In today’s world, many children are learning about alphabet knowledge on cell phones and computers. In fact, many Kindergarten programs now use i-pads as part of their curriculum. So why is it important for children to have early writing skills and experiences? It is through writing experiences that preschool children become aware of print in their world. They begin to learn skills needed to form letter and number shapes as well as how print moves to be read (In English from left to right and top to bottom of page).
Studies have begun to show that physically writing improves memory. Writing verses typing helps slow a person down and become fully engaged in their thoughts. Writing allows a person to jot down creative ideas that they can come back to at a later time. When a child is writing their letters or numbers, they are engaging in a tactile experience that is said to help retain letter shapes and sounds quicker and easier. Children must learn early writing skills in order to write simple math equations and record science and later children will develop their own writing style which is a form of self expression.
Writing requires fine motor skills. These begin when children are babies picking up cheerios and carries through as the child develops the ability to write her own name and beyond. Before a child can begin writing, they must develop a strong handgrip and hand-eye coordination. In order to write proficiently, children must develop what is known as the pincer grip (the ability to hold small objects with thumb and first finger). Teachers must set up an environment where children can practice their grip/pincer skills using a variety of materials.
Preschool teachers play an important role in emergent writing skills. Children gain knowledge and curiosity when exposed regularly to print and writing. They begin to discover that letters create words and words create sentences and sentences create thoughts/stories. Writing has a purpose and is meaningful. Teachers can show children that they can translate their thoughts into writing through dictation, lists, letters, and other forms of written communication. Teachers help children learn to identify letters by sight and sound. They show them how to form letters on the paper. Teachers help children to understand that writing requires spaces between letters and words, that it has directionality, and it needs to be legible. Letters also have consistency so teachers must be aware that they are forming letters the same every time they write with the children.
There are general steps that a child will go through as he/she begins to learn early writing skills. First writing attempts are scribbles, which in time become more controlled. Than letter-like forms will begin to emerge often in the form of circles and lines. Eventually you will see letters forming on the page. As children become more proficient at writing letterforms, they begin to copy simple words, then write simple words, and finally develop phonetic spelling of words.
The early years are very important to developing writing skills. If a child develops a poor pencil hold, it can be a very difficult habit to break. If a child does not learn to form his letters and numbers correctly, it will make reading these difficult, which can cause inaccuracies. Research has shown that children who lack early writing skills may have difficulty establishing if their right or left hand is dominant. They often will experience writing fatigue and lack of hand-eye coordination makes beginning reading more difficult.
Ideas to Support Early Writing
- Create an inviting writing center. Include a variety of unlined paper, sticky notes, whiteboards, envelopes, homemade journals, stencils, pencils, and markers. This should be a place children enjoy spending time.
- Make sure there are paper and writing implements in every center.
- Take dictations of children artwork and stories.
- As a class, write letters, create lists, and take messages.
- Fill your classroom with environmental print and print that will have meaning to the children.
- Have a writing sign-in when the children arrive at school.
- Make dot-to-dots for the children.
- String beads.
- Put paper clips onto cardboard and later paper.
- Teach the children how to spin tops.
- Add nuts and bolts to a center.
- Give the children tongs or tweezers to pick up small objects.
- Add stencils and simple mazes to your writing center.
- Practice cutting.
- Give the children buckets of water and paint brushes to paint the trees and fences outside.
- Add spray bottles to your outside play or water table.
- Make classroom books with the children that go along with your unit of study. (I like…I do not like…, My best friend is …because…, At recess I like to …, How do you be a good friend? What do you like to do with your parent?).
- Have the children send a letter to their favorite Disney Character. Character’s Name Walt Disney Communications PO Box 10040 Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830-0040