We recently asked our nursery learners to help us answer the following question: What is a recipe? Immediately someone exclaimed, “Steps!” Young children enjoy describing how something is achieved through a series of actions or steps. When our nursery learners engage in dramatic play involving mud kitchens, palaces, and camping, contribute to group meetings to share ideas about conflict resolution, collaborate to add to circle songs and movement games, and work together on things such as kneading dough to printmaking, they also begin to make meaning of dialogue based on recipes, step-by-step instructions, lists, and other examples of procedural text. Outside in the mud kitchen, children can be heard instructing each other on how many cups of water to add to their sand batter. Other friends may be on the playbarn brainstorming on a supply list needed for the road trip in their camper. Another friend may share the sequential steps to a game at circle. A group of learners might join in mixing the ingredients to form bread dough following the steps from a cookbook.
The experience of walking and talking together through a series of steps, diagrams, and other similar text forms promotes visual literacy in our learners. It provides the perfect opportunity for them to explain how to make something or how to begin something in many contexts. As noted in I See What You Mean, by Steve Moline (2012, Stenhouse Publishers), they begin thinking about a meaningful sequence, visual elements and vocabulary that explain the sequence, and observations about what is happening or changing during the process. Here are some examples of visual literacy happening inside and outside of the classroom, in step-by-step instructions of course!