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How to Harness the Power of Environmental Print in Your Classroom Design


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:

  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension 
  • 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!

Enhanced Vocabulary

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. 

Encourage Reading

Children are more likely to try to read when they are surrounded by print, especially familiar print!

Improve Comprehension

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 Posters!

Refresh your classroom with bright colors, real photos & kid friendly fonts!  Leave your email below and we’ll send you the FREE posters right away!


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.

Classroom Labels

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

  1. Give one student a pointer and tell them a word to find in the classroom. 
  2. The student will walk to the word and point to it. 
  3. Other children can point to their words with their fingers but can’t shout out or walk around. 
  4. After finding the word, the child passes the pointer to another student and the game continues. 


Activity 2: Classroom Flashlight Tag

  1. Give students flashlights. 
  2. Turn off the lights and have students shine their lights on words as you call them out.
  3. 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)

  1. Give students clipboards.
  2. Encourage students to walk around the room and write as many words or letters as they can.
  3. 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

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Emily Yerty

I’m a teacher who believes in creating a classroom kids love and activities that keep them engaged all day!

7 Responses

  1. THIS is my style! Could you tell me what bins you used for your book bins and student book boxes? I'm having a hard time locating clear bins with the correct dimensions!

  2. Thank you so much! This bright space makes me so happy! All of my student book bins are from Oriental Trading. I also had a really hard time finding clear bins, but these are perfect! The large clear bins in my classroom library are sterilite bins from Big Lots. I just removed the lids so all of the books can stand tall.

  3. Emily – I love your use of alternative seating! Where did you purchase your wobble chairs and ball seats? I also love your idea of removing the table legs to create the low work table! Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  4. I love your classroom transformation! This is so inspiring! Did you paint the teacher tool box? I cannot find a white one. Also, did you purchase a Reading stuffed animal for each child to read with? If so, I like that so much better than sharing and everyone gets the same so there is no arguing. Finally, any pointers on where to get the funds for flexible seating? Or, perhaps pointers on where to find affordable pieces.

  5. Hi Emily! Where can I find the "Rock it" Posters for your Behavior Management board? I would love to utilize these for this upcoming year! Thanks. 🙂

  6. I know it’s been awhile since you posted this but where oh where did you get those procious chevron and gray chairs?

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FREE Color Posters!

Refresh your classroom with bright colors, real photos & kid friendly fonts! Leave your email below and we'll send you the FREE posters right away!