SEEL was developed in 1998 by Drs. Barbara Culatta and Dana Kovarsky with the goal of helping preschool children with language delays learn to read. SEEL has now developed into a program that helps not only impaired readers, but advanced and typically developing readers as well.

SEEL is a literacy approach designed for first grade, kindergarten, and pre-kindergarten ages. SEEL is an acronym representing the following:

  • Systematic. Literacy skills are purposefully organized and explicitly taught.
  • Engaging. Children are motivated to learn by participating in playful, meaningful activities.
  • Early. Activities and lessons are consistent with developmental characteristics of young children, adapted according to individual needs.
  • Literacy. Children acquire foundational literacy skills that lead to reading and writing success.
Learning to use SEEL

SEEL uses these five principles to open literacy to children:

1. Explore learning through conversation.

Guide children in learning through conversations, encouraging all to participate. Through informal and spontaneous talk, you can introduce, apply, and practice literacy skills in natural and meaningful ways. Listen carefully to children’s answers so you can understand and build on their individual ways of thinking and learning.

2. Teach explicitly what, why, and how.

Children learn more easily and retain more if they know what they are going to learn, why it is important, and how it will be presented. If you teach skills directly and clearly and then help children respond and participate during lessons and activities, they will be able to use what they are learning in a variety of situations—in and out of the classroom.

3. Provide frequent and varied practice opportunities.

Avoid wasting time with too much teacher talk or random student activity. Choose tasks, actions, games, and conversations that give children as much practice as possible with the skills and content they are learning. Large or small group sessions, centers, snack time—any time can be learning time as playful experiences with letters and sounds are woven throughout a child’s day.

4. Motivate children with playful practice.

Play is the “work” of young children. Literacy can be fun if teachers are playful, encouraging, and creative. SEEL stories, lessons, and activities attract children’s attention, motivate them to participate, and hold their interest. Sounds, letters, and words can be listened to, played with, chanted, sung, danced, crafted, or acted out. There is a place in SEEL for all children’s talents, strengths, and preferences.

5. Make meaningful connections.

Learning is much more effective when skills and content relate to what children know, experience, and think about. Make connections with familiar themes, interesting books, and shared experiences that help children remember what they learn.

Learn more about why SEEL works.