Friday, 28 October 2016

Writing For Kids

As parents you can support your child significantly with their writing skills by doing simple activities at home. It takes time and practise for children to learn letter formation and be able to write words and sentences independently.

Holding a pencil

Every child is different but most children are not ready to practise formal writing with a pencil or pen until at least three and a half years of age. However, there are many informal ways of developing your child's hand eye coordination and fine motor control in preparation for writing. These include providing simple and then more complex jigsaws and puzzles, painting and chalking activities, and perhaps exploring beads and bead strings for threading. Once your child is starting to draw and paint pictures they maybe ready to start engaging in activities which specifically focus on developing their tripod grip.
In order for your child to start learning to write they firstly need to learn how to hold a pencil correctly. This skill takes time to master so it can prove helpful to use a triangular pencil with a special pencil grip to begin with. Firstly, demonstrate to your child how they should hold their pencil and give them time to practise. You may decide to provide a range of coloured paper or felt tip pens for your child to refine this skill in exciting and new ways.
Once your child is able to hold a pencil, you can begin by teaching them how to write their name. Start by practising in informal ways such as using a paintbrush to make marks in a tray of paint, sand, glitter or shaving foam. Allow your child to explore the tripod grip and practise holding the paintbrush correctly first. Encourage your child to practise holding felt pens, crayons and pencil colours, by providing them with a colouring book or coloured paper. Give them time to explore and develop their fine motor control and coordination. Model the correct way to hold pens and pencils so your child becomes use to using the tripod grip. You could remind them by explaining they need to use 'Tommy thumb, Peter pointer and Toby tall' when holding their pencil. It  maybe helpful to use a mini whiteboard with wipeable marker pens or a small chalk board before progressing to more formal pen and paper methods. Children like to feel they can erase mistakes easily and this makes learning to write less stressful and pressurised. Your child can also develop their pencil control using numbers and alphabet stencils. This process takes some time, so don't expect your child to master this skill overnight!
Once your child is showing confidence with the tripod grip and has some degree of control when using writing implements, you could begin introducing them to writing. You child needs to show interest and be ready for this stage. The first step is for you to write in pen (a yellow fine line felt-tip is ideal) and your child to try tracing over each letter with their pencil. Explain to your child how each letter is formed i.e. where they should start and finish.  Once they are able to trace over your writing, let them practise writing over dotted words and then progress onto writing their name independently. Children gain a great deal of self esteem and confidence by being able to write and recognise their own name before starting school.
Diary Writing
Diary writing is an ideal way to develop your child's interest in literacy, especially if they have the chance to choose their own special diary with you! By providing your child with a diary, they can begin to record daily events and write their own sentences. You may decide to sit with your child each day and write their diary together, or if time does not permit, once a week. This way you give your child the opportunity to explore writing themselves but also give them the guidance and support they need to progress. Writing for a purpose is powerful; keeping a record of their daily life and activities is interesting and meaningful to a child. When your child is writing encourage them to sound out words and think about the letter sounds that make up each word. Provide them with a list of tricky words to help them with their diary writing and develop confidence.
For younger children and those with little or no writing experience, it would be best to start with a picture diary for each day, with perhaps you modelling writing by scribing a key word or sentence underneath your child's picture. If your child has a good tripod grip they may be able to trace over your word or sentence. As they become more competent your child could write a word independently to accompany their picture. Older children who are able to sound out words could be encouraged to write a sentence. This can then lead onto independent diary writing which slowly improves as your child becomes more confident with sentence structure.
Writing Lists
A simple way to develop your child’s writing in a meaningful context is to encourage them to help you write the weekly shopping list. This is a purposeful context for writing and allows your child to see the importance of writing skills.  Encourage your child to sound out words as accurately as they can. Only correct your child if the word is not phonetically plausible and you are unable to read it, otherwise you may find your child looses confidence if they are continually corrected. You may decide to teach your child one new word a week, so they are learning how to spell more complex words correctly. When you go shopping encourage your child to read out the items on their list.
You may ask your child to write a list of the children in their class in preparation for a party. Let your child write the invitations too, so they become familiar with different purposes and formats of writing. You may wish to use a copy of the alphabet for your child to refer to if unsure of letter formation or capital letters. Talk about simple features of an invitation such as where their friend's name should be written, where their name is written, and where to write their contact number. Remember to explain that names of people and places always start with a capital letter.
Story Writing
Being able to create and write stories is an essential skill which children need to develop. It will give them confidence in their abilities and develop not just their literacy skills but also their imagination and creativity.
Story writing should be introduced slowly to begin with. Perhaps by reading a story to your child and then pausing half way through and asking them to talk to you about what might happen next. When they have gathered their ideas, give them the opportunity to record them in picture form or a story map as this will aid memory once they begin writing. The next stage is to help them write down their ideas and continue the story themselves. Offer them guidance on how they might start and help them to sound out more difficult words. The first attempt at this will be challenging so even if your child only manages a sentence give them praise and show enthusiasm for what they have achieved. To improve their reading ask your child to read back their story.
When your child is able to continue stories they have had read to them, start introducing the features of good story writing. Emphasis the need for capital letters at the start of their sentences and full stops at the end. Talk about how stories have a beginning, middle and end, and discuss what might happen in each part of a story. Try and ensure they incorporate this structure into their future story writing. As your child becomes more competent encourage them to make up their own stories. You may decide to provide photos or visual prompts to help your child think of a setting and scenario for their story. They could also illustrate the main parts of their story.
Letter Writing
  • Once your child is competent with writing simple sentences they could practise writing short letters. An ideal way to develop their interest in this is to use a first letter-writing set.Talk about the layout of a letter and perhaps look at the layout of different letters. Discuss what is included such as the address, name of the person you are writing to and who the letter is from.
  • To begin with it is best to write the letter together and keep it fairly simple focusing on the address and main features of the letter. Your child may want to write to a favourite story book character or a family member or friend. They might want to write to tell them about something that has happened recently or somewhere special they have been.
  • Encourage your child to sound out words and write in full sentences, remembering capital letters, finger spaces and full stops.
  • As an extra activity, see if your child knows their address and give them the opportunity to practise writing it on an envelope. Being able to write their own address will give them confidence and is a useful skill for all children to master.
Writing a Postcard
  • When on holiday encourage your child to choose a postcard to write. This will develop their writing skills in a fun and meaningful way. They could write to a grandparent, friend or even their teddy bear at home. You may decide to ask them to practise writing their sentences on paper first and then copy them onto their postcard, once they have decided what to write.
  • Again keep encouraging your child to sound out unfamiliar words. Give them the chance to try writing the address themselves (copying if necessary).
  • When your child has written the postcard, ask them to read it back to you. This will develop their reading skills and ability to self-correct and spot any grammatical errors in their writing.
  •  Give praise and encouragement and allow them to post the postcard for themselves!
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