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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success
Set up a sharing time when children can bring in objects or concepts of interest to them for discussion. Create an enriching conversational environment by responding to the sharer and expanding on his or her thoughts, inviting other children to participate.
Use the above opportunities to inspire classroom discussions—both in a one-to-one and a whole-class format. Affirm children in their efforts to express themselves, but also gently nudge them to be more precise in their vocabulary and syntax. Enhance their syntactic abilities beyond the usual “and then, and then, and then,” by asking questions that encourage them to use words like “because,” “after,” “since,” and “while” in their responses. If a child says, “I ate a red lollipop,” you might help him or her be more precise by saying, “But there could be two different red lollipops. Did you have strawberry or cherry?”
Choose books and stories to read aloud that are about many different creatures, places, and things. Augment each selection with pictures, discussion, and especially other books and stories that allow the children to revisit and extend their new knowledge.
Sociodramatic play activities give children a chance to develop language and literacy skills, a deeper understanding of narrative, and their own personal responses to stories. Encourage children to retell, reenact, or dramatize stories or parts of stories they have read.
The possibilities for sociodramatic play are limitless and need not be related only to fiction. For example, one class decided to embark on a dinosaur dig after reading about dinosaurs. They cordoned off a small grassy area outside the school and began digging. One after another, children would finds sticks and stones that they would proclaim to be remnants of dinosaurs, such as triceratops or tyrannosaurus. The teacher helped them incorporate literacy by making signs for the digging area (“Dinosaur Dig—Do Not Disturb”) and by labeling the children’s findings. The endeavor led to further book reading about dinosaurs, discussions about science, and rich conversations.
Here are some tips for successful sociodramatic play:
Prepare the environment. Make sure children have the necessary materials, such as puppets, stuffed animals, building blocks, props, and writing materials (so they can use print in their play). The best classrooms usually offer thematic centers that appeal to student interests—such as a nature area, a puppet theater, a sand table decked out as a beach—along with books, stories, and trips related to the theme.