Emergent Literacy Theory

an educator to use a variety of writing samples over a certain time period to determine the best writing instructional practices for the child.

Sulzby (1985) suggests that a structured lesson framework fosters a child’s early writing ability.During carpet time, the teacher gives the students directions on what each child will be writing about, “Write a story for me.”This gives each child the audience for the writing.The second step in the lesson, is to explore topics as a group.Most students will tell the teacher the main character, a dog or my sister.The teacher should respond to students’ topics with interest and asks questions, “What will happen to...” or “Where will the story take place?”Asking these types of question will prompt the students’ thinking about all elements of the story.Third, the teacher will model writing the metacognitive process associated with creating the first sentence, “What might the first sentence say?” or “How will you start your story?”By asking these questions, a teacher is encouraging each child to think in complete sentences.The teacher will model the writing of the sentence on the board or chart paper.Next the teacher will ask the students to help write the sentence by slowly articulating words, using a word wall or recalling from memory.Conventional capitalization, spacing, size and punctuation of print can be demonstrated or emphasized while writing the sentence on the board. Additionally, it allows individuals the ability to practice writing their first sentence.Validate each child’s message by explaining that each kindergartener writes differently, some maybe in picture form while others are using letters.Finally, refocus the conversation to the topic or audience for this writing piece.Sulzby suggests, while the students are returning to their seats, allow them the opportunity to discuss their ideas.Traditionally, children will immediately run to the teacher for help.By allowing collaboration time at an early age, this encourages the students to work together to solve a problem or complete a task.

As the children are writing, the teacher walks around the room to conference with each writer.This time can be used to provide specific support for each writer and give each child a chance to read their story aloud in a more private setting. The teacher can use Elkonin boxes to help students spell words.The first stage of Elkonin boxes are sound boxes (Clay, 1998).The child is given a box for each sound in the word.Once the child is able to segment each phoneme, the teacher can give the child spelling boxes.This scaffolding procedure requires the student to identify the conventional spelling pattern of the word.

After students have completed their writing, the teacher should provide an opportunity for students to share their writing.This can be done through a special chair, microphone or video.If space allows, a waiting chair can be helpful for some students.This can help with classroom management and the child knows when it will be their turn to share.

There are many strategies to facilitate writing in young children:

• Encourage early writers by accepting their scribbles and drawings as writing.

• Use simple and clear language to guide the expectations of the writing, “write a letter to you mom.”

• Ask the child to read the story to you.This reinforces the idea the print is important.

• Encourage children to try their best.Remind students, every author is unique, and your writing should be different from everyone else.

Today it is understood that children can express their knowledge of emergent literacy through writing as well as reading.Emergent literacy focuses on the relationships between reading and writing skills.This is observed, in the drawing phase of writing, when the child uses the knowledge that the message must match the picture.The child then transfers this understanding to reading by using the picture to confirm meaning of the text.Early writing strengthens a child’s understanding and knowledge of language and reading skills.

Emergent literacy theory states children are already reading and writing before formal schooling.As children are exposed to a variety of literature and given opportunities to read and write, they will move toward a conventional method of reading and writing.Emergent literacy incorporates the skills and the specific components of literacy, but also the context of which the child gains this knowledge.

Non-Literacy Factors

Community, demographics and culture are outside factors effecting a child’s early literacy skills.These factors dictate the child’s early literacy opportunities, how literacy is valued, and support the child receives at home in regard to reading and writing.Educator’s must consider elements of the child’s life beyond school when examining emergent literacy skills.

The child’s community or neighborhood influences literacy acquisition.Students from rural and urban communities have different resources available (Durham & Smith, 2006).Urban communities have more libraries and bookstores than rural areas.To encourage literacy, neighborhood libraries offer a story telling hour.Rural districts have limited access to high-quality early childhood education centers.Researchers have found that the quality of preschool care received by children has significant effects on children’s academic school readiness (Auger, Farkas, Burchinal, Duncan, & Vandell, 2014).In the study conducted by Auger, Farkas, Burchinal, Duncan and Vandell, eighteen preschools in an urban area were used in the study.Nine schools were given a structured preschool curriculum to implement.The other schools were told to “conduct business as usual”, this did not include a curriculum.Early exposure and experiences to literature are key components of emergent literacy theory.