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A student's Literacy Environment is the environment provided by their home, school, and community that helps them develop their literacy skills. Providing extra classroom supports and resources for families that strengthen the Literacy Environment can help create an equal foundation for all students.
While the Home Literacy Environment is critical in the development of early literacy skills, during the upper elementary years, students spend more time away from home, both in school and with peers in their community, and have more agency in their literacy choices. The Literacy Environment spans across these areas -- home, school, and community -- to influence the continued development of students' literacy skills.
The Literacy Environment is multifaceted. First, it involves aspects of print exposure, including:
The Literacy Environment also involves how others influence a developing reader and writer, including:
This period of literacy development is also critical because voluntary reading habits, which are linked to print exposure, and voluntary writing habits are established during these school years. As students get older, they take more charge of their own reading and report that they have a hard time finding texts that capture their interest, making a robust Literacy Environment even more critical. A collaborative, supportive writing environment where students have many opportunities to write on topics of their choice is also an important part of a robust Literacy Environment.
While having access to books, magazines, and tools for writing is an essential component of a successful Literacy Environment, access to technology, such as computers and mobile phones, is also important. Many students spend a large portion of their time composing and reading online (e.g., websites, blogs, emails, text messages). Research has shown that this type of reading and writing helps students develop stronger literacy skills.
Physically acting out a text enhances reading comprehension.
Audiobooks allow students to hear fluent reading and to experience books above their reading skills.
Students practice making and finding meaning in their reading through a book club model.
When peers are able to work together to plan, draft, edit, and revise their compositions, their writing quality improves.
Easy access to common words promotes sight word recognition as students see the words repeatedly.
Expressing ideas through visuals and audio, and understanding others' ideas in these forms, is as critical in today's world as traditional reading and writing.
Dictionaries and thesauruses can serve as resources for students to expand their Vocabulary knowledge.
When teachers provide explicit instruction in comprehension strategies and model when to use them, students learn how to flexibly apply them to make meaning of texts.
Teaching students how to create and use strong keywords for Internet searching is critical for helping them know how to find accurate, relevant information.
Formal spelling instruction improves not only students' spelling skills but also their reading skills.
Seeing and using new words repeatedly and in many contexts is critical for Vocabulary acquisition.
Research shows that, along with traditional reading comprehension strategies, students use unique strategies to read the non-linear, hyperlinked structure of online texts.
Explicitly teaching strategies for planning, writing, and revising texts improves students' writing quality.
Increasing how much students write improves both their writing and their reading.
Providing constructive feedback supports students' writing development by letting them know how to improve their writing.
Visiting places connected to classroom learning provides opportunities to deepen understanding through firsthand experiences.
As students walk through stations working in small groups, the social and physical nature of the learning supports deeper understanding.
Games help students visualize how to connect one fact to another.
In guided inquiry, teachers help students use their own language for constructing knowledge by active listening and questioning.
Independent reading promotes literacy by emphasizing student choice with teacher support in selecting books, as well as by making time for free reading.
As students work with and process information by discussing, organizing, and sharing it together, they deepen their understanding.
Rhyming, alliteration, and other sound devices reinforce language development by activating the mental processes that promote memory.
Full sentence manipulatives allow students to practice producing more complex Syntax and writing.
Providing physical representations of parts of a sentence activates learners' mental processes.
By sharing their own reading and writing, teachers can create a literacy community that supports students in finding meaning in their own work.
By talking through their thinking at each step of a process, teachers can model what learning looks like.
Instruction in multiple formats allows students to activate different cognitive skills to understand and remember the steps they are to take in their literacy work.
Connecting information to music and dance moves enhances Short-term and Long-term Memory by drawing on auditory processes and the cognitive benefits of physical activity.
Playful activities can support the development of learners' Metacognition and also inspire their narratives and writing.
Helping students think about what they know about the topic of upcoming work helps activate their Background Knowledge or reveals gaps.
When students read models of the type of writing they are doing, they can identify effective elements to incorporate in their writing.
Reading aloud regularly exposes students to new and familiar Vocabulary and texts.
Reading aloud books about skills children are learning provides another model for their development.
Through one-on-one conferences, teachers can provide individual support to each student to deepen comprehension and interest in reading.
When students explain to others, they deepen their understanding and gain confidence in their learning.
Students build their confidence, strategy use, and comprehension by reading and rereading books.
Books for vision differences support reading development for learners with visual needs.
Reading materials of varying complexity and levels are necessary for all students to experience success.
Multicultural and diverse books are critical for supporting all students.
Providing varied types of resources that align with interests of individual students supports overall literacy development.
With figurative language and creative sentence structure, poetry supports the development of a deeper understanding of the different ways language makes meaning.
Books on social and emotional learning (SEL) topics, such as developing empathy and productive persistence, help teach these skills.
Providing students a voice in their learning is critical for making learning meaningful.
Students develop literacy skills by listening to and speaking with others in informal ways.
Web-based dictionaries and thesauruses can serve as visual and audio resources for students to expand their Vocabulary knowledge.
Word sorts are multisensory activities that help learners identify patterns and group words based on different categories.
A word wall helps build Vocabulary for reading fluidity.
Writing conferences allow students to share, reflect on, and receive feedback about their writing, which promotes Motivation for revising.
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