Environmental Print

green road sign
Photo Source: Brenton W. Cooper

Your new-to-literacy preschoolers encounter words every day as they look through their favorite books, help their mom or dad collect the mail, and even as they take a ride through their neighborhood. Along with sight words, introduction and exposure to environmental print is important to creating successful readers as it will help them make connections between the phonics of these known words and new words and allow them to become more fluent readers.

This literacy lesson created by Scholastic's Early Childhood Today will help you introduce the concept of environmental print to your students. Additionally, students will learn how to work together, practice writing skills, hone the fine motor skills needed to use a camera, and use critical thinking skills. These Are the Words in My Neighborhood

Begin by taking your students on a tour around the neighborhood. Charge them with the task of locating words displayed around the community. Remind them to look for street signs, road signs, signs of local businesses, etc. Upon encountering the sample of environmental print, have students copy the word onto their lists, then take turns recording the word with the camera.

After returning to the classroom, discuss the types of words encountered and why they're important:

  • Road Signs. They create order in the community by reminding motorists what is expected of them/what to expect while driving (e.g. "Stop", "Yield", "Road Construction Ahead"). Adhering to road signs helps to keep community members safe.
  • Street Signs. They provide points of reference and order in the community. Because each street has a unique name, when one person talks about "Main Street" their audience can know exactly where they're referencing (or find it, if they don't!). Additionally, they offer order, allowing officials and businesses to split the community into workable sections (e.g. police /EMS response zones, delivery areas, mail routes, bus routes, etc.).
  • Business Signs. They designate business locations and sometimes they provide insight into the industry or type of business being carried out (e.g. Sunnyside Automotive; the name lets consumers and community members know that this business deals with cars).
  • Other Signs. At local businesses you might encounter closed/open signs or hours of business, etc. Be sure to discuss the reason for each sign as the necessity for each will likely differ.

This exercise will help your students become more aware of their surroundings, demonstrate the necessity of environmental print, and strengthen literacy skills! Be sure to visit the full post for more activities and lesson extensions!