Literacy Overview for Very Emergent Learners

A literacy overview is an important planning step to allow for the best teaching and learning opportunities in a self-contained class. Here is a quick overview of what I plan and a downloadable planner to get you started.

Literacy Overview-What to Include

Making decisions about what to include can be daunting. Where do we begin to consider what to include in the literacy overview? Well of course we start with the curriculum. If you have mandated areas you must include for the different years of school necessarily this must be the starting point. If you don’t, which is my case, then further decisions need to be made. For example what are the priorities for your particular set of students?

Setting Priorities for the Literacy Overview

What is it that you are needing or wanting to teach? Is it for your students to engage and be interactive in their learning? Perhaps it is emergent academics (I hope so). Are you planning a focus on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) if you have non-verbal students? Or, is it to learn to enjoy books/stories with a goal to increase independent pursuits? Do you wish to include a theme? Once these decisions are made then adding detail can begin. Let’s look at what I am planning for in my class for Term 3.

Shared Story

This Term I have decided to not go with a theme. I know! I can’t quite believe it either. This is to support two students who very much dislike reading books and shared story time. The books I have selected are ones that will be taught via core sentence boards and interactive matching pieces; with toys or with sensory items. They also support the teaching of AAC Core Language that I want to focus on and to support some Yes/No IEP goals. The book will be seen by the students but it will not be the entire focus.


Drawn from the Dynamic Learning Maps First 40 and/or core language or functions that I want my students to focus. For example how to reject something in an appropriate way. I look at the books and see what AAC core words work with the books but of course the focus words will be taught all day in all contexts. As this group is in Term 3 of learning I include more than one. If your users are new to AAC, one word to focus on for the week is a great start. Here is a link if you wish to read more about using core words in the classroom.

Term 3 Literacy Overview Plan

Alphabet/Phonemic Awareness

I introduce a minimum of two letters a week and on some weeks three. Why? Because that way I get to teach each letter and the corresponding sound 4 times throughout the year.  If you only teach one letter a week, you will only cover the letters once and a few letters twice. Remembering that we aren’t going to be teaching academic content for the first two – three weeks (that will be for teaching rules and routines). We generally don’t teach new content in the last week of each term or the last three weeks of the year due to fatigue of the students. The other reason to teach more than one letter a week is it allows for sorting opportunities. If you’re only teaching one letter how do you know that the student identifies that letter?

Onset & Rime

Remember in NZ we are into our third term of teaching for the year. I have a student who is now a transitional learner (knows all her alphabet, has a means to communicate, knows how books work, struggles to fully comprehend stories due to an inability to participate with reading, has poor phonological awareness). Due to this I will be exposing all the students to onset and rime activities as a group.

Most students will be focusing on the onset (exposure to beginning letter identification). The more academically advanced student will have an emphasis on both the onset and rime to increase phonological awareness of word families that have the same end sound, as well as they individual phonetic sound of the onset letter. The student will have an individual focus also during literacy rotations.

Predictable Chart Writing

Recognised as a great way to introduce writing and reading with emergent learners. It allows the teacher to incorporate lots of emergent literacy skills such as what a word, letter or a picture is; teaches students to recognise their name in a real context; teaches sentence structure; one-to-one correspondence when reading each word; reading left to right; allows students to take ownership of their part in the writing process and more. Particularly great to teach and encourage the use of AAC.

I use one of the AAC core words of the week as the inspiration when deciding on the sentence for Predictable Chart Writing. See the example for ideas.

My Literacy Overview and Blank Template

I have for you a blank template if you wish to get started jotting down your own ideas. Also included is a copy of mine as a reminder example. I hope my plan gives you a great place to start when thinking about literacy for your very emergent learners.

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Aroha, Ann

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