CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Using Environmental Print to Develop Early Literacy Skills

By Anna Marrs | February 18, 2019

What is Environmental Print?

Teaching students to connect letters, sounds, and keywords is a foundational early literacy practice. Using environmental print can be a highly effective way to do this. Environmental print includes the signs, logos, and words children see every day around them in their environments.

Environmental print is an effective way to help students understand the concept that combinations of letters have meaning. The word McDonald’s means something very tangible to a child: a place people go to eat a hamburger or a delicious ice cream cone. Using environmental print builds alphabet knowledge as children begin to recognize letters in a variety of different signs, words, and contexts.

Environmental Print Alphabet Books

There are many creative ways to incorporate environment print in your classroom. For example, my students and I made an alphabet book full of the environmental print that we collected. Each page represented a different letter and all the environmental print we found associated with that letter. For example, in addition to the McDonald’s logo, our M page also included an M&M wrapper, a Milky Way wrapper, and a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese box. Throughout the year, I encouraged my students to look for and bring in new examples of environmental print. And we continued to add to our book each time a student brought something new.

Our alphabet book lived in our classroom library and students had many opportunities to choose to read it. The book was an exciting way for my students to feel like readers and gain confidence in their reading abilities because every word in the book was familiar to them. Because we continued to add to the book, my students were eager to continue their search for new environmental print at home or in the community. Families got involved in the search too! In this way, literacy became a family affair.

Other Environmental Print Ideas

There are many other ways to incorporate environmental print into the classroom. I’ve heard from other teachers who made environmental print anchor charts or used environmental print on their word walls. One teacher told me she created a game where her students matched the environmental print logo with the correct letter. Another teacher shared that she filled her play kitchen area with examples of food environmental print like Cheerios boxes and Ritz cracker boxes for children to use during free play time. Regardless of how you use it, environmental print is a great way to help students authentically develop emergent literacy skills.

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Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter

In partnership with HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter is a twice a month collection of topical research articles, tips for educators, and unique ways COR Advantage can support the documentation and communication of child development.

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About Anna Marrs

Anna Marrs is a former early childhood and elementary literacy curriculum developer for Bridge International Academies and a former 1st grade teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education and now works on the Partnerships team at COR Advantage.