Do you know how to write?

Here the process of writing is presented as the miracle it truly is. I’m thinking to split this subject in two parts and two different posts. In the first part we will talk about how the importance of writing activities in Reception is outlined, as well as acknowledging the importance of writing activities outside the Literacy Hour.

For the fourth day running, as Mahjabeen throws up all over the carpet after crying hysterically for her mum for fifteen minutes, I decide to abandon Literacy Hour. It wouldn’t have been much use to her anyway – as yet, she has no English at all. The other children are unsettled, some of them splattered, but fortunately for me, being an experienced teacher, I put her on my knee knowing full well that this is the only safe place in the room. Such are the joys of being a Reception teacher in the first few weeks of the new school year. I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have OFSTED watching (as one of my friends does) and set about to clear up the mess with a smile and a song.

Puzzlingly, during my university training (even though I took an Early Years option) I had not been prepared for this. But neither had I been properly instructed on the teaching of reading or writing. I have since decided that this is because the process of four to five year old children becoming literate is actually a miracle, and defies any form of training. It is a process of nurture, of relationships forged from a common trauma (which is starting school), of enthusiasm and of a love of literature.

Of course, there has to be a smattering of know-how thrown in, but let’s be honest – this is the least of our problems! Writing is such a complex process to either teach or learn it is indeed a miracle that in the Reception year with all its peripheries, the parting of such knowledge actually takes place. Power of WordsIt all begins when children first learn that letters make sounds as they are introduced to ‘the alphabet’. From here, they begin to identify the first sounds in words, especially their names, and soon learn how to represent those sounds by writing letters. Even this starting point is very complex and requires clear and careful explanation by the teacher. It needs exposure to written text (books, labels, name cards, posters) so that children can see the need to write things down, and it requires the provision of opportunities for children to write freely (for example at a writing table, unsupervised, so that they can experiment without criticism).

Children need to have their efforts praised and recognised for what they were intended, but most importantly need to see adult writers write and this is most likely to be their teacher. Whether it’s the register or a suicide note, teachers should share their jottings with the children in an informal but informative way. This is the sharing of a common goal, where the enthusiasm for writing is generated, and constitutes the first part of the miracle.

That’s the first part guys. I will post a second part with more advice in few weeks.

Categories: Teachers Advice

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