“Kindergarteners don’t write…”
…is a wrong notion.
Hello! Welcome to the 20th edition of Things in Education, the fortnightly newsletter through which we hope to share the latest in education research and developments in the form of accessible summaries and stories to help you in the classroom and at home.
This is the second article in our Foundational Learning series of Things in Education.
Today’s edition includes contribution from Vani Balasubramanian, who has worked in the education sector in direct and indirect capacities for the last 4 years. She is currently pursuing her master's in education from Azim Premji University. Vani's educational interests include classroom literacy practices, library spaces and the role of children's literature in early language acquisition.
In the previous edition of our newsletter, we wrote about the importance of learning to write letters by hand (as opposed to typing on a touchscreen or keyboard) in the early years. In this week’s edition, we write more about writing – that is, writing to express and communicate.
What does early writing look like?
We usually relate writing to neat, structured paragraphs with correct grammar and good vocabulary. “Preschoolers and kindergarteners – children between ages of 2 and 6 – don’t write,” we think. However, we often observe toddlers 'scribbling', not realizing that this is a very real form of writing, known as emergent writing. Children start writing to express and communicate from a very early age.
Here’s a writing sample by a boy of almost 4:
At first look, this doesn’t look like much, and definitely does not resemble writing as we think of it. But once we start digging a little deeper, we see the knowledge, skills and thoughts needed by the little boy to create this.
Children don’t start off by knowing that the words on the page carry meaning – that it is the words that tell the story, and the pictures just support it. When asked what he had written at the top, the little boy said Me and My Family. This tells us that he understood that words and pictures have separate roles, and that it is the words that convey the meaning.
We can recognise some letter forms in the title – e, k, F, y. This tells us that the boy has begun to recognise letters and knows their form.
The child has also written from left to right – a key skill to learn.
However, the letters at the top don’t match the message he was trying to convey – Me and My Family. This tells us that the boy doesn’t yet know how to match letters to the sound they represent.
Here’s a writing sample of a 5-year-old girl:
In this case, children were given the freedom to draw and write about a topic of their choice. When asked, she said that the writing at the top was the sentence Me and my friends are playing. (ME AD Mi FAC PA)
She knew the sight word me and the main letters in the words, which shows that she was matching letters to the sounds they represent.
She attempted to write a sentence and not just label the picture.
She wrote from left to right and from top to bottom.
The children in her drawing look different, with different hair and clothes. This tells us that she understands that drawings and words can represent the real world.
If we look carefully and ask children to talk about their writing, we can get so much information about their knowledge, skills and thoughts!
How can we support children’s development of writing skills?
By identifying the stage of writing and supporting the child accordingly
Children go through the following stages of writing in the early years – scribbling, left-to-right scribbling, writing letter-like forms, writing actual letters, and writing letters to represent sounds. Identifying the stage of writing helps us in two ways: One, we can keep in mind that just because a child is only scribbling or that the child’s written words don’t make sense to an adult, it doesn’t mean that the child is not thinking and expressing. Two, we can ask the right questions to make sense of their scribbles and strokes and take the right steps to push them to the next stage. For example, if you see a child writing letter-like forms, you can continue exposing them to letters in books, through letter cards and blocks, and get them to practise writing letters in multi-sensory material like sand, rice and textured paper.
By including authentic opportunities to write every day
While children aged 2 to 6 cannot write essays or compositions, there are a lot of ways in which we can include simple, fun and authentic opportunities for writing.
Writing their own names using letter beads, letter cards or paint
Labelling objects around them as well as pictures that they draw, given that labelling is an important skill for young children to make sense of familiar and unfamiliar words.
Writing lists for everyday activities – like lists of ingredients in their favourite food, lists of food to be served during a pretend-play of a restaurant, lists of symptoms during a pretend-play of a doctor’s office. These serve as meaningful ways to connect reading and writing instruction to everyday instances in children’s lives.
Writing notes to friends or letters and cards to family members
Expressing their opinions in writing, like what they like and dislike, what they want to do, and so on
Writing about key concepts they have learnt during Maths and Science classes, such as what a leaf looks like or what objects are heavy and light, long and short, and so on. Connecting writing to other ‘subject’ areas is also a useful way to help children understand learning holistically.
We must also keep in mind that oral language development is the first step in learning to read and learning to write. The more we talk to and with children, the more vocabulary words they are exposed to, and the more they hear grammatically correct sentences in conversation, the better they will be able to express themselves!
You can read the first newsletter article of the Foundational Learning series here: Let’s drop those handwriting classes… We will continue our Foundational Learning Series over the next few months, covering several topics in Early Childhood Education (ECE), Foundational Literacy, Foundational Numeracy, and Foundational Science.
The Early Writing Programme by Things Education
Our Early Writing Programme takes into consideration all the relevant research around handwriting and how children learn this skill, to make them fluent and confident readers and writers. Here are its key features:
Created for Pre-K, Lower KG and Upper KG
Provides fine motor activities for all classes
Recommends the right writing instruments for different stages
Includes practice of the right writing grips
Includes ample multi-sensory pre-writing activities for Pre-K
Aligned with systematic phonics instruction for LKG and UKG
Complemented by weekly Holistic Progress Cards for progress tracking
Comes with teacher support
Reply to this email or call us at +91 9898469961 to find out how you can implement this programme in your school.
This article by literacy expert Timothy Shanahan summarises how we can teach writing in kindergarten.
This document summarises the developmental stages of writing along with examples.
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