teaching children to read signs in the environment

Reading signs in the environment

Our environment is rich in print. From their earliest days observing the environment, children are surrounded by print that may include words, symbols and images, each portraying meaning in different ways. We see:

  • names of stores
  • signs directing pedestrians and vehicles
  • instructions for entering and leaving buildings
  • labels on items
  • prices on goods
  • timetables
  • banners advertising local events
  • information about landmarks and points of interest

and so the list goes on.

Reading and understanding the plethora of signs is important to independent living and successful negotiation of our print-rich and print-dependent world. Although we often take our ability to do so for granted, one only has to visit a foreign place to realise how much we rely on print to navigate our way.

Helping children to read and understand signs is important, requires no planning and can occur effortlessly whenever parents are out and about with their children. All that is required of the parents is to point them out and explain their meaning.

Very young children can learn to recognise the entry and exit and signs on doors, particularly if colour is used as a clue, and the signs on restroom doors.

reading signs in the environment

Stop signs are easily recognisable as are other road signs such as those indicating speed humps, pedestrian and animal crossings, speed limits and left and right turns. Children quickly come to understand what is happening when the traffic lights change colour, but their learning is always enhanced by parental explanations. On journeys when children might become restless, it can be fun to keep their minds occupied by spotting particular signs.

It doesn’t take children long to recognise the logo of their favourite fast food or ice cream store. Names of other stores frequented by the family can also be pointed out for them to learn to recognise. It can also be useful to explain to children how items are being selected, how you know what the items are and where you locate the price. They can be shown how to use symbols and colours on packaging to identify items they like and may come to recognise (if not read) the names of some of their favourite products.

A fun activity for the first days of school is to provide children with an assortment of environmental print to identify. Often children begin school hoping to learn to read on the first day, little realising how much they can already ‘read’. Reading environmental print boosts their self-esteem and self-confidence by showing what they can do and makes a connection between school and what is familiar to them.

I used to like making an ‘I can read’ book on the first day with my children. I would supply children with a collection of advertisements cut from magazines and product labels that I thought children would readily recognise. I would also print signs, symbols and company logos from the computer.

I would provide children with six to ten pages, each labelled with the words ‘I can read’. Children would then select items they could ‘read’ (recognise) from the collection and paste each onto a page. When they were done, children would proudly read their books to their friends and to me, and take them home to read to their families.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge signs by Charli Mills

I am thinking about signs in the environment as this week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

I could have written a flash about children reading signs in the environment, as I’ve described. Or, still in keeping with my educational theme, I could have written about the signs that teachers look for everyday showing that progress has been made or that misconceptions and misunderstanding exist.

However, the environment worldwide is shouting to us loud and clear, with signs that can no longer be denied, that our climate is changing.

Since the beginning of this year, Australia has suffered unprecedented and catastrophic weather events. Across the country, the land has been ravaged by heatwaves that have seen record maximums in temperatures and bushfires have raged across large tracts of land. While much of the country is suffering from prolonged drought, other areas have been devastated by extraordinary rainfalls and flooding. In fact, some of the farming community, who had been crippled by drought, rejoiced when the rains began, only to lament when the rains didn’t end and the rain and floods caused massive stock losses.

It is of these farmers that I have chosen to write. Some of my family live and raise stock, some sheep and some cattle, in the devastated areas and have suffered enormous losses. The heartbreak is unimaginable. If you would like to help the farmers, you can find out how to do so in this article.

You can read more about the plight of the farmers in these articles:

Flood Affected Farmers Witness Entire Cattle Herds Wiped Out By Catastrophic Deluge

Queensland Farmers Confronted by Stock Losses

Torrential Rain in Queensland is Manna from Heaven for Some Farmers but Catastrophic for others

How to Help Farmers in Flood-Ravaged Queensland

I hope my flash goes a little way to recognising the plight of our stoic farmers.

Ominous Signs

Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

42 thoughts on “Reading signs in the environment

  1. Pingback: Reading signs in the environment — Norah Colvin – SEO

  2. Jennie

    I love your flash fiction with Charlie Mills because you always give two terrific stories, one from your past experiences that lead to the flash, and then a great flash challenge. Thank you for that, Norah! This one was excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. H.R.R. Gorman

    The environment is so important. Here in the US (I saw your references were about Australia), corn is such a boon and a demon. It’s interesting to see how farms are the first to be affected economically by environmental crisis, and yet rural tendencies don’t allow for much faith in things like climate change. This story just shows the sad reality of environmental disaster, of how belief or disbelief can’t save you, and I liked that.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting so wisely. Your final statement is quite profound and I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before – that belief, or disbelief is no protection.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Jules

    There are so many environmental places where this type of hope is soaked or dries up. Annual flooding, fires, lose of property. It is a wonder that hope exists in some of those devastated areas.
    Some places here in the states are still recovering from hurricanes that occurred years ago. And more recently the ‘Camp Fires’ in California. It is sometimes by others good graces that those who have lost do get to rebuild. One can only hope some of the lost farms can be rebuilt.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      It is a wonder, Jules. It’s so heartbreaking. I don’t know how the people find the strength to go on, but I’m pleased the majority do. It’s very sad when they don’t.
      Rebuilding over your way or over here after these devastating events can take years, or even decades, to rebuild.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Jules

        We have a local group that has gone at their own expense every year to this one town in Kentucky to help them rebuild – as that whole town was pretty much devastated. I am sure there are others as well.

        I can’t imagine living at the base of a volcano, or in an earthquake area – but people do. I was watching a history program that showed a whole village that pretty much lived on water in small boats – not like Italy’s Venice that has buildings on man made floating Islands. In the end people can be amazing, living in odd places as well as being helpers to those who have to recover from land or other weather related catastrophes.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          You’ve said it in one, Jules: people can be amazing. There are so many amazing people in the world (you are one of them), we just need to keep our eyes on them and feel the meliorism in their positive vibes.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  5. Hugh's Views and News

    We’ve heard on our news about the heatwaves and the flood in your part of the world, Norah. You may remember that we had a harsh winter in the UK last year, yet this winter has been so mild. My 92-year-old aunt says that last winter was like the ones she remembered. This (and other more recent) winters she blames on climate change, yet many people in the UK prefer the mild winter’s we’ve been having. Sometimes, the signs can be so confusing to us humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. Susan Scott

    I’m so sorry for the devastation your country has or is still going through Norah. Your flash speaks well to it.

    When I went walkabout with young pupils on the school ground, we would note the grass and spell it, the tree, the branch, the sand, the sky and so on … they seemed to get a kick out of it – and English was not their first language ..

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your wishes, Susan. There is so much heartbreak across the country at the moment.
      I love the activity you describe with your children. It sounds such fun. I’m sure they enjoyed it and learned so much from it. What a great way to learn English!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          And that 10 minutes probably generated more spontaneous learning that any 10 sitting in a classroom.
          What a wonderfully challenging and rewarding school in which to work.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
            1. Norah Post author

              Good on you, Susan. You knew what would work best for the children and you went ahead and did it. I would have to say that often I was the only one doing the sorts of things I did, but I tried to make learning both enjoyable and meaningful, connecting it with the children’s world; just as you have done. We are in one mind in that respect. I’m so happy for the children you work with. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
  7. Charli Mills

    I can’t find much to say about classroom projects when my heart feels crushed for your nation, Norah. I’ve witnessed similar suffering from natural disasters in the west, but not on this scale. I know what livestock means to those who live on the land — it’s a partnership, different from a business, a way of life. Devastating. I’m glad you included links for others to help from far away. Sadly, our weather extremes are not going to dissipate. We need to read the signs. A moving tribute to your country in your flash.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      The suffering is awful, Charli, and there’s no end to it in sight. It’s going to take years for the farmers to recover, if indeed they do. I’ve just read that our hotter than average weather is going to continue until May. I can’t say I’m looking forward to that.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  8. Patricia Tilton

    Love your first day school approach to interpreting/reading well-known signs. That should boost confidence and create a lot of fun. I like the idea of adding signs in nature, weather signs etc.– nature smart kids. It has been such a horrific year global weather problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  9. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I like your way of showing children what they can read already on their first day of school. This must be a sure sign they’ve arrived in an empowering environment.
    As for the issues in your flash, it’s tragic, yet the signs of climate change have been plain to see for decades — but all the careerist politicians seem able to do is talk.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  10. thecontentedcrafter

    Your flash this week tells of such a heart wrenching situation Norah – and as it’s a true story happening now I find I have reacted really strongly to your words. I don’t know how much longer we can go on pretending everything is alright when so clearly it isn’t. You make me think that a series of Flash Challenges that tell of local environmental situations could be a powerful way of collating the global situation …….. My best wishes to you and your family who are affected and to all Australians who are riding this devastating wave of climate change.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Pauline. It is dreadful. It defies belief. So many are suffering. Even today, there were widespread bushfires, drought, dust storms, and temperature records broken, again. It is scary to think how wild and devastating these changes are.
      That’s a good idea of yours about the challenges. We’ll have to see what Charli thinks.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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