Elementary teachers play a vital role in nurturing emergent literacy skills in young learners. A print-rich classroom, full of environmental print, can be a game-changer in promoting these skills. Recognizing the why, benefits of, and practical tips to use environmental print in your classroom design is well worth your time!
Print-Rich Classroom and Environmental Print Explained
A print-rich classroom is one that includes a variety of types of prints like letters and numbers, books, and writing materials. A classroom library, reading areas, and writing stations are important pieces to include. The majority of print in a print-rich classroom is displayed at eye level for the children too.
Environmental print is the printed materials that are a part of everyday life. For your students, this may include stop signs, common store logos like Wal-Mart, sports team logos, and logos of their favorite shows (hello, Paw Patrol!).
Why Go Print-Rich?
Before diving into the “how”, it’s crucial to understand the “why” behind designing a print-rich classroom.
First of all, kids like it! Research by Michelle Neumann and her colleagues found that children are more attracted to environmental print. Capitalizing on this fact can lead to better reading development (2011).
Research also supports that early exposure to environmental print encourages increased literacy skills in young children in multiple areas:
- Phonological awareness
- Early reading skills
The Benefits of a Print-Rich Environment
The benefits of designing your classroom with lots or print are truly limitless!
Environmental print introduces children to a variety of words and concepts.
By seeing familiar signs and logos around them, they can make associations with vocabulary that they may not have been able to connect so easily without the images.
Promote Early Literacy Skills
Environmental print also cultivates phonemic awareness, letter recognition, and print awareness in young learners.
Children are more likely to try to read when they are surrounded by print, especially familiar print!
As kids interact with environmental print, they naturally understand more written materials.
Support Writing Development
Environmental print inspires children to create their own images which leads to the later development of drawn and written stories!
Foster a Love for Learning
A print-rich environment really just makes learning more fun for children!
Considerations When Choosing Environmental Print
Make your classroom decor multipurpose by using a variety of prints throughout your room! Purposeful posters and signs serve as organizational and teaching tools, not just decorations.
Signs should be colorful with few distractions. Include real pictures to help developing readers.
Choose kid-printed fonts that support proper letter formation, like these alphabet posters.
Consider adding other signs with real pictures as decor too:
- FREE color word posters
- Number posters (0-30 and ten frames included)
- Shape posters (2d and 3d shapes included)
- Sound wall (mouth shape pictures and 200 graphemes included)
Use these posters as simple wall decor, for small group instruction, and more!
More Great Opportunities for Print in Your Classroom
Your calendar wall is a great spot to fill with intentional print.
Use classroom labels for student cubbies, your classroom library, classroom resources, and different areas of your classroom.
Making the Most of a Print-Rich Classroom
In order to make the most of your beautifully and thoughtfully designed print-rich classroom, you want to teach your students how to find words, encourage them to write the words they see, and set appropriate expectations.
Teach Students How to Find Words
Activity 1: Classroom I Spy
- Give one student a pointer and tell them a word to find in the classroom.
- The student will walk to the word and point to it.
- Other children can point to their words with their fingers but can’t shout out or walk around.
- After finding the word, the child passes the pointer to another student and the game continues.
Activity 2: Classroom Flashlight Tag
- Give students flashlights.
- Turn off the lights and have students shine their lights on words as you call them out.
- Students can share flashlights with a partner to encourage teamwork and support students at different skill levels.
Encourage Students to Write the Words
Activity 1: Write the Room (Timed Activity)
- Give students clipboards.
- Encourage students to walk around the room and write as many words or letters as they can.
- Set your timer for 5 minutes, and GO!
Activity 2: Literacy Centers
Use environmental print throughout literacy centers to help students know where to go and have easy directions to follow during your intervention block.
These digital center rotation boards make organization a breeze for both you and your students!
Set Expectations for Print
Teach your students that if a word is in the classroom, you expect them to write it correctly. Promote independence by teaching them to look around them before asking others for help.
Activity 1: Walk Closer to the Word
Encourage students to move from their seats to write a word from the classroom.
For example, a student may walk to the calendar to write the word “Saturday” correctly on their paper.
Activity 2: Select a Word Wizard
Pick a classroom Word Wizard who can help others find words.
You can select a new Word Wizard each day or at the beginning of each new week. Do what works best for you and your set of students each year!
For more ideas about designing your classroom in a functional way for your students, check out this post on flexible seating in the classroom.
By considering environmental print in your classroom design, you are fostering important early literacy skills and nurturing a lifelong love of reading and independent learning. Start now to transform your classroom into a print-rich wonderland!
Neumann, M. M., Hood, M., Ford, R. M., & Neumann, D. L. (2011). The role of environmental print in emergent literacy. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 12(3) 231-258. DOI: 10.1177/1468798411417080