Literacy Beginnings: Chapter two: Building a Community of Learners

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on June 28, 2011

in Literacy Beginnings Book Study, Professional Development

Pre-K Pages

I am thrilled to be participating in the Book Study Blog Party being hosted by Pre-K Pages. Each participating blogger is taking a turn to read a chapter of the book “Literacy Beginnings” by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene C. Fountas.  You can check out the linky at the bottom of this post to see each chapter as it is posted by the bloggers or go to Pre-k Pages and follow along from there. Vanessa has already written her highlights for chapter one: Growing Up Literate so be sure to check out her enthusiastic and informative perspective.

Chapter Two: Building a Community of Learners

Chapter two of Literacy Beginnings, 2011, starts off with this thought provoking quote…

“Children learn and develop best when they are part of a community of learners – a community in which all participants consider and contribute to one another’s well being and learning”

~Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp

I don’t know what the rest of this book has to say yet but already I am excited about it! With every word I read, I am nodding my head yes! If I could, I would just rewrite the whole chapter for you – it is that good! You do need to know, however, that this book is specifically targeting the prekindergarten classroom BUT this chapter can be applied to most, if not all, preschool age groups so stay with me whether you teach prekindergarten or not. Now let me share with you a few highlights from this chapter…

Support and Attention

Building a community of learners begins with the understanding that you will begin the year with children who come from all types of backgrounds and experiences. Some of your students will be shy and hesitant to participate while others will jump right in from the get go. In either case, your learners will need support and attention as they enter your classroom and begin the process of becoming a member of your learning community. As children feel accepted and a part of your learning community, they will begin to develop the skills they need to thrive in their future years of school.

Social Skills

A major part of building a community of learners is to help children manage social interactions and expectations. This can be done through positive modeling and attention as well as establishing structures and expectations that help children genuinely understand what they are to do.  For example, the writers state, “When you are teaching children how to take turns in conversation, passing a soft physical object as a beanbag to hold when it is their turn to talk can be an effective and concrete reminder for young children who are often very literal-minded” (Ch. 2, pg. 30).

Creating Community

Establishing routines and creating a predictable daily structure is an important part of helping your student participate in the learning community. In addition, it is important to organize your materials and space so children can understand where things belong.

Getting the Community Started

It is important to spend the first few weeks of your school year “demonstrating, prompting, and reinforcing positive social interactions and conventions… A critical element of learning is self-regulation. Instead of continually saying “no” or correcting inappropriate behavior, consider modeling appropriate responses.” The authors describe several types of appropriate responses such as “showing the children how to stop and think about their behavior” and fostering positive classroom behavior by involving the children in making decisions or making up their own set of classroom rules (Ch 2, pg 31).

Circle Games

One of the most interesting parts of this entire chapter was how the authors identify circle gamesas being a critical aspect and major contributor towards building community. On page 33, the writers give an exhaustive list of twenty-five ways to use circle games to create community. Here are just a couple of those ideas…

  • Have children walk around in a circle. Call out commands such as “tiptoe circle,” “marching circle,” “hopping circle.” (teach one action at a time).
  • Walk in tight to make a small circle; then walk slowly backward to make the circle big (repeat).

(Chapter 2, pg. 33)

The writers also indicate that singing songs and acting out fingerplays is a great tool for creating community. One of my personal favorite circle songs/games is the busy bee game.

In a community of learners; classroom management is easier, children come to appreciate their differences, and children build skills of respect and collaboration they will use for a lifetime (Pinnell and Fountas).

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter of Literacy Beginnings. Coming up next is Scott from Brick by Brick! Be sure to check in tomorrow and see what Scott has to say about Chapter Three: Promoting Constructive Learning!

 

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1 Matt June 28, 2011 at 6:18 am

Deborah,

I’m jealous you got to write about this chapter! :) Building a strong sense of community and TRUST is so key, I think many teachers forget how important this is to learning. When my students feel safe and LOVED (by me and each other) that is when the real learning happens!

One activity we LOVE to do around the circle is our Good Morning song… I’m not sure where it came from, I might have just made it up. :) Sitting in a circle we sing:

Good Morning Vanessa,
Good Morning Deborah,
Good Morning Matt,
We’re glad you came today

We then continue around the circle until everyone has been welcomed. It’s a wonderful way to learn names at the beginning of the year and we do it throughout the year too. I wish I could identify the tune for you, but of course I don’t think it’s an actual song. :)

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 28, 2011 at 7:40 am

I love it Matt – sometimes teachers avoid a song where they have to take the time to call each child by name because it takes time. But this is part of building a community! As I read the chapter, I did feel lucky to write it:)

3 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 28, 2011 at 7:41 am

Oh – and Good Morning Matt and Vanessa:)

4 Sharon June 28, 2011 at 9:07 am

I always tell the teachers I mentor, “Relationships first! Children learn best when they feel safe, respected and cared for. I work hard at creating a nurturing environment for children and parents and I strongly believe it pays off in so many ways – behavior, self-esteem, creativity, desire to work, social skills, emotional development and the willingness to take risks and try new things. I think teachers who don’t understand this concept are missing the foundation of early childhood education and I am glad is is being promoted by such respected educators.

5 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I couldn’t agree more Sharon. If we can place relationships first then so much of what we think is hard will start to work itself out. We all do best in an environment where we feel loved and secure and really know, understand, and appreciate each other.

6 Scott June 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

Deborah, I was so excited about this chapter that I couldn’t wait to write about it tomorrow – until I realized that it was Chapter 2 not 3! Building relationships and community is so important. As Matt said, sometimes teachers forget just how important it is for learning.

7 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Oh – I hope I didn’t mess up and write about the wrong chapter:) You can write about it too anyway because it is something that we all value!

8 Andrea June 28, 2011 at 11:43 am

I loved this chapter, too. I think it’s a lot of fun taking the time to build community within each of my classes – I want my students to know that preschool isn’t just a fun place, but that it is their place, too!

9 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Well said – it is definitely their place:)

10 Vanessa @Pre-K Pages June 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Deb- Great ideas and thank you so much for participating, I just love Busy Bees!

Great points Matt, I couldn’t agree more- building community and trust will help kids feel safe. When they feel safe and like they are members of the community they will take more learning risks and soar higher than you ever thought possible!

I love music/fingerplays/chants so much that my original post for chapter 1 was outrageously long because I included all of my favorite songs we sing throughout the day (good-morning, good-bye, clean-up etc). Then I realized that all of that would probably be covered again in other chapters and it looks like I was right :)

Good night Matt, good night Deb, good night Scott, good night Laura, good night Leslie, good night Eilis, and good night Karen (that Walton’s reference tells you how o-l-d I am ;)

11 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 29, 2011 at 12:14 am

Haha – good night Vanessa and all! I am enjoying the book and reading along with you all!

12 Bee-Jai June 29, 2011 at 12:19 am

Thank you to all of you for hosting this study group. I too read the majority of the book in one sitting! I’ve been teaching now for 11 years in all grade levels and as a reading specialist. Last year was my first year doing pre-k and I absolutely LOVE it! Parents were very interested and supportive of my literacy background and my push to move their kiddos towards reading and writing, but in the meantime, I felt like my students didn’t get much of a chance to play. This book IS the answer and I’m so happy to have found it!

13 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 29, 2011 at 12:24 am

Yay Bee-Jai for seeking out the best sources to apply to your classroom experiences. I am so enjoying this book too and look forward to reading more as we go along! Thanks for stopping by:)

14 LaQuetha June 29, 2011 at 7:27 am

I am loving reading this book. I loved how it talked about creating community in your classroom. I have a high value for community in my personal life so I also value it in my classroom. I love the ideas for large group circle time activitie. It also talked about establishing routines and predictable schedule. I have a routine and schedule but I do need to get a visual schedule for the children in my classroom. My personal goal is to do a lot more circle games and to create some a visual schedule for the day.

15 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. June 29, 2011 at 8:00 am

Planning more circle games will be such a treat for your kids! I need a visual schedule too!

16 Leeanne A June 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm

My classroom is all about community – many of our songs and finger plays include children’s names – we have a consistent and reliable routine that is comfortable for all – the entire atmosphere is warm and welcoming – modeling appropriate interactions is priority. I am glad to see this is described in this chapter – I advocate stong community!

17 Tonya July 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I am just now reading your blog Chapter 2. I love, love this. This sounds just like the Responsive Classroom. I have been building a community classroom for a few years now due to the RC book. We start off by greeting each other. At first with eye contact, shaking hands and saying good morning. We then move on to more fun and creative ways to say good morning like a zoom zoom zoom then our hands make a starburst for New’s Years. We have a share time were a few different children each day get to be the speaker and everyone else takes turns making a compliment or asking a question. We sing songs, exercise and play group games to continue building our community. This is all during our morning circle time. So much fun and it gets us ready for the day ahead.

18 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm

You are really on top of things Tonya! What great ways to involve children in your classroom and get them to feel part of a learning community!

19 Jeanne July 10, 2011 at 8:27 pm

This is an exciting chapter! I appreciate the reminder that it takes time and patience to build the classroom community that will provide the safety and comfort for future learning.

I love the list of circle games! There are so many simple ideas, and this chapter makes me appreciate them in a new way. Like the book, my students love name games, too. We say “Higgledee-piggledee bumblebee, won’t you say your name for me?” Then, “Let’s all whisper it”…”Let’s all clap it” (one clap per syllable)… “Let’s all shout it.” They ask to play it all year long. :>)

20 Maria Luz August 26, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Thank you so much. I learn a lot today!

21 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 28, 2011 at 12:02 am

You are welcome Maria!

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