Writing in Our Lady Immaculate Catholic Primary School
“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” – Anne Frank.
Writing is an essential skill. It is more than just putting words on paper. Writing is a process of communication that plays an important role in your child’s life—both in and out of the classroom. Helping your child put thoughts into words gives him/her a great sense of accomplishment. Encouraging good writing habits will make a big difference in your child’s attitude towards writing. Help your child learn to write well—and enjoy doing it!
Parents can make a big difference in helping a child develop writing skills by encouraging writing activities that are simple and fun. The start of any good writing is good talk, and younger children especially thrive and grow with a stronger control of language when adults share experiences and talk about those experiences.
Tell stories – Read aloud daily to your child. Talk about the pictures. Make predictions about a story and see if they come true. Even as children get older, read aloud a chapter-book before bed.
Use car time to talk with your children. Tell your children a story about when you were little or tell them a story about something that happened at work that day. Leave off the ending and let them provide an ending. There’s no phone or television to interfere. No one can get up and leave and you and your child will find it really rewarding!
Act out stories together and play with toys, talking to each other.
Let them see you write.
Leave notes to each other.
Make sure you provide them with plenty of materials to write both indoors and out. Pens, crayons, felt tips, chalks, paints, paper, card notebooks etc.
Write thank you notes or letters to friends and family.
Be creative and encourage your child to write and perform stories or puppet shows.
From around the age of 2 years or even earlier, most children will show the necessary skills to hold a large pencil or crayon and make marks on paper (lots of other places too if you don’t watch out!). Children usually try and draw pictures first and might talk about these though often they won’t be recognisable! As your child develops, their drawings become more recognisable and they may start to imitate writing. Your child will also begin to talk about what they have drawn and what the writing says. Give them praise when they do this to encourage them to talk more and to keep trying to write.
It is important when your child begins to try and communicate with early writing that you take the time to read it with them. You will have to ask them what it says of course, but developing this link between written words and reading is important. As your child begins to understand that the squiggles they make on paper are like the print in books the two activities of reading and writing begin to connect.
You can help your child to begin to make recognisable letters by writing their name on any pictures or early writing they produce. Always begin with a capital letter, but write the rest in lower case letters and only write their first name to start with.
A good way to start your child writing is to get them to draw a picture of a trip or exciting day they have recently had. Get your child to tell you something about the drawing and then write a simple sentence or phrase underneath. Your child will enjoy reading this back to you time and time again.
As writing requires fine motor control to hold a pen or crayon, you can improve your child’s skills by giving them other activities which require similar skills e.g. Lacing cards and threading beads, construction sets, jig-saws, Playdough, big tweezers and opportunities to do up buttons.
Once the children have gained confidence in mark making, they are also regularly introduced to more activities which help them develop their writing skills. These include; cutting, drawing and writing using whiteboards, tracing, writing names and letter formation using sand, foam and paint etc.
In school, during their time in the Foundation Stage, children are taught how to form letters correctly by practising their formation using tracing, drawing over lines etc.
In the Foundation Stage, it is our policy to teach lower case letters with a small curl to get them ready for writing in a cursive style later in their school years.
Letters and Sounds
Alongside practising their letter formation and handwriting children are also taught phonics through the Letters and Sounds programme so they develop the link between reading and writing still further. The children are taught the sounds each letter of the alphabet can make and shown how these are blended together to form words. They will gradually begin to blend letter sounds and segment them to help them read and write. Some resources we use can be found at www.letters-and-sounds.com and some great games on phonics play.co.uk.
Over time the children will gradually begin to move from recognising and writing basic consonant – vowel – consonant words (CVC) to constructing longer words and eventually simple phrases and then sentences. Children will also begin to develop a sight vocabulary of high frequency words such as; the, and, who, went etc. which they will recognise without having to sound them out.
The names of letters provide important clues for your child’s understanding of the sounds they make, but the letters and sounds in the English language invariably don’t correspond! As children try to figure out the relationship between letters and sounds in their writing they will begin to invent their own way of spelling often using a letter naming strategy. This means that a child will write the letters they hear—such as l-f-n-t for elephant. They will often miss out vowels or hard to sound out consonants. When your child is trying to sound out words like this encourage them and help them to sound out the word slowly. This will help the child to segment words into phonemes or sounds. Hearing separate sounds in words and connecting them to letters is a vital beginning stage in your child’s ability to use phonics to decipher words. At Our Lady Immaculate Primary School daily work on Letters and Sounds supports this stage of their development.
It is very important that you show you value and appreciate your child’s early attempts at writing by giving them lots of praise.
Over time through regular exposure to words through reading and seeing them around them, they will begin to build an understanding of how words should look. At this stage children’s minds will be combining and making sense of both what they hear and what they see. They will begin to realise that writing ‘hws’ for ‘house’ doesn’t look right even though they won’t yet understand all the rules for vowels and consonants!
Talk for Writing
The talk to writing process has been a particular strength in OLI for many years but recently we have adopted whole school teaching and learning strategies from Pie Corbett and Alan Pete. These include a wealth of ideas for expanding children’s writing , making them feel more excited about writing and the power of writing.
There is a complex interrelationship between talk, reading and writing and so to embrace and enhance this relationship we try to make writing as exciting as we can and to promote ‘reading as a writer’ to improve their composition, grammar and spelling.
From Nursery onwards children orally rehearse sentences and learn how to improve them with the careful direction from adults in school.
Using experiential learning, drama, group and whole class activities the children internalise stories from a very young age.
“Children’s books change lives. Stories pour into the hearts of children and help make them what they become.” Jane Yolen.
As part of our writing process we ask the children to write a “Cold task “ whereby we talk to the children about a new genre and list what makes a good… (recount, report, setting etc.) then get the children to have a go. This then drives our planning and assessment to know where to take the children next.
We then choose the right text or visual literacy resource to provide a motivating stimulus, building in the appropriate vocabulary, sentence structure and text features that children need to make progress.
Through using things such as story maps, hot seating and boxing up the children learn and internalise the text orally.
We compare other texts or visual literacy resources and make learning visible by discussing the features and adding them to washing line toolkits across the classrooms.
The children get lots of opportunities to practice by imitation, innovative and invent pieces of writing through shared and guided writing. We provide a range of focused talk opportunities to strengthen understanding, practise skills, model how to talk about writing and build in progress.
We encourage children to work together and talk by letting the children know that it’s okay to change their mind, all views are valid, how to be a good listener, using “Learning to Learn” such as talking partners/small group work and strategies to involve everyone.
We help children know how to improve their writing by targeting our teaching based on next small steps, encouraging children to use the toolkit washing line. We include collaborative feedback from teachers, their peers and give the children the skills to identify the next steps in their own learning.
“Three Rules for Literary Success:
1. Read a lot.
2. Write a lot.
3. Read a lot more, write a lot more.”