Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Literacy Shelves

Literacy is a major focus for us, and we're approaching it in much the same way that we are approaching math this year: we're using our Montessori-inspired shelves to entice the children's natural curiosity to explore, and we're supplementing that with one-on-one work done with Mom. This year I have three children who expect one-on-one time (although only two are old enough to formally homeschool), and I have a baby on the way, so our plans for this school year are going to focus on the idea of simplicity and self-direction. In other words, I am aiming for activities and lessons which the kids can access and complete themselves, or at least with little help from me. That's a bit different than we've done in the past, when we've focused more Mom-directed lesson and stories with child-initiated follow up and extension.

Care to take a look at how things will look as we begin school this year?

Here's a look at our literacy shelves straight-on, as they appear right now. 

 As I explained in my description of our math shelves yesterday, I am departing from the traditional Montessori classroom set up to accommodate for three stages of learning in a very small learning space. I'm doing that by putting "like" items together on the same shelf (with a few exceptions due to activity sizes), and putting the more basic items on the lower shelves, most accessible to the younger kids.

Here's a look at the bottom shelf, which is aimed at letter and sound recognition. To meet this goal right now, I have a set of uppercase and lowercase Montessori sandpaper letters on display, which are used as tactile reinforcement for the standard 3 part Montessori lesson. (If you're interested in how to teach letters and sounds using the Montessori 3 part lesson, I recommend you read this article from the North American Montessori Center.) Next to those works I have a letter identification Go Fish game like this one, and this Melissa and Doug letter puzzle. Different work will appeal to different children on different days, so I have purposefully included work on this shelf which will appeal to some different interests within the scope of letter and sound identification. There is also plenty of opportunity for sibling collaboration!

The middle shelf currently holds a letter Bingo game like this one (although my version has pictures to help the child remember what sound the pictured letter makes, like "d" has a picture of a dog), a Leapfrog Word Builder Airplane, and a basket with all of our Handwriting Without Tears work (that includes the chalkboards with chalk, a water tray and sponges; the wooden letters and mats; a homemade set of Mat Man hands and facial features; a Stamp and See Screen; and a homemade Roll-A-Dough Letters Activity. I keep all these items in one basket for simplicity, but also because when we do our handwriting activities the kids often choose to work together on them. (We keep our HWT workbooks and paper strips, which need to be done with Mom, in each child's workbin for one-on-one time.) The focus of this shelf is on the sounds that letters make, and how we use the sounds to make words (in writing and reading). 

 The top shelf houses a letter chart, which is something like this one. I admit it, this chart is only on the top shelf because it doesn't fit on the other ones, but that's OK. Not everything can be perfect!

Next to the chart, I have a SpellTime game and a free sight words bingo game from 123 Homeschool For Me that I printed and laminated. Next I have a whole tray stocked with a variety of work aimed at supporting letter sounds and blends. The "bad" modular word flip chart you see pictured (I really must change that to a different word!) is similar to this set, and most of the other work on this tray are various print outs from the Montessori Print Shop (click here for a listing of MPS language work). There is something on this tray for everyone, much like the Handwriting Without Tears basket below it, and it tends to be one that we work on as a group, but with each child choosing something slightly different, at his or her own level. One child may use a rhyming work while another works on a "bossy e" work, for example. The point is that all work on this tray is short and sweet- 5 minutes of practice with one work is plenty to get those little minds going, and most of these can be done without Mom's help (once the work has been introduced a couple of times).

To the right side of the shelves I keep our Alpha Tales readers as well as a collection of other early reader books. These simply don't fit on our shelves, but need to be easily accessible at all times. We also use some Bob Books sets in our literacy efforts, but I keep those with our one-on-one work bins and gradually add books each child has mastered to the "anytime" reading bin. I suppose one could say I use the Bob Books series as a check for progress more than a teaching tool.

That about covers it, I think- at least for this month.

I also can't wait to share with you a couple new additions to our literacy and language efforts this year- our new writing center and audio center! Since I haven't yet photographed either one you'll have to wait a bit, but I promise it will be coming to the blog soon.

Do you use language shelves in your homeschool or preschool? What approaches are you using to educate your kids this fall?

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