Monday, 24 May 2010

Skills for early Writing (part one)

On Saturday I went to a seminar about literacy in the Montessori setting.  I was struck by the large number of skills that a child needs to have developed in order to write successfully.  Generally across early years settings there seems to be a lot of focus on mark-making and 'emergent writing' with little consideration given to preparing the child to be able to do those things!  If a child is pushed to write before they are fully prepared and developmentally ready then there can be long term effects that actually hamper the child's efforts to write.  These effects take the form of 'bad habits' that have become ingrained such as a distorted pencil hold or backwards formation of letters.  So what are the attributes that a child needs to develop?
  • Tripod grip - strength in fingers and hand needs to develop, alongside good control over fine-motor movements in order to hold a pencil and write.
  • Lightness of touch - needed to avoid pressing so hard that pencils break and paper becomes gouged.
  • Flexibility of wrist and hand - needed for continuous fluid writing.
  • Hand-eye co-ordination - this is how the hand responds to what the eye sees, controlled by the brain, and will aid in controlling a pencil to form letters.
  • Memory of shapes - the mind is almost like play dough, shapes leave an imprint upon it making a lasting memory.  This is why correct letter formation from the outset is so important, and why leaving out letter tracing activities can be counter-productive for young children.
  • Visual discrimination - recognising the difference and similarities between things; this will help to tell apart letters such as b and d.
  • Self-esteem - A child valuing him or herself and being valued by others around him or her will feel confident enough to give things a go that are new or a little difficult.
  • Concentration - this is a skill that needs to have developed in order for children to be able to focus for a long enough time to learn letter shapes and their sounds.
  • Sequencing - knowing what becomes at the beginning, middle and end.  it provides a structure that the child will use as a foundation to build grammar upon.
All of these skills are equally as important as each other and when taken all together provide a mighty looking list of skills that we can support very young children to develop in order that they may have a good chance of beginning to write successfully when they are ready.  In part two I will look at activities that can support each of the skills, both shop-bought and home-made.

1 comment:

  1. Little Explorers26 May 2010 at 11:20

    Hi Jen,
    One hook wonder has some lovely 3 part cards of the lifecycle of a ladybird.