Activities to Promote Emergent Literacy

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  • 0:01 What Is Emergent Literacy?
  • 0:41 Oral Language Activities
  • 2:16 Reading Activities
  • 3:25 Writing Activities
  • 4:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Emergent readers and writers are exciting to work with! This lesson will give you some ideas about what activities best promote emergent literacy. You will learn about activities for promoting oral language as well as reading and writing.

What Is Emergent Literacy?

Have you ever wondered about the stage before children learn to read and write? Anyone who spends time with young children knows that they love to play with language: they talk, sing, chant, and even explore books and writing. This is because young children are in a stage called emergent literacy. During emergent literacy, children cannot read or write independently in the conventional sense, but they are moving along a constant continuum toward literacy. As they explore language, investigate books and try their hand at drawing and writing, you can help them develop by providing them with opportunities to test out their new skills and interests.

Oral Language Activities

One of the best ways to promote emergent literacy is to give them activities that support oral language development. In this case, oral language refers to speaking and listening. Children who learn to express themselves clearly via the spoken word will eventually be able to express themselves clearly and sequentially in writing. Similarly, children who feel confident that they can understand another person's speech will feel better equipped to comprehend the things they eventually read. If you are looking to promote children's oral language, there are a variety of activities that you can use:

Give them a lot of chances for pretend play. When children pretend, they are using words to express themselves. They are learning to tell stories and communicate thoughts and feelings. What's more, pretending often follows children's own passions so they will automatically have a higher level of interest in the language they are using.

You can also let them tell stories and act them out. Practicing telling stories is a great way to learn about sequencing and narrative structure. If one child in a group tells a story and others act it out, everyone is practicing their oral language on some level.

Another activity is to sing songs and do tongue twisters. Believe it or not, simply singing with young children and having them do tongue twisters will promote their emergent literacy. Songs will teach children about rhymes and rhythms. Tongue twisters will promote their phonological awareness or their understanding about how sounds work within a word. What's more, these activities are fun for young children and enhance their sense of being part of a community where language and literacy are important.

Reading Activities

Another big part of promoting emergent literacy is giving students a chance to explore reading. One activity that will help promote reading among young children is to read-aloud. The more you can read aloud to young children, the better! Reading aloud build students' prior knowledge and enhance their reading comprehension. They also introduce students to the pure pleasure they can get from a good book.

Playing consonant-vowel-consonant games is another fun activity to try. Often, the first words that students learn to read will follow a simple consonant-vowel-consonant pattern. These are words like cat, pen, and hot. When you feel children are ready, you can write the vowels on dice and give students consonant cards. Children can roll the dice to get a particular vowel, and then figure out how to sound out words they can make out of the possible consonants.

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