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Environmental Print in Early Childhood

As preschool teachers we are constantly looking for ways to incorporate literacy in our classrooms to support our young learners.  One powerful tool that surrounds us every day is environmental print. This type of print refers to print that children see around them in their day to day lives, such as signs, logos, labels and symbols. Environmental print can play an important role in literacy development in our preschoolers.

How Environmental Print Benefits Literacy Development

Environmental Print in a child’s environment is often the first encounter children have with our written language. This is important because…

  • Children start to understand that signs, labels, symbols and logos have meaning. This helps them make the connection between print and communication.
  • As children interact with print around them, they start to recognize individual letters or words.
  • Children are natural explorers, so looking around their environment and learning from it is engaging and motivating to young children.
  • Observing print around them can also encourage children’s writing attempts. They may try replicating letters they see in the print around them.
  • Exposure to environmental print can enhance vocabulary and understanding the world around them.

Ways to Incorporate Print into your Classroom

Creating a Print-Rich Environment : Setting up your classroom in a way that supports literacy.

  • Through Books: Having different types of pictures books available to children to access (picture books, wordless books, magazines, non-fiction.
  • Through Print: Labeling classroom objects, alphabet letters, student names and other functional print (weather chart, job chart, procedure strips, visual schedule)
  • Through Centers: Signs in the Drama Center, local store ads in the Writing Center, labels on tubs in the Block Center.

*Note: While creating a print-rich environment is important, it is equally important to balance the ‘visual noise’ of your classroom as well. Too much environmental print can be overwhelming. Stick to print that is functional and that CHILDREN use.

Activities that support Environmental Print :

  • Word Hunts: Take children around your school to look for simple words that communicate something important. We found many ‘EXIT’ signs, bathroom signs, ‘FIRE’ signs and so much more. If your classroom is near a city, taking a short walk could help your preschoolers see print in real life.
  • Snack & Lunch Containers: There is often environmental print on the packages of foods children bring to school. Point out these words on packages. You can also take it one step further and hang them on a bulletin board as a collection of the print they can read!
  • ‘We Can Read’ Poster: Collect different logos and glue onto a poster board. Laminate and use as a way to help children understand that they are beginning to read the world around them.
  • Print Games: Create matching games or sorting games with logos/signs on cards.
  • Shared Reading: Create a shared reading piece (see photo below) with the words ‘I can read’ and a symbol/logo/sign. Read this together, pointing at each word as you read.
  • Create a Print Book: Collect the front of packages with familiar logos and bind together with a book ring. Children can read this flip book in the classroom library.
  • Logo Blocks: Print out logos from stores in your area. Tape the logos onto blocks so that children can use them to build with.
  • Books about Signs: Read books about signs around us like, “Runaway Signs” by Joan Holub, “Signs in my Neighborhood” by Shelley Lyons or “I Read Signs” by Tana Hoban.
Environmental Print Shared Reading

Environmental print is a powerful way to promote early literacy skills with our preschoolers. By creating a print-rich environment and incorporating print-related activities, we can help children make meaningful connections between the print they see every day and the world of literacy.

Remember, learning is everywhere, and environmental print provides a unique opportunity to turn the world around us into a classroom for our young learners! And don’t forget to get parents involved. They can also support their child’s interest in print when out and about!

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