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October 03, 2008

At sand and water I can...

At the beginning of the school year, I am very intentional about introducing all of our centers and classroom materials to my students. We started the first week of school by opening two centers - first toys and games, then art - and have been introducing approximately one new center per week. Each time we introduce a new center, we do a "guided discovery" of the center and its materials. The guided discovery allows students to: generate ideas about what to do in the center, practice executing their ideas, and discuss how they used the materials. I find it to be an extremely helpful technique because it encourages students to be creative and take ownership of their ideas. Plus, they are eager to try out their ideas in the center and it encourages them to use the materials appropriately!

This week, we introduced sand into our "Sand and Water" center. As part of our discussion during the guided discovery, we generated a list of ideas about how to use the sand. Here are the ideas that my students came up with:

At sand and water I can...
Pick up the sand (Stephen)
Pick it up high (Suniah)
Build a big house (Aaliyah)
Make it big (Jose)
Make a castle (Mayala)
Put it in your fingers (Julia)

I drew a small picture to represent each idea next to the words, and included the contributing student's name next to their idea. We then hung the poster in the sand and water center, and I modeled how to reference it for ideas during center time. Soon I heard Makiera say, "Look, I can pick it up high!" as she pointed to the poster. And later that afternoon, when one student started spilling sand on the floor, Mayala said, "Don't put it on the floor! You can build a castle!"

This method of writing with students -- especially when used in conjunction with a guided discovery -- is an easy way to incorporate functional print into the classroom. Students begin to learn that people write for a purpose, and they develop an understanding of how people can use print in their daily lives. Rereading the writing also reinforces print directionality and the differences between letters, words, and sentences. All of these concepts represent important early literacy skills that will prepare my students to become excellent readers and writers!

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