Building a Literacy Culture

If environment did not have significant impact on human behavior, the retail, restaurant, hotel, and entertainment industries would certainly not invest time and energy nor direct their attention to their respective environs. A great example of this sentiment can be ascertained in Disney’s themed-hotel experience. Every detail of the Disney’s hotel environment is specifically designed by Disney’s “Imagineers” to transport you to another place. Likewise, the classroom environment should be designed with the same attention to detail and the same sense of purpose.

The classroom should:

  • provide for physical safety
  • be free of hazards
  • be clean and organized
  • be emotionally safe
  • be a workspace that is varied and flexible to accommodate the community of learners
  • allow for whole group gatherings, collaborative small group work, and differentiated individual practice
  • be well-stocked for student independence.

Students are immersed in purposeful print, starting with a fluid collection of relevant text. Inquiry is supported through carefully selected learning materials. The majority of bulletin boards and anchor charts are created with the students through shared and interactive writing. The print displayed makes the collective and individual thinking of students visible and provides a record of changes in thinking over time. Evidence of such print is abundant, but not overwhelming. Print in the room is, above all, current and useful for student learning.

As we enter an effective literate environment, we encounter students participating in individual and group learning activities that provide significant enough challenge to capture the attention of young learners. Students are interacting with one another in a manner that reflects respect for differences in opinion and collaborative problem solving. Students are emotionally relaxed and intellectually engaged. It is a place that does more than invites us in… it inspires.