Learning to write is a process for all pre-kindergarteners. In my classroom, we have several opportunities to practice.
Each day, I encourage students to find their name card and try writing their name on a separate piece of paper. Throughout the rest of the year, we add variety: practicing names with smaller writing utensils, Magna Doodle boards, white boards, sand, shaving cream, and even alphabet stamps. Some of my students are now so keen on this part of our day that they choose to practice their name as well as a friend's. We participate in journal writing each week and our "mail station" – stocked with paper, envelopes, tape, writing utensils, stamps/stickers, and a class list – is always open during choice time.
It is interesting to look at writing samples and see how students have improved. I try to help caregivers understand the progression of writing by sharing a handout on the developmental stages of writing. Our journals offer a great opportunity to track writing skills over time.
Several of my parents work with their child daily on practicing their name at home. It’s nice to be able to positively reinforce what they are doing and provide appropriate feedback on ways to encourage learning at home. Often we start out the year with parents who want to practice with their children through hand-over-hand writing exercises or drawing out dotted letters for their child to trace. I, however, encourage parents to model good writing for their child and then allow them to practice on their own. Best practices in education show that students need meaningful experiences with writing, both in their formation of letters and the content of their writing.
It is also important, as parents and teachers, that we emphasize, model, practice and praise the correct formation of the letters. One way I go about doing this is through using rhymes. For example, “a is around in a circle then up and down.” Another method I utilize is encouraging each child to pick the letter that they feel has been printed in the best penmanship. I do the same. This practice assists them in self regulating their technique.
A heightened interest in writing has emerged in my classroom over the past few months, and I’m both impressed and excited about what I see. In my afternoon class, I have many students who write letters to their friends. Some of them draw pictures while others ask a teacher for help in sounding out and spelling a message. One thing we have learned for certain is that your name is important. For this reason, every letter sent through classroom post includes their own signature, putting the note in an envelope, and writing the recipient's name on the front.
Our newest classroom development is an interest in exchanging phone numbers to set up play dates. This is great developmentally! I am excited it happened through their play! Not only are they learning to write their numbers, they are also recognizing and reciting them, making their work and learning that much more real and meaningful.