Early Learning Literacy Walkthroughs

By Corinne Eisenhart and Elisabeth Grinder-McLean
November 2013, Volume 37, Issue 3

Oral language provides the foundation for students to read and write—but many of America’s students enter kindergarten with language delays or deficits. To address the achievement gap, principals need to be aware of the importance of language experiences in early learning classrooms. Teachers of young children should provide child-focused learning environments that build language skills. Use this walkthrough template to support teachers as they establish lan­guage-rich early learning environments.

What Principals Should Know

Frequent, brief visits to class­rooms help principals better under­stand the dynamics of an effective early learning curriculum. When conducting early learning walkthroughs, principals should reflect on these questions: What are the children doing? What is the teacher doing? How does the classroom environment encourage language and literacy development?

Early Learning Walkthrough Template

When conducting early learning walkthroughs, consider using the Literacy Walkthrough Template for Early Learning Classrooms. The guide includes three foci:

  • Focus on Learning. This targets children’s actions. What are the children doing?
  • Focus on Teaching. This directs attention to instruction. What is the teacher doing?
  • Focus on Classroom Environment. This provides the look-fors when con­sidering the learning environment.

A principal might focus his or her attention on learning during one visit and the classroom environment on another visit. This walkthrough instrument is designed to support and supervise teachers, not to evalu­ate them. After completing the class­room visit, use the walkthrough tool to guide conversations with teachers about building and refining their instructional skills to enhance chil­dren’s language and literacy skills.

Prin­cipals who recognize the facets of an interactive, language-rich classroom can help teachers put students on the road to literacy.

Download the walkthrough template here.

Corinne Eisenhart, a former elementary school principal, is an associate professor of educational leadership at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Elisabeth Grinder-McLean is an early childhood specialist at the Goodling Institute for Research and Family Literacy at the Pennsylvania State University.

Adapted from Early Learning Walkthroughs, Principal, November/December 2013.

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