Reception teachers are, of course, completely idolised by their children. After all, they clear up sick without heaving or shouting, they play games all the time without ever being too tired, and best of all they never make you go to bed! It’s our perfect opportunity with the most receptive audience we’ll ever have…perhaps that’s why this year is called the Reception year! (I dread to think what Year Six might be called if we worked along those lines!) However, assuming you now have your class hooked on the joys of writing, the fun can really begin. Once the first ten or so letter sounds have been taught, you can begin to show how letters are used to form words and how words are put together to make sentences. These concepts need to be reinforced by looking at ‘published’ sentences and words (books, labels, posters etc as before) as well as by daily modelling of the writing process.
This does not have to be restricted to Literacy lessons; indeed, it would be most effective if it were not. Children in the Foundation Stage do not compartmentalise their learning into subject areas, and only see everything as a whole (which is why they still think you are a rational and likeable person despite the fact that by the end of term you are sipping from a hip flask at break time and taking Vallium with alarming regularity). Shared writing of a list of ingredients needed to make a jam sandwich for Knowledge and Understanding of the World is just as effective as writing in response to books you have read, and infinitely preferable to writing ‘news’ on a Monday morning.
Once children have learned these most basic skills and have the power to put pencil to paper to communicate their thoughts, the miracle becomes harder to deliver. The continuing battle to keep the enthusiasm going is not easy. An alarming percentage of children will become disaffected writers, finding the process too much to bear. The problem here is one of motivation. Children must be allowed to use and practise their writing skills to suit their own ends. They need tasks that are relevant and that they know about. Ask a child to write about a day in the life of a prune and they will not produce their best work. But ask them to write to persuade you to give them free choice activities on a Friday afternoon, and the standard will miraculously rise. There is more to writing than putting pen to paper, else just think how boring this article may have been … it really is a miracle!