Teach your Child to Write: the Simple, Playful Way

 

Do you wonder exactly HOW to teach your child to write {without butting heads / bribery or boring worksheets} in your homeschool?

Where do we start?

What does writing in the early years even look like? How does it fit into a Reggio-Inspired approach?

How much is too much? And do we push them, even when they resist?

Teaching writing is part art and part science. It requires a set of tools and a bit of knowledge about how kids develop and learn. When I taught in my Reggio-Inspired Kindergarten, I learned some pretty amazing tricks of the trade. Through my years of experience teaching hundreds of children - many of them reluctant - I honed my teacher toolbox with tried-and-true strategies. This article and video share some of my "teacher hacks" - a set of concrete tools to help make teaching writing easier for you, and more fun for them. 

“Writing floats on a sea of talk.” - James Britton

Oral language precedes the written word. If we want to get our kids writing - and excited about it -  they need many, many opportunities to share, to tell stories, to narrate their play. These oral stories become fodder for your child’s writing. 

Here are 3 ways we can use language as a springboard to writing original stories with young kids. 

1. DIY Small world play

Invite your child to set up a small world playscape. Offer a variety of loose and materials to create a mini landscape inside a glass Pyrex baking dish (sand / pebbles / gems / mini trees, twigs etc.) as well as characters to bring their playscape to life. You’ll hear your child tell stories with his characters. Invite your child to re-create the story through pictures and words in his notebook. 

2. Imaginative Play

You’ll notice your child playing “fire station” with his trucks, or “birthday party” with his stuffed animals and dolls. Hone in on the language he’s using to narrate his play. Take a few notes, and revisit these words with your child later in the day. Ask him to share a picture of playtime. You can scribe some of the words he shares, or have him label his drawing with beginning sounds. Go ahead and help reinforce these letters, paying careful attention to the initial letter sounds. “Fire truck = f,” Birthday Party = b p. 

Weave intentional invitations to write as they play: offer notepads to take orders in the pretend restaurant, blank cards to create birthday invitations as they play "birthday party," and blank and lined pages to create shopping lists.

 3. Sharing Circle

A sharing circle is traditional practice in some Indigenous communities, and a beautiful practice for engaging storytelling and speaking skills.

As a token to encourage sharing, create a talking stick. A talking stick is a tool that is passed around the circle, and gives the speaker a voice. As you pass the talking stick around the circle, use a simple frame: “What was your favorite part of the day? Weekend? Share your favorite vacation memory." Encourage sharing about events and ideas that are meaningful to your child.

Once your child has had a chance to share, encourage him to write his thoughts through a picture, and a few simple words or letters. 

There are also a couple of tangible ways you can encourage writing through tweaks in your environment, as well as materials you offer.

Set up a Writing Center  

A Writing Center is a dedicated space {or basket} of supplies that inspire our children to get pen to paper. Offering “special” supplies - above and beyond paper and pencils - motivates and excites our kids, and encourages them to share their ideas in published works. 

 

Here are a few examples of tools you can offer: 

  • Variety of writing tools
      • "fancy" dollar store pens
      • pencils
      • markers
      • stamps
  • Variety of paper 
      • Post-its
      • notecards
      • envelopes
      • index cards
      • lined paper, blank paper
      • notepads (for shopping lists)
  • Clipboard
  • Mailbox
  • Alphabet cheat sheet
  • Stapler
  • Stickers
  • Sight word cheat sheet

Bookmaking 

There are many beautiful handmade book structures to make with children. A handmade book is an invitation begging to be filled with ideas. Jokes, riddles, how-to’s, recipes and auto-biographies - just some of the possibilities to fill your child’s works of art. 

Remember that writing in the Early Years looks like squiggles and random marks.  Your child is beginning to understand that print conveys meaning. 

 

As children progress, and want to share more, you can invite them to DRAW their ideas.

As children grow more confident, you can ask them to label their pictures with the beginning sound and later, the ending and middle sounds. With time, they will learn to string words together in a full sentence, and then later build on that sentence, eventually writing full paragraphs.  

It is important to note that writing is a creative expression of ideas. It is not the place to focus on letter formation or proper penmanship, or conventional spelling.

Teaching writing need not be a daunting task, nor a boring chore. In the early years, children benefit most from playful and purposeful invitations to write, when they are connected to things that are most meaningful to them. If we are intentional about setting up an environment that is conducive to writing for a variety of purposes, our children will naturally be drawn to share their ideas on paper.

Ready to level-up your literacy program? I have a LIVE workshop, just for you! You'll get a TON of new ideas, printables and juicy PDF goodies to equip your teacher-toolbox. 

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