Academic journal article International Education Studies

Between Preschool and Primary Education-Reading and Writing from the Perspective of Preschool and Primary Teachers

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Between Preschool and Primary Education-Reading and Writing from the Perspective of Preschool and Primary Teachers

Article excerpt

1. Reading and Writing in the Transition between Preschool Education and Primary Education

The transition between educational levels is widely recognized and studied as an important factor in the success of children's learning. As stated by Leppänen, Nieme, Aunola, and Nurmi (2006), the learning performed at a given level of education sets the conditions or appears to be a good predictor of the learning that will follow in the next levels. Data gathered by Brinkman, Gregory, Harris, Hart, Blackmore, and Janus (2013) have shown that literacy competencies in language and mathematics at the beginning of primary education are good indicators of children's future academic performance in these areas.

For the learning of reading and writing, the beginning of primary education is also a critical period that is particularly sensitive in children's lives. It has been understood as a key moment for children, families and teachers because it is the "beginning" of formal and more structured learning. This moment, which has a great impact on children's school lives and on the adults who interact with them, begins prior to the entry into primary education, as noted by Pickett (2005). At the preschool level, as a result of curricular changes that have taken place in the area of reading and writing over the last few decades, the development of literacy competencies has begun to receive greater weight and pressure to transition children with a set of competencies that are essential for their future academic performance.

In Portugal as in other countries, this reality is related to a change in recent decades in the paradigmatic approach to written language, oriented by investigations in this study area that have pointed toward the knowledge and competencies that children, even before entering preschool education, already have. There has been a gradual shift from the perspective that reading and writing are the intervention area of primary teachers to the perspective of emergent literacy in early childhood education, which is not always fully understood and faithfully implemented in preschool (Guimarães & Youngman, 1995; Santos, 2007; Santos & Alves-Martins, 2014). Similar to the study conducted by Ferreiro (1997), recent studies have indicated the presence of two different perspectives on thinking about reading and writing in the pedagogical practices of Portuguese teachers. First is the reading readiness perspective, which is associated with the idea that for the child to learn reading and writing, a set of competencies identified as prerequisites must be developed. These competencies are acquired through activities related to audio-visual discrimination, memory, vocabulary development, listening ability, visual-motor skills, and the knowledge of letters and their respective sound values. This perspective involves teaching writing as a transcription technique, and it is somewhat focused on the adult as the person who has knowledge of what it means to read and write. Second is the emergent literacy perspective, which is child-centered and focuses on the needs and interests of children. This perspective considers the child's contextualized use of writing as the starting point for learning, gives legitimacy to the conventional reading and writing behaviors of children, respects what they know, and encourages the teacher to create environments that are rich in reading and writing, expanding the opportunities for children's contact with diverse literacy experiences (Guimarães & Youngman, 1995; Mcmahon, Richmond, & Reeves-Kazelskis, 1998; Miller, 2001; Santos, 2007).

In the teacher's pedagogical practice, these same studies have demonstrated the existence of a set of contradictions and inconsistencies in the manner in which teachers think about written language at the preschool level of education. According to those studies, these contradictions occur, for example, between the types of activities that teachers claim to implement, how they approach writing, and the competencies that they seek to develop in children, between the existing curricular guidelines and the manner in which they interpret them or between the role of writing in the education of children and the age considered key to the beginning of a study in this area. …

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