A literacy approach “requires maintaining equilibrium across the language arts domains (reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing), ensuring students have access to instruction in foundational skills (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency) and meaning making (vocabulary and comprehension), and varying instructional delivery modes (direct, dialogic, and independent)” (Fisher et al., 2020, p.2). SEE takes a multi-faceted approach to language and literacy development. Advanced literacy instruction rooted in Big Ideas – focus on goals and objectives; calls out dose and duration; specific strategies. All grounded in Big Ideas. Our approach focuses on making distinctions between meaning and code-based skills.

The core of the SEE literacy approach, developed in collaboration with expert literacy researchers is a set of essential practices, or evidence-based, necessary daily experiences for young children to develop as strong emergent readers, writers, and communicators. Below, you will learn about these essential practices, how often to incorporate them, and how they support child outcomes in literacy development. The table below outlines the essential practices, developmental domains and child outcomes addressed by each practice, and how often the practices need to be used to support children’s language and literacy learning.

Oral Language and Concept Development

Oral Language and Concept Development is targeted during daily Morning Meeting routines and Read Alouds, and is extended during play, mealtimes, and routines throughout the day.

Morning Meeting

Morning meeting is a vital part of the day socially and emotionally, as children and teachers come together to greet each other and start their day together, and is also an integral time for cultivating language. Routines such as greetings, and morning message develop expressive and receptive language skills to ask questions, share ideas and concepts, and offer children modeling and opportunities to use conventions of speech. See the Morning Meeting guide for more detail and examples of morning meeting routines.

Interactive Read Alouds

Interactive read alouds are conducted at least once daily, for 10-20 minutes. Books should be selected with an anti-bias lens from a range of genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) and provide culturally affirming and inclusive representation of diverse people and lived experiences. Read alouds may take place during a whole group time or in small groups, or both. Dialogic reading prompts using the CROWD approach (Whitehurst et al., 1988) are used to pose a range of questions that engage children’s thinking before, during, and after reading. Making and reading class books is encouraged. Whenever possible, providing and creating books in children’s home languages, and inviting family members to read books in their languages, can also make read aloud time an opportunity for cultivating and valuing bilingualism. See the Read Aloud guide for more.

Vocabulary and Concept Development

Vocabulary and concept development is further developed throughout the day during play, routines, and conversations. Teachers use accurate, rich vocabulary to describe objects, actions, and events during choice time and other play activities, modeling rich vocabulary use and repeating key vocabulary words introduced during read alouds as appropriate.

Fine Motor, Drawing, and Writing

Fine Motor, Drawing, and Writing experiences support development of hand strength, bilateral coordination, and the ability to cross the midline – skills essential for becoming a competent writer. The following strategies support children to develop a proper grip for using a variety of mark-making tools, and foster the development of dexterity, fine motor control, and coordination needed to draw and write with detail and accuracy.


Handwriting in SEE Every Child draws on the Handwriting Without Tears approach (Learning Without Tears, 2017).

Fine Motor Development

Fine motor development is fostered through choice time activities, including opportunities for cutting, transferring small materials, stringing beads, tracing letters and numerals with fingers, and shape punching. The classroom Writing Center is also a place for children to develop fine motor skills, as they use their emergent writing and mark-making skills to create labels, small books, notes to friends and family, and other written materials of their choice. See the Fine Motor Opportunities Guide for more.

Sensory and Art Experiences

Sensory and art experiences, such as playing with playdough, clay, shaving foam and other materials also strengthen children’s fine motor skills. Integrating open-ended art opportunities for children every day during choice time invites not only fine motor development, but also support creativity, problem solving with materials, and encourages imagination.

Expressive and Written Language

Expressive and Written Language is fostered in SEE Every Child as children use their own voices, written words, or illustrations to describe experiences, tell stories, and communicate information. The following strategies support children’s understanding of written symbols and print in the environment, and support them to generate their own writing as they learn about content, communicate to others, and develop their identities as authors.


Journaling is an ongoing practice in SEE classrooms. Providing each child with their own journal offers a recurring structure for drawing, dictating, and writing stories about themselves or stories they invent, things that happened in their lives, or ideas they want to share.

Class Books

Class books can be created based on storybooks, class walks or outings, children’s lives and interests, etc.

Storytelling and Story Acting

Storytelling and Story Acting, a practice inspired by the work of Vivian Gussin Paley (Cooper, 2011; Paley, 1997), involves children dictating stories completely of their choosing, and then acting out these stories together as a class. This practice has numerous benefits, including supporting narrative and vocabulary development, teaching concepts of print, bringing children’s funds of knowledge into the classroom, and fostering a sense of community and belonging.

Environmental Print

Environmental Print, such as picture schedules, labels, signs, charts, and daily morning messages are all important models of print that are of interest to children and accessible to them in the classroom environment. Involve children in creating and reading these many rich sources of print that holds meaning they care about.

Message Center

In the classroom Message Center, children write small messages to each other and to family and friends. A miniature post-office encourages children to send messages, and to apply their developing expertise as new writers to a motivating, authentic, and playful endeavor.

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Phonological and Phonemic Awareness is an essential component of early literacy. Key skills that children need to acquire in this area include: orally discriminate and identify sounds; understand and identify rhymes; segment syllables in spoken words; visually discriminate and identify letters and sounds; understand that written words are made up of individual letters and sounds, and that sentences are made up of words.

Songs and Chants

Songs and chants, sometimes accompanied by song charts, are used daily so children hear and enjoy playing with words and sounds in words. Songs and chants, like the AlphaChants resources, engage children in playing with initial sounds, syllables, and rhymes.

Learning About Sounds and Alphabet Letter Symbols

Learning about sounds and alphabet letter symbols is a critical skill that is taught through word play games, songs, and manipulative materials such as sandpaper letters, and the I Spy game. Children learn the sounds associated with letters, letter names, eventually connecting sounds and symbols.

Word Knowledge and Invented Spelling

Word knowledge and invented spelling are supported as children learn how to recognize and play with their names and the names of their peers, exploring environmental print around the classroom, manipulating song charts (e.g. by circling or substituting key words), playing with key vocabulary related to ongoing projects, and eventually using invented spelling to write messages, signs, and labels to classmates, friends and family.