Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Literacy in a 1st Grade Classroom

I come from teaching 3rd grade for the last 14 years.  After having the first few weeks of teaching 1st grade under my belt, I have a different appreciation for what "literacy" means at this age.  They are bursting with new knowledge and accomplishments every day!  When I think about integrating literacy into a science or social studies lesson, pictures and other graphic representations are a must.  Many students at this stage of the school year are unable to read (and understand) text independently.  Science and social studies lessons are whole-group, and I use my Promethean Board to project scanned images of text to make the lesson more accessible to my students.  Students at this age love to draw pictures to show their understanding.  Fortunately, there is a lot of really great technology out there that can let students use clip art and other graphics to show their understanding.  Programs like Kidspiration and KidPix have browsable graphics collections that allow students to choose just the right image to show their understanding.  It is also very easy for them to add text to these images, so the teacher can either require a word, phrase, or multiple sentences to go with the picture. 

science activity using Kidspiration

social studies activity using KidPix

I love using these types of technologies because of their versatility in differentiating for your different types of learners.


  1. Thank you for bringing up the connection between words and pictures! When I was an early childhood parent educator, I loved working with environmental picture literacy. Picture interpretation is reading! Parents and children are always amazed when they are presented with the idea that interpreting their environment through symbols and pictures is the first steps in reading, and it continues building throughout their education. How else would children "read" Brown Bear, Brown Bear without interpreting the pictures :0)

  2. My son is currently in first grade. Looking at your examples, and what my son brings home on a daily basis, I wish he was in your class. Literacy is so crucial in the first two or three years of elementary school, in my opinion. Because he doesn't always respond to simple text-based questions and answers. I feel he's more of a visual learner, so your activities look wonderful to me. Best of luck.

  3. I also love working with pictures in regards to literacy! Although I work with secondary students, pictures can be such an amazing tool and can really foster creativity in students! One of my favorite activities to do with my English classes was to show them a picture and ask them to write a story about the picture - it was amazing how many completely different stories they would come up with!
    In subjects like science and math, pictures and symbols are a language in themselves, so that is a great example of exploring literacy in several subjects!

  4. I think working in 1st grade whole group lessons that include graphic organizers like Popplet or would be a way to enhance literacy. I like the idea of creating pictorial text connections. I can see my former students enjoying the experience of sharing what they created.

  5. One of Marzano's researched based strategies is using non-linguistic representations. Sadly, it is one of the most under-used methods of instruction according to this article: English Language Arts (as we are now referring to the subject through Common Core) naturally lends itself to the connections made with the visuals. Thanks for sharing your screenshots!