Take-Home Literacy Bags...Stephanie Gokarn
How can I enhance student literacy skills while connecting home and school?
The purpose of Literacy Bags is to connect school and home and increase the parents' knowledge about their child's abilities. The bags I created for kindergarten or grade one classrooms are meant to enhance and extend the curriculum while providing opportunities for children, together with their parents, to practice recently acquired skills and knowledge.
I am passionate about literacy, and knew that I wanted to find some way to try to build on the literacy skills of my students. Literacy development begins long before children enter school. High frequency of home storybook reading is related to readiness to benefit from formal literacy instruction and increased motivation to interact with books and to learn to read. While most parents want to be able to help teach their children effective reading and writing skills, many are unsure of how to provide optimal support. Literacy bags can help parents by giving them tools: such as how to ask questions, what types of questions to ask, and how to develop comprehension skills in their children.
I started my project by designing my inquiry question, and then determining what tools I wanted to include in my literacy bags. I then started searching online and in the Lethbridge School District's curriculum lab for exemplars of literacy bags. I decided to take a practical approach and use my school's library from which to build the activities for each bag. From these stories I created several hands-on activities which were designed for parents and children to work through together. Each bag took considerably longer to create than I had anticipated, and became much more in depth than I had originally intended.
I decided to make my literacy program optional for my students and parents. I did not want anyone to feel compelled to participate in a program that they did not feel passionate about. There has been great positive feedback from the students and parents who have chosen to take part in this program. The students come back to school with the projects they have created and are filled with pride at their accomplishments. It has, overall, improved my relationships with both my students and their parents. I have been able to question the students at deeper, more meaningful levels in order to properly assess their comprehension and to then modify my lesson plans in order to accommodate their needs in more precise ways. This project has greatly improved my own abilities to provide explicit instruction, guided practice, and collaborative learning, which are essential to a balanced literacy program.
Stephanie worked as a speech and language educational assistant before completing her Education degree with a special focus in early childhood education.