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Sarah Abbott

Observation Report: Literacy Environment

February 11, 2016
Primary Language & Literacy

Children begin to develop language from the moment they are exposed to it. Their
understanding of language and accompanying skills continue to progress as a result of social
interaction and comprehensible input (Boyle & Peregoy, 2013). In general, children will come to
interact with language for the most part at home or in school. Teachers are therefore responsible
for creating an environment where students have a multitude of opportunities to interact with
language and literacy in order to further the students’ development. In a classroom, a few
examples of this may include daily routines that highlight the form and functions of literacy,
opportunities to practice literacy informally through play or journaling, or words walls and labels
to display words. During explicit instruction, literacy development generally includes covering
phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary.
My observations at Selinsgrove Elementary School are conducted in a second grade
classroom during the time for their phonics instruction. There are plenty of opportunities for the
students to interact with literacy in the classroom. One occurrence that I witnessed a few times
was when the teacher was reading something out loud and came across a difficult word. She
would ask the students if they knew what it meant and took a few answers. Then if she felt that
they still didn’t fully understand it, she would ask a student to look it up in a dictionary. This was
a good model for students to see because then they will feel that it’s okay to come across words
they don’t know and take the time to look them up. This also meant that dictionaries were readily
available for the students to use if necessary.
There was a variety of literacy elements around the classroom for students to interact
with. Over the board at the front of the room there is alphabet line that shows capital and
lowercase letters, the same in cursive, and a small picture representing the letter. At this age, I
think the main purpose of this would be to display the cursive letters. This was further confirmed
by the students having name tags on their desk with their names written in cursive and the
alphabet in cursive underneath.
Another example of how the students can interact with literacy in the classroom is
through their word wall (which is actually not a wall- it hangs from the ceiling!). Students can

use this to reference common sight words and, in theory, it should be constantly updated so that
the words are relevant and useful. Another tip from the reading which I have never actually seen
in a classroom would be to add the student’s names to the word wall. This way, students can
associate their name and the names of other students with a letter, and then connect that letter to
other words. I definitely this would be helpful for the students, especially because we all know
how important names are to children.
This classroom also has the very typical open-shelf library that features books particular
to the topic or unit the class is working on. This small bookcase is at the back of the room next to
the rug where the class meets for some lessons. When there is time for students to do a quiet
activity, these books are the most readily available. There are plenty, probably hundreds, of other
books in the classroom which are in baskets and organized in a variety of ways. I have also seen
this teacher utilize partner reading a few times, which is a great way for students to have a peer
model correct reading and pronunciation techniques as well as having someone there to monitor
In this classroom, the teacher introduces vocabulary in generally the same way every
time. She has cards that have a sentence with the word highlighted and a picture to represent the
word, then on the back there is a definition and more example sentences. The teacher reads the
sentence, has the class practice pronouncing the word together, then asks the students if they
know what it means. She takes a few answers before reading the definition to the class. When
they have going through each word (about eight, usually) the teacher shuffles the cards and the
students are called on to come to the front and pick one. They say their word, then they have to
put it into a sentence. I think this is a great activity because it is guided practice for actually using
these words in a real context, rather than memorizing them. These words will also be present in
the story that the class will read and go over a little later.
In my opinion, I think this teacher did a good job of creating a literacy-rich environment
for her students. She had useful print around the room for students to reference, such as the word
wall and the available dictionaries. She also created lessons and a schedule that promoted
relevant applications of literacy. I feel that the students in this class would have a pretty
comprehensive understanding of literary forms and functions, thanks to the planning of their


Boyle, O. F., & Peregoy S. F. (2013). Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL: A resource book
for teaching K-12 English learners. Boston, MA: Pearson.