WRITE WITH ME
1. Most preschool children are not ready for formal writing. Their finger muscles (fine motor skills) are not ready to perform the task of holding a pencil correctly or printing letters. Writing is a developmental task that emerges much later for most children. The most important thing parents of preschool and kindergarten children can do to provide games that will help children exercise those little fingers.
Any games that involve putting little objects together, pinching, or turning are excellent pre-writing activities. Here are a few common examples.
*PLAYDOUGH!!!! (homemade recipe in appendix)
*Play tool benches with lots of screws and bolts
*Sewing or lacing (there are a lot of games on the market for kids to lace or sew pictures or letters)
*Stringing big beads
*Pick up sticks
*Hanging things on clothespins (this pinching action is excellent for developing fine motor skills)
*Magnets, velcro, felt boards
*Hand and finger puppets
*Etch-A-Sketch or Magna-doodle
*Using plastic tongs to pick things out of boxes
2. Give your child the opportunity to experiment with writing. Proving choices makes writing more fun!! At this age we should not be forcing children to write or making it a laborious task. If you provide some creative and fun materials, hopefully your child will be self-motivated to draw and write. Provide different writing utensils such as crayons, pencils, markers or chalk. Also provide different types and textures of paper. The bumpier the paper the better: it actually provides more feedback to the brain.
3. If your child is ready for writing, it is important to teach the correct pencil grip. It is very hard to break the habit of holding a pencil or marker with a fist. If a child has the fine motor skills to write, he or she can hold a pencil by pinching 2 fingers (thumb and pointer) and resting on the middle finger.
4. As I mentioned in the last section, it is your choice whether or not you teach your child to write both the upper and lower case alphabet. It depends on your child's interest and ability.
For all children however, please try to teach your child to write her/his name using lower case letters and only a capital at the beginning.
Sometimes I spend the entire kindergarten year trying to break students of the habit of writing their names in all capitals. Some children even get upset when they see their name with lower case letters in the classroom and they argue that it is not their name. It is frustrating for the students and the teacher. Please make an effort to teach the correct form for writing his/her name.
5. The handwriting program at Hope is a little different from the traditional manuscript most of us were taught in grade school. It is called D'Nealian, and a copy of the letters is attached in the appendix. You will notice that many of the letters have a little tail on the end, and the letters are more curved. This program can be easier for children to learn because the letters all flow naturally. It is also a good program because it prepares children to write in cursive, which they learn in 3rd grade.
6. An important beginning activity you can do to help your child write is to demonstrate or “model” how to do it. Make sure they watch your process as you write for them or as you write things for yourself. You can have your child dictate…
*letters to Santa or Grandma,
*grocery or “to do” lists,
*keep a journal together of what your child does each day
By watching you write your child can learn such things as:
*Where do I start writing on a page?
*Which direction do I go?
*What do I do when I get to the end of the line or page?
*The words in sentences all go in a line.
*There are spaces between the words.
It also helps if you "think aloud" while you write. For example: "Oops I ran out of room, I need to go to the next line."
7. Finally, if your child is progressing very quickly and beginning to write words or phrases on her/his own, you don't need to focus on correct spelling all the time. It is okay for children to use their own invented spelling, as long as it is a close approximation and they are getting some of the sounds. In kindergarten we teach strategies for writing and spelling, and sounding out words is just one of them. We also teach kids to find words in books or other places to find the correct spelling.