Literacy is the term used when talking about the ability to read and write. It leads to success in K-12 school, post-secondary school, the ability to compete in the job market, and participation in democratic process (Wei, Blackorby, & Schiller, 2011). Teaching young children how to read and write however is a very complex process that requires a teacher to employ a myriad of strategies to help students. When a teacher takes into consideration all the different abilities in a classroom having multiple strategies that help all students become proficient in speaking and listening, reading, and writing, is essential.
Speaking and Listening
One of the most often over looked yet essential part of literacy development is developing a child’s speaking and listening skills. If a child has a very limited vocabulary it will be harder for him or her to express what happened in a story. Being able to hear the play on words in rhyming a book, or noticing the subtle differences in word choice can change how a book is enjoyed.
One strategy teachers can use to help students develop their speaking and listening skills is to teach the students simple rhymes. Reading simple nursery rhymes or short poems help increase a child phonological awareness. “Children who have been involved in early rhyming activities such as nursery rhymes are often more successful in reading later on” (Beaty, 2009, p. 23).
Reading the rhymes once however is not enough. For students to understand rhyming multiple exposures is necessary, allowing the student to know the poem by heart. Reading poems as a daily part of instruction, and using the rhymes to help students remember simple procedures, like lining up, gives students multiple exposures to not only hearing rhymes but also saying them.
Using rhymes are great for young students as they are often short and easy to remember. Using hand movements to the rhymes, like Itsy Bitsy Spider, gives children the kinesthetic reminder of what comes next but also allows students who might be nonverbal to participate in the rhyme activity.
The ultimate goal for any reader should be to understand the text. While a student might be able to correctly decode a sentence if he or she did not comprehend what was read the student’s literacy skill did not increase. It would be hard for a student to fully enjoy a book if he or she didn’t understand what was being read.
A strategy that good readers use, and one that teachers should model for students, is making connections with the text. There are three types of connections, text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world. As the teacher reads a story he or she should stop periodically to make connections between what is written and his or her own personal experience (text-to-self), other books (text-to-text), or things that are happening in the world (text-to-world). As students make these types of connections it helps further his or her understanding of the text. (LaRocque & Darling, 2008)