1 Examples of writing in the local environment

Children are exposed to a range of written language well before they start school – for example, on vehicles, shop signs, road directions, food packet labels, advertisements, posters, brand names, political slogans and graffiti, and in leaflets, books, newspapers and magazines. The following activity involves collecting examples of familiar forms of writing in the local environment as the basis for a simple reading and discussion activity in the classroom. It is particularly suited to younger students.

Figure 1 Street showing the ubiquity of environmental print.

Activity 1: Using environmental writing in your classroom

Produce a list of writing in your local environment that your students may be familiar with or find interesting. Look out for examples at home, on your journey to work and within the school grounds. Write the words or phrases that you have collected in large letters on strips of paper and fold them up.

Begin by explaining to your students what you have collected. Pair them up and distribute the strips. You may do this randomly, by getting pairs to pick one from a container, or selectively, by allocating strips according to your students’ ability.

Ask the pairs to unfold their strip, hold it up so their classmates can read it and read out what is written on it. In each case, invite a short discussion about where the writing might be found. Some words and expressions may need an explanation or further input from you.

Give each of your students a blank strip of paper and ask them to look for new words or phrases on their way home from school, in their home or in their neighbourhood over the next week. Use these for a similar pair activity or display them on the wall for other students to read and talk about.

Ask your students to bring into class any printed material they find in their home or village that is no longer being used and make a wall display from it.

If you have access to a camera and printer, you could take close-up photos of examples of environmental writing and print out copies to distribute or display.

Pause for thought

  • Could you use this activity to assess your students?
  • How could you adapt the activity for more advanced students?

Why this approach is important

2 Examples of writing in the classroom