OELP’s innovations for literacy and learning inside schools are aimed at Classes 1 and 2. This is based on research that has convincingly shown that influences in the early years of a child’s life can have a lifelong impact and consequently early interventions play a major role in building strong foundations for a child’s future. The OELP innovations for Early Literacy and Language Learning have evolved organically through a continuous engagement, inside classrooms over the past eight years within an ongoing process of engagement; understanding, reflection and review. We have been working with children from Grades 1 and 2 to try and develop their spoken and written language, thinking and questioning skills. This has involved raising our expectations so that children are challenged to think and respond, and learn meaningfully.
Our understanding is that:
A. Young children learn with fullness when they experience:
- 1) Emotional well-being; acceptance and they feel safe and not afraid to make mistakes.
- 2) Social competence and a positive self concept which enables them to participate. actively and meaningfully in learning through natural as well as planned interactions.
- 3) A responsive environment that allows each child to think and learn in ways that are meaningful and so enables all children to unfold their emerging cognitive abilities.
- An enabling learning environment for early literacy is based on :
- 1) Informal and meaningful reading and writing experiences which help children realise that reading and writing are ways of expressing their ideas, thoughts, feelings and understandings and of sharing the ideas, thoughts and feelings of others. In such an environment children begin to make inner connections with reading and writing as something meaningful that is connected to them and their lives
- 2) An understanding that while teaching children how to read, it is vital to focus on getting children to want to read.
- 3) A print environment in which children get exposure to a variety of displayed texts, so that through active engagement with the print in their surroundings, they “pick up” many concepts of print and written language naturally. However, written language is more distant and rule bound than spoken language and therefore it is essential that print exposure in the learning space is supported with a programme for oral language development; meaningful engagement with written texts and a structured programme for skill building.
Our conceptual framework
The OELP conceptual framework has evolved over a period time through sustained and intensive engagement inside classrooms and informal learning spaces. This has included engagement with various stakeholders, such as children; school managements; educators, teachers, parents and community. Our idea has been to align our early literacy and learning foundation programme with the main stream programme while ensuring that it is grounded and contextualised. This has resulted in a period of tentativeness in our pedagogies and classroom practices, with flexibility and constant modification and adaptations from time to time to accommodate new learning. Scalability has been an overriding concern through our evolutionary process, so we have tried to keep the frameworks simple and not resource intensive.
We believe we have now achieved a fair degree of stability in our innovations. These are being presented within three broad categories as follows:
- Setting up the classroom learning environment
- Implementation of OELP’s Foundation Programme through the Four Blocks Framework
- Learner tracking and programme monitoring
Essential components of the OELP Innovations
- Teaching of a variety of skills and strategies simultaneously, rather than sequentially. These have been clubbed by us into the following three skill sets:
- Foundation skills for school based learning
- Foundation skills for reading and writing
- Higher order thinking skills
All the above skill sets are addressed simultaneously, rather than sequentially, from the very earliest grades, through OELP’s adapted version of the Four Block Framework.
Understanding that reading and writing are developmental processes in which scribbling, drawing, invented spelling, pretend reading are all recognised and built upon as natural and emergent stages of learning to read and write.
- Building on the children’s oral language and listening skills and using the children’s home languages as a resource inside the classroom.
- Providing opportunities for children to use reading and writing in a variety of meaningful and purposeful ways inside the classroom, as well as outside in the course of their daily life activities.
- Building on each child’s real world experiences preferably through thematic units that allow children a clear context for concept formation and to allow listening, speaking, reading, writing and thinking to emerge through an in depth engagement. The themes can be linked to curricular content, if other resources are unavailable.
- Providing a print rich environment with a variety of planned and informal opportunities to read and write in different ways.
- Opportunities to build a love for children literature by teaching children to appreciate and respond to the deeper aspects of literature.
- Planned opportunities for children to think and reflect upon the texts / stories that they read and respond critically to them in a variety of ways, such through questioning, reasoning; relating to their own experiences, imagining, predicting, expressing opinions and listening to the opinions of others and so on
- Regular learner tracking.