Using Environmental Print

Developing Early Literacy Skills

· Language and Literacy

Learning to connect letters and sounds and combine those letters into words with meaning is a foundational early literacy concept for young children to learn. Incorporating environmental print into the classroom can be an effective way to support children in this area of development.

What is Environmental Print?

Environmental print includes the signs, logos, and words children see every day around them in their environments. Using environmental print builds alphabet knowledge as children begin to recognize letters in a variety of different signs, words, and contexts.

Environmental print is also 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.

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 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 child 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:

  • Add environmental print to a word wall.
  • Fill the home area or play kitchen area with examples of environmental print like 
  • Cheerios boxes and Ritz cracker boxes.
  • Create a matching game where children match environmental print logos to the correct letter (i.e. Target logo to the letter T).
  • Create puzzles out of cereal or cracker boxes that children can solve by putting together.

Regardless of how you incorporate it, environmental print is a great way to create a literacy rich classroom and help children authentically develop emergent literacy skills.

About the Author

Anna Marrs is a former early literacy curriculum developer and a former certified teacher in North Carolina. She holds a Master's in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and now works on the School Partnerships team at Kaymbu.

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