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How to Ready Your Classroom for Literacy Development

As soon as the calendar turns to August, teachers begin thinking about what their classroom environments will look like. Reading teachers are no different: They want to design classrooms that best promote literacy development. Just search Pinterest for "classroom set-up," then prepare to be overwhelmed with themes, furniture ideas and pre-made charts. Now step back and think about what you really need in your classroom in order to have the most positive effect on literacy development. The term "child-centered" should come to mind, as well as the word "focused." Keeping these goals in mind, here are some classroom ideas for creating a space conducive to reading.

Classroom Libraries Are Key to Literacy Development Success

To really make an impact, start with your classroom library. Here are a few tips for success:

  • Use space creatively: Use bookshelves to create cozy corners.
  • Take advantage of book bargains: There is no such thing as too many books.
  • Celebrate new additions: Kids are drawn to books their teachers talk about.
  • Start a lending library: Be sure kids can practice at home by letting them borrow books.
  • Include books for every level: No matter what level you teach, include all levels in your library.
  • Invite student input: Let kids share what they like about libraries and incorporate those ideas into the classroom.

Empty Spaces Waiting for Students Can Be More Motivating

When setting up your classroom, try not to use too many pre-made materials. Students learn more effectively when they make use of the available resources. One classroom idea is to let students showcase their work on blank bulletin boards. Use a bulletin board to highlight student writing and another to showcase students' favorite books or ones they are currently reading. An idea that can help a whole school is to have teachers and administrators post information about the books they are reading right outside their office and classroom doors.

Or, set up an empty bookshelf with a sign that reads "Our Favorite Books From Last Year." Let students find their favorites in the beginning of the year and share them. This creates community built on literacy right from the start. Change out the bookshelf sign each month, asking students to find new favorite information books or graphic novels, for instance.

Advertise the Reading and Writing in Your Classroom

Employ a less-is-more attitude in your classroom: less cute and more literacy focused. Literacy development grows exponentially when students spend the majority of their daily time on actual literacy work. Have designated areas with paper and writing tools critical for student productivity. Post mentor texts for inspiration right next to writing areas and reading corners. Put reading journals in the classroom library where students can access them immediately so students do not lose their thoughts about what they just read. Have baskets of sticky notes with jars of little pencils all over your room so students can make lists or jot down thoughts throughout the day.

It is important to create and sustain a child-centered literacy-based classroom in order to foster literacy development from day one through the end of the school year. Students who connect to their classroom as a community will be more motivated, inspired and successful.

Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction -- Literacy Studies program.


Sources:

Two Writing Teachers: Creating Classroom Environments: Starting the Year With Empty Walls

Scholastic: Classroom Library

ChartChums: Do Less to Do More

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