Back to Basics: Environmental Print Materials

Welcome to our Back to Basics series! In this series we explore some of the foundational methods, practices and terminology for teaching reading and writing. This series is for those new to the field of literacy, beginning tutors or those who would just like a refresher. This week we discuss making use of environmental print materials.

Environmental print is the text we see in our everyday environment. This can include things like signs, logos or labels. Incorporating environmental print materials (EPM) into literacy lessons can help build textual awareness. While there has been extensive research and experience using this material with children, very little is written about using it with adult learners. However, making use of EPM with those with low levels of literacy and English Language Learners can be very valuable.

A 2018 study of adult literacy learners in Pakistan found that “…carefully selected [EPM] content relevant to the interests and demographics of the adult learners could enhance their learning.” Those who studied using environmental print materials outperformed those who did not in recognition, pronunciation and recall. However, the study also showed that environmental print materials must be taught in context to be effective.

“…it is worth spending time with adult learners on developing word recognition skills. At the most basic level, adults who are learning to read need to be able to read very clear, simple notices and instructions, such as those in public places.” – The National Centre of Literacy and Numeracy for Adults

Taking a walk in the community and pointing out and talking about environmental print is a great activity you and your learner can do. However, you can also display environmental print in the classroom by labeling objects, the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), displaying the daily weather, and more. You may have the learner bring examples of EPM, such as logos or advertisements, to the lesson and discuss them. For more information about environmental print and using it with adult learners, check out the resources below.


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