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November 18, 2022

Do you have a language rich classroom?

We know that some children arrive at school already behind because they come from a home that is language poor.  Language poor environments are homes where children are exposed to minimal printed words, have minimal conversations, a limited opportunity to acquire background knowledge and do not  hear academic language spoken. (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997, 1998)

As teachers, it is our job to help close the gap between the language rich and the language poor.  

One of the ways to do that is by creating a classroom that is literacy rich!  Check out the EIGHT ideas below to make your classroom a literacy rich environment

1. Read aloud to your students daily

Reading aloud to your students everyday creates a strong foundation for literacy development.  Students are able to hear phrased, fluent reading and are exposed to a myriad of new words that aren't often used in everyday conversation.  

Typically, listening comprehension of students is much higher than their reading comprehension, which allows teachers to select books that stretch the listener.  Teacher read alouds also level the playing field....less able readers are exposed to the same rich and engaging books that fluent readers can read on their own.  Students of all ages benefit from hearing experienced readers share stories.  

Check out this article from Reading Rockets, which discusses the power of read alouds! 

2. Create a classroom library with variety

Fill your classroom libraries with variety!  Make sure to include fiction, non-fiction, picture books, graphic novels, poetry, magazines--basically any printed material you can find.  The more materials students have available--the more likely they are to read. 

3.  Encourage your students to play with words.

Find ways to have fun with words.  Kids always seem to be more engaged when you attach the word "game" to a lesson!  During indoor recess, or even during centers allow students to engage in games like Scrabble, Bananagrams, Bogle, Balderdash or Apples to Apples.   Or, check out some of the literacy games I have available at Mind Spark's store!  These make great additions to literacy centers!

4. Get your kids writing

Writers often have an expansive vocabulary they use to deliver the message of their script.  Teachers can help students develop their personal lexicon by having students write daily!  Students can journal, answer exit tickets or engage in creative writing exercises. 

Check out more writing ideas and ways to write across all subjects in this article from Edutopia, Why Students Should Write in all Subjects. 

5. Read Poetry

You don't have to wait until April (National Poetry Month) to read poetry to your students.  You should be sharing poems, and sharing them often.  Poets have an amazing way they play with words to create magic! Check out a previous post, Top 10 Poetry Activities to Use in Your Classroom, to inspire you to start using poetry in your classroom!

6. Directly teach vocabulary words

Research supports that teachers should directly teach 10 to 12 vocabulary words per week.  Directly teaching doesn't just mean providing the definition of the word and moving on....but using an explicit vocabulary routine to help kids own the word!  Check out this blog post from Voyager-Sopris to give you an explicit vocabulary routine and tips on selecting the right words! 

7. Use unusual words 

Challenge yourself to use 10 dollar words with your students. Ten dollar words are precise, descriptive and uncommon.  Use these "ten dollar" words over and over again, until your students start incorporating these words in their everyday vocabulary.   For example, instead of saying, "That makes me sad," you could say, "That fills my heart with sorrow."   

8. Create opportunities for students to converse 

Communication requires students to use all of the language that swirls around in your classroom.  The language you have been working really hard to help them acquire.  Create opportunities where you dialogue with students, and time where students are able to converse with one another.  Cooperative learning strategies (think, pair, share or think, write, pair, etc.) are great ways to incorporate conversation into your classroom.  

Now that you have a handle on how to make YOUR classroom language rich, how might you help parents?  Check out this post, which gives FOUR simple strategies you can share with your parents to make their home language rich! 

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