. Around the item are lines to demonstrate the noise. As students read this book, they will also build their vocabulary for members of a family and household objects.

After reading you can mirror the idea with noises around your school to create a school version of this book. Items that make noise may include a pencil sharpener, school bell, other students, or musical instruments. Students can write their own sentences to be included in a classroom book along with photographs or illustrations that students make of these items. Around each item, they can add lines to show the noise just as the book does.

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Students love to read classroom books that they help create. These books can be put at a center or in a classroom library. Students can enjoy reading them as part of a station or when they finish an activity early. The books can be read silently, to a peer, to an older student, or even to another teacher. Another idea is to have a checkout system and allow students to take the books home to read to their families. This builds a bridge between the classroom and family literacy.

Supporting students with a multiliteracy approach builds confidence and keeps learning fun. Students feel less pressure to sound out words and apply phonics rules. Instead, they actually build phonemic awareness and sight word recognition by reading books with repetitive text paired with supporting pictures. Writing skills will develop as kids apply the sentence structure to create their own books. They also build their oral language skills and English grammar. Keep checking back to find more ways to support your students!

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Sarah is an elementary school teacher who has taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and fifth grade. One of her most unique experiences was teaching orphans in Tanzania, Africa for a year. If you like what you read here, be sure to read more by Sarah on our blog.