Functional Print

Environmental Print, Classroom Labeling

UDL 2.3 UDL 3.1

Functional Print is an early literacy strategy in which students use a print rich classroom environment to develop print awareness and practice emergent reading. First teachers create a print rich environment by labeling all meaningful classroom areas (e.g. calendar, various centers, library, playhouse etc.) with large print. The teacher includes labels that remain posted throughout the year (e.g. alphabet, name labels on cubbies, name cards for centers), as well as interactive print that is updated ongoing (e.g. calendar bulletin board, pocket chart sentences, graphic organizers, student work). The teacher engages students in practicing reading functional print on a daily basis. Daily practice enables students to make connections between print and it’s meaning and develop confidence as emergent readers.

Implementation Tips

Getting Started
Label all areas of the classroom with signs using large print. Label all fixtures (e.g. teacher desk, student cubbies, library, etc.) and materials (e.g. tubs or baskets with learning center materials) that students interact with. Add icons to labels to help students identify words. Laminate labels for durability. As the year progresses, add predictable chart writing stories, pocket chart words and sentences, graphic organizers, and student work to enhance the print rich environment.
Adding Functional Print
Retain the labels for the permanent areas in the classroom. Rotate the functional print displays (e.g. predictable chart writing stories, pocket chart sentences, graphic organizers, and student work) throughout the year. This way students are practicing the reading concepts that are currently being taught, developing print awareness, and being challenged with new and increasingly difficult text. Updating functional print keeps students motivated and engaged to interact with the text.
Using Graphic Organizers
Display completed graphic organizers such as Thinking Maps, Venn Diagrams, and story maps during the school year. Use the teacher pointer to read and review them frequently. Let students use the pointer to practice reading words from the charts. With ongoing practice, students become familiar with the text (e.g. color words, sight words, character names) and many are able to recognize and copy words in their journals.
Ongoing Practice
Introduce reading and using functional print at the beginning of the year with the calendar and classroom signs. Once the daily routine has been established, use the teacher pointer to have students read the calendar items with you as well as the environmental print around the room. Continue to do this daily and begin adding other print from lessons such as predictable chart writing stories, pocket chart sentences, graphic organizers, and word and alphabet charts.
Integrating into the School Day
Use the Functional Print strategy during the calendar routine, reading, or when there are extra minutes during the day. During calendar time, use the pointer to have the class practice reading familiar print around the classroom. Practice reading functional text as a warm-up activity prior to a reading lesson. The more students practice reading and identifying letters and words, the better they will grow their emergent reading skills.
Practicing in Centers
Provide read and write the room literacy centers to further practice using functional print. For the “read the room” literacy center, gather a set of student pointers and a labeled basket to store them in. Next, model using the pointer to read the print throughout the classroom. For the “write the room” literacy center, gather a set of clipboards, blank paper, and pencils. Model how to write the room, drawing on the functional print.
Playing with Functional Print
Once students become comfortable using functional print, create a “restaurant” in the kitchen play area. Include laminated menus with pictures of the food as well as clipboards with paper and pencils. Model being the customer and using the menu to place an order. Also, model being the waiter and writing the order on the clipboard. Observe students as they play and reinforce emergent reading attempts, such as sounding out words on the menu.


Whole Group Practice
After arrival students take their place on the reading rug in front of the calendar. The teacher uses the pointer to point to the functional print throughout the calendar area (e.g. days of the week, months of the year, weather chart, alphabet letters, colors, shapes, numbers, poems, and nursery rhymes). While the teacher points and reads, the class “echo” reads (i.e. teacher reads a word or phrase and students repeat it.). Students then sing familiar songs about the days of the week and the months of the year while the teacher points to the corresponding word labels. Finally, the teacher re-reads [[|“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”]] and prints the character names next to their images on a story web. Finally, the class reads the character names as the teacher points to them on the story web.
Reading the Room
After several months of daily practice exploring functional print throughout the classroom, the teacher introduces the “read the room” literacy center. The teacher shows the students a labeled tub filled with student pointers and walks through the rules of using the pointer (e.g. pointers touch word labels only). Then the teacher says, “We have been reading the room together every day. We are experts at reading the room. In this center you will have a chance to read the room on your own.” The teacher then models making a circle throughout the room, stopping to point and read as many of the labeled areas and materials as possible (e.g. “Here I see our drawing center. I am pointing to the crayons. Now I am pointing to the colored pencils. Now I am pointing to the markers.). Then, as students are released to centers, the teacher stays at the “read the room” center to provide support and feedback.

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