UIC Early Reading First classrooms use the Opening the World of Learning (OWL) curriculum. This research-based program is a comprehensive, integrated curriculum, specifically designed for preschool students to support their language and literacy learning. OWL seamlessly weaves content that captures children’s natural curiosity about the world into an activity-centered day.
The curriculum develops the children’s language and literacy abilities: vocabulary and oral language development, story comprehension, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, understanding of print, early word recognition, and emergent writing. The curriculum also supports math, science, social studies, the arts, social development, and physical development (see http://www.pearsonlearning.com/content/File/OWL/OWL_ScopeofSkills.pdf for a full description of the skills developed through the curriculum).
The day includes a number of components:
- Story Time develops students’ vocabulary and story comprehension as the class reads and discusses trade books. (Each book is read three to four times over about two weeks, advancing from an initial sense of story and vocabulary to active interaction with the text.) Teachers support key vocabulary with simple definitions and model successful reading comprehension strategies by thinking aloud and providing opportunity for student response as they read.
- Songs, Word Play, Letters builds children’s phonological awareness, alphabet letter knowledge, and vocabulary with fun literacy circle activities.
- Let’s Find Out About It builds students’ background knowledge using information from nonfiction texts and hands-on experiences embedding social studies and science content.
- Let’s Talk About It, an alternating feature, addresses topics of social and emotional importance to children and teachers.
- Centers Time provides children with self-selected activities in which they explore, experiment, deepen their understanding of new concepts, and practice budding skills. Conversations with peers and teachers develop language in the context of center activities.
- Small Groups builds content knowledge with focused small group activities each day to address math, writing, language and print manipulatives, science, and book browsing.
- Conversations With Children develop children’s language, social skills, and concept knowledge through opportunities for informal conversation with teachers.
Six different themes are explored throughout the year: Family, Friends, Wind and Water, The World of Color, Shadows and Reflections, and Things That Grow.
In Unit 1, children will be exploring and talking about families and the many different ways family members relate to and help one another.
- Family members have role names: mother, father, sister, and so on.
- Some family members live together; some live in other places but are still family members.
- Grown-ups in a family take care of the children. Younger children need more care. Older children can help take care of younger brothers and sisters.
- Families do things together that are fun.
In Unit 2, children will be talking about friendship, how to be a good friend, and ways to resolve conflicts with friends.
- A friend is someone we like and want to spend time with. Friends like to do things together. They enjoy each other’s company.
- We can have more than one good friend, and we might like to do some things with one friend and other things with other friends.
- Friends usually share with and help one another.
- Friends may have arguments and get mad at one another. Usually, friends work out their problems and continue to be friends.
- We can make new friends and also keep old friends.
Wind and Water
In Unit 3, children explore wind and water using observations, experiments, and books to learn more about such topics as evaporation, weather, temperature, insulation, rain, and snow.
- We find water in different forms—as rain (liquid), snow and ice (solid), and as steam (gas). Temperature affects the form of water.
- Water soaks into, or is absorbed by, some things but is repelled by others.
- Plants and animals need water to live.
- Wind—moving air—affects things. Lighter things are moved a lot by wind. Heavier things are moved less by wind. The amount of wind changes with the weather.
The World of Color
In Unit 4, children learn about color. Color names, color mixing, stains, fading, camouflage, and color patterns are just a few of the topics covered.
- Color is one thing that makes our world beautiful, both in nature and through art. Different colors and designs appeal to different people.
- Color can carry information.
- Paints and dyes are used to color other things and are mixed to make new colors.
- Different substances can cause stains of different colors.
- Sun and washing often bleach colors—make them fade.
- Color is an identifying feature of many natural things.
Shadows and Reflections
In Unit 5, children explore shadows and reflections, using observations, experiments, and books to learn what makes a shadow and a reflection.
- Reflections are images thrown back from a shiny surface.
- There must be light or there is no reflection.
- Mirrors and still water reflect light well; dull surfaces do not.
- If water is moving, its reflections are blurry, or crooked.
- Objects are opaque, translucent, or transparent.
- Shadows are the dark areas made when an object blocks light.
- The sizes of shadows vary, depending on how close and object is to the light source.
Things That Grow
In Unit 6, children explore how living things grow, using observations, experiments, and books.
- Living things grow and have life cycles.
- Living things reproduce, and the offspring are the same kind of plant or animals as the parents.
- Living things need food, water, and proper living conditions to survive.
- Immature living things need special care.
- Living things interact, and among animals there are predators and prey.