Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by The Louise S. McGehee School.
Creating Lifelong Readers and Writers With McGehee’s Language Arts Program
Here at McGehee, we love hearing from young alumnae about their success in college. Whether it’s because of their self-confidence, their leadership, or their high levels of academic achievement, McGehee graduates always feel prepared for whatever might come
next. A large part of their success can be attributed to McGehee’s robust Language Arts program, and we’d like to tell you a little more about how the skills they learn in their earliest years at McGehee can build the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.
All of our Pre-K classes start in a similar fashion: students engage in a rotation of small group activities (“centers”) that focus on specific skills and content areas. The real magic of Pre-K at McGehee happens when our teachers notice students taking a special interest in a particular focus area and provide opportunities for further enrichment. After observing their students’ love of making their own books during center time, the Pre-K Purple Ladybug teachers decided it was time for the girls to take this project to the next level. And thus, A Study of Books was born.
To get started, students made a class web about everything they know about books. We know the important role that pattern recognition can play in early learning, and our teachers were prepared to support our students in their exploration of all the different patterns that books present—parts of books, types of books, how stories have a beginning, middle, and end, as well as the main story elements of books.
Painted rocks and story cards helped our Ladybugs to imagine, discuss, and understand plot development. For this activity, each student picked a card and added their unique idea to a group story. Next they discussed characters and illustrations of characters. Before the day was through, they had even illustrated their own characters!
After a visit to the Lower School Library, students learned all about how books are organized and about the many different types of books there are in the Library, from fiction to nonfiction and everything in between. For their research, they brought a selection of books back to the classroom, including a dictionary, atlas, chapter book, graphic novel, medal award winning books, and even a cookbook.
To support the girls’ interests in books, the teachers read a chapter book everyday at rest time. Most recently, it was Charlotte’s Web. Reading chapter books aloud to a child introduces them to equally enriching yet more complex storytelling that can help children to develop inferential reading skills and increase their attention span for longer stories. It also strengthens vocabulary and comprehension.
To make the girls’ learning visible, the class mapped out all the story elements to display on the bulletin board. Using Charlotte’s Web as an example, each girl made a character from the book using any materials they wanted. The students were very creative and made 2D and 3D characters from paper, cotton balls, yarn, tissue paper, and model magic. Teachers divided the class into two groups to make the settings of the barn and the fair. The girls collaborated with each other, deciding what they wanted to include in their setting, and worked for many days as authors and illustrators to create their very own stories. As a culmination to their Study of Books, each girl “published” her very own book.
When these early literacy initiatives are combined with our Fundations curriculum and our Handwriting without Tears program, our Pre-K students are poised for success when they begin to discover our Little Books program in Kindergarten. Every morning in our Kindergarten classrooms, students read one-on-one with a teacher, using a leveled-reader (a “little book”) that matches their emerging ability. Our Kindergarteners are able to practice their skills every morning, learning one-to-one correspondence and tapping out sounds, ultimately gaining confidence and fluency. Perhaps most importantly, our Little Books program helps to foster a love of frustration-free reading, preparing our students to move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”
McGehee’s Language Arts program focuses on developing core reading and writing skills allowing students to see themselves as lifelong readers and writers. These current Pre-K students will one day be writing their senior research paper, college essays–who knows, perhaps another book? The McGehee journey begins in Pre-K and the experience lasts a lifetime. Schedule a personal tour today.