Phases of Emergent Literacy

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  • 0:04 Emergent Literacy
  • 0:44 Phases of Language
  • 1:46 Phases of Reading
  • 2:58 Phases of Drawing & Writing
  • 4:10 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.

Teachers who work with young children can be more effective if they understand how emergent literacy works. This lesson will acquaint you with the phases of emergent literacy.

Emergent Literacy

Few of Kristin's four-year-old students can read or write in the conventional sense, but Kristin knows that all of the students in her class are moving along a continuum toward reading and writing. This is because her students are in a stage of literacy development called emergent literacy. Emergent literacy refers to the period of time from infancy through early childhood when children are becoming increasingly well acquainted with language and the conventions of print. As a preschool teacher, Kristin understands that it is her job to observe and help her students as they move along the phases of emergent literacy. She focuses on their development in expressive and receptive language, reading, drawing, and writing.

Phases of Language

As they play over the course of the school year, as they ask questions and explore the world around them, Kristin knows that her students are moving through phases of expressive and receptive language. Expressive language refers to how students communicate with others, and receptive language has to do with how they understand communication. Both of these components are essential for a successful future as literate individuals.

In terms of expressive language, Kristin knows that even her least advanced students will be naming objects and describing the world around them. Later, they'll become able to ask questions and, little by little, tell short stories. Finally, they will be able to tell complex narratives and talk about abstract feelings and ideas.

In receptive language, students will begin by exhibiting an ability to follow simple and then more complicated directions. Then they'll start understanding stories. This is one of the reasons Kristin reads aloud so often. Little by little, Kristin's students will gain the ability to understand one another and have more complex communications.

Phases of Reading

Kristin knows that even though her students cannot sit and read books mostly independently, they are moving through phases of emergent literacy in their reading as well as their receptive and expressive language. As Kristin observes her students as readers, she sees them moving along the following continuum:

Showing an interest in books

Young children think books are interesting and exciting. They like to carry them around, point at them, and sometimes even mouth them.

Learning some of the conventions of print

As students become better acquainted with books, they will start to understand how to flip pages, go from left to right, and name and describe pictures.

Attending to increasingly complex read-alouds

Reading aloud to students, Kristin understands, is important no matter what stage they are in. However, students, as they grow, will be better able to understand stories, follow along for extended periods of time, ask questions, and even have discussions about characters.

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