Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work: use symbols in play to represent and make meaning. begin to make connections between, and see patterns in, their feelings, ideas, words and actions, and those of others.
“Reading” environmental print is an important step in understanding that words have meaning. Children proudly recognize familiar icons or symbols in their environment, such as a red hexagon “STOP” sign or the “Golden Arches” of McDonalds. *NOTE: Children “read” the symbol (shape) before they read the words.
Printed letters are also symbols, symbols of sounds and spoken words. Combinations of symbols form words. Print, thus, begins to have meaning. This boy, Wesley recognizes the letter “W,” which is the first letter of his name. Each time he sees a word that begins with “W,” Wesley announces, “That’s my name!” This announcement clearly represents the extent of Wesley’s current knowledge about print and demonstrates how “meaning-making” works and happens one step at a time.
Can you add other examples that children would be familiar with? Try labeling familiar objects in the child’s environment to help them begin to make connections between the symbol, shape and word.