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Environmental Print

Definition: Environmental Print is the print of everyday life: The symbols, signs, numbers, and colors found in McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Exxon, Pizza Hut, 7-Up, and on websites, for instance. They offer excellent entry points for young children to begin to learn to read, write, and do math.

Resources for environmental print are: Books, billboards, calendars, catalogs, comics, containers, coupons, flyers, greeting cards, grocery stores, journals, labels, magazines, menus, newspapers, office supply packaging, posters, recipes, road signs, snack bags, telephone books, and websites.

The reasons to use environmental print: It is everywhere and, because it is, it is a natural starting point to teach young children to read, write, and do math. Children have a concrete connection to everyday print. They "read" it within the context of their everyday experiences--their interests and backgrounds. It bridges the gap between the functional print of school and the print outside. It doesn't cost a lot of money to use.

Long Term Goal: To move children in a comfortable way from relying on the contextual clues in environmental print to the functional print of school.

Environmental Print (EP) Activities

Below is a list of activities that can be used in Pre-K, K or First Grade. The activities help review and practice reading skills. They can be used in a whole-, small group, or in an independent setting. The activities and parent's letter in this section are followed by drawings of the activities.

The activities are varied in difficulty. Decide which ones are best for your class or for your child. In a classroom setting, set up an EP center for use all year long. An EP center makes a wonderful literacy area.


  1. Read from a reading bag: Encourage the children to bring EP from home. Store the print in individual, re-sealable clear-plastic bags. Label each bag with the child's name.
  2. Match letters in EP: Have the children find letters on one EP. For example; find all the "g"s or "br"s on a Colgate toothpaste box.
  3. Match identical EP: Use two identical EP for matching (like matching cereal or soap-box letters). Put them in a basket and have the children find match them.
  4. T-Shirt reading: Have EP T-shirt day. Ask the children to wear T-shirts that advertise a product or service. Set aside time for each child to read each other's T-shirts.
  5. Use EP on the word wall: Put the 26 EP letters on the word wall.
  6. Find upper-, lower-, and mixed-case EP letters: Put the letters in a basket for the children to separate into the categories (i.e., upper, lower, mixed).
  7. Find EP consonants and vowels: Examine them
  8. Find EP consonant blends: Examine them
  9. Look at EP word configuration: Make word frames to fit the words. The children match the word frame to the EP word.
  10. Make an "Eat the Alphabet" book: Have the children collect EP that of foods that can be eaten; put the book next to the corresponding alphabet letter.
  11. Make books of cereal covers, street signs, and storefronts.
  12. Build EP word families: Find words that fit into a family of words you are studying.
  13. Find rhyming words on one or more EP.
  14. Sort by beginning and ending sounds: Find a variety of EP that has different beginning and ending sounds; ask the children to sort it.
  15. Make a community "I Can Read" chart: Have the children glue on the chart the words they can read.
  16. Use EP substitution in a sentence: Write or dictate a sentence and use EP words to substitute for a word in the sentence.
  17. Find consonant diagraphs in EP.
  18. Alphabetize EP: Collect EP for the children to alphabetize.
  19. Sort by syllables: Collect EP words with different numbers of syllables. The children can sort the words by number of syllables. Also, find words that have "ing" and "s" endings. The children sort the word by how the ending of the word is changed.
  20. Use non-standard (i.e., made up) English words: Find created EP for a product or company, like Lexus or Exxon.
  21. Find and use alliteration in EP.
  22. Use short- and long vowel examples of EP.
  23. Find hard and soft "c" and "g" sounds in EP and other "c" and "g" sounds; have the children sort them.
  24. Find diphthongs in EP.
  25. Find vowel diagraphs in EP
  26. Find abbreviations in EP; ask the children to decode the meaning.


  1. Count the number of EP examples in their reading bags or count the words or letters in an EP title.
  2. Sort by EP attributes, like shape, size, color, and font size.
  3. Combine EP subjects: (i.e., like; 3 EP (toys) + 2 EP (food) = 5 EP items)
  4. Find the numbers on EP, like reading the bar code or product information.
  5. Make patterns or find repeating patterns in EP.
  6. Find number sequences in EP.
  7. Seriate EP by size and have the children put them in order from smallest to largest and largest to smallest.
  8. Make puzzles from part and whole pieces of EP.
  9. Examine product information like numbers, per cent, compare weights and content (more/less); find a specific number; like, find all the "3s".
  10. Graph EP by attribute.
  11. Make Venn diagrams using EP; for example, which EP has a triangle in the logo? A circle? Both a triangle and a circle?
  12. Add the numbers on food and product coupons.


Write or trace EP: trace words or letters on the EP or write them on a separate sheet of paper. Put EP in journals In small groups (3-4 children) write a class story using two or three examples of EP. Each child can pick her own EP example to use. Draw, design and write your own EP. Write stories about one EP, like Pizza Hut Write a class book with each child contributing a page. Each child can glue on a page his EP example and tell about his experience with or knowledge about the product.

Games and Puzzles

  1. Play EP Lotto, Bingo, Concentration,
  2. Play Tic Tac Toe with E"X"it and St"O"p signs
  3. Make EP puzzles


Make EP Collages Cut EP from newspaper and magazines Paint a picture background around an EP example glued to a large sheet of paper.


  1. Tape EP of store signs to block constructions (buildings and structures)
  2. Use EP street signs at street intersections (an imaginary block city)
  3. Use store bags for storage that are imprinted with EP.

Dramatic Play

  1. Create a grocery store. Use coupons and newspaper ads for pretend shopping at the grocery store. Place newspaper ads on the wall around the "new" grocery store.

Field Trips

Take trips:

  1. Around the school building to find labels and signs
  2. To other classrooms to read their EP
  3. To the parking lot to examine signs
  4. Around the neighborhood to examine street signs
  5. To the parking lot to find car tags and bumper stickers
  6. To the grocery store or Wal-Mart, K Mart, or Target
  7. To McDonald's, Pizza Hut, or KFC


Use the two songs below along with your EP study. Other EP songs are on the market, as well, so use those, too. If you do not know the tune, use it as a poem.

See if your children can come up with a Dr. Pepper or a K-Mart song (children are usually pretty good at making-up music).

Environmental Print Song
By Sharon MacDonald (from the Tying Shoes and Other Musical Feets CD)

Labels on boxes, cans, and jars
Signs on buildings, buses, and cars.
Words and pictures on store bags
Logos on napkins and price tags

Can you read them? Look and see!
A "Lost Dog" sign nailed to a tree.
Everything is spelled all around.
Follow that sign that says Playground.

Jiff, Crest, 7-Up and Spam
Target, Kraft, and Smucker's Jam
Jiff, Crest, 7-Up, Spam
Target, Kraft, and Smucker's Jam

Signs on the corner, up on a pole,
Stop, Yield, Exit, and Manhole.
Park, Bump, Danger, and One Way.

Let's read the signs that we can say.

Labels on boxes, cans, and jars.
Signs on buildings, buses, and cars.
Words and pictures on store bags
Logos on napkins and price tags

Jiff, Crest, 7-Up and Spam
Target, Kraft, and Smucker's Jam
Jiff, Crest, 7-Up, Spam
Target, Kraft, and Smucker's Jam

Restaurants, Signs, Food, and Stuff
By Sharon MacDonald (from the Tying Shoes and Other Musical Feets CD)

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut
Long John Silver, too
KFC and Red Lobster
You eat and then you're through.

Entrance and One Way Street
A Railroad Crossing sign
Do Not Enter and Stop
Are signs I see sometimes.
Cheerios and Grape Nut Flakes
Special K is neat
Crispix and Shredded Wheat
Are cereals I eat.

Almond Joy and M & Ms
Hershey's Kisses, too
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Are candies shared with you.

Parent Letter

Dear Parent(s),

Your child will start off this school year reading what we call environmental print. It is the print of everyday life like the print samples on this page. Your child "reads" it everyday and typically he or she is comfortable with it. It is rich with experiences unique to him and to your family: like going out to eat.

The class will move to a formal reading program later in the school year. Reading environmental print is a good place for your child to begin to learn to read.

To support the environmental-print reading program at school I want you to save labels. Here is how. When your child eats at his favorite restaurant, buys a toy at his favorite store, eats his favorite cereal, or buys his favorite brand-name shoe, save the label. Send it to school. I will add it to your child's "reading bag." The bags will hold all of the examples of environmental print that your child has brought to school.

We will read print from the reading bag daily, so send examples just as soon as you can. Save those labels!

Thank you,
Your Child's Teachers

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