Early Years writing – The Most Important thing you need to know!

Early Years Writing

Early Years Writing Back in the Day!

I began teaching too many years ago to even remember! I had a mixed Reception and Year 1 class and found that no matter how enthusiastic I was about writing it was extremely difficult to generate the same amount of enthusiasm from the children. Only a few children, those who acquired writing skills with ease, showed any real motivation. The least able children avoided writing as much as possible and very few of the class seemed to want, or be able, to talk about writing.

This didn’t sit easy with me as one of my main aims as a teacher was, and is, to help produce children who write independently, who see writing as an important part of their lives and who will continue to enjoy writing as they grow up. In order to achieve this, I believe that it is a child’s attitude to writing that represents a significant factor.

Becoming Real Writers

As I firmly believe in lifelong learning, it was towards the end of my second year in teaching that I decided to do a one year literacy course. What I learned on that course, completely changed my understanding of literacy and how to produce a literate environment, which ultimately transformed the children from reluctant writers to young authors.

While I appreciated that children, long before they enter school, would have encountered a variety of print, and also become aware of its purposes and functions I hadn’t been providing opportunities for the children to continue to develop these broad and varied understandings. Although this did not mean that children would not be able to read and write in conventional terms I began to realise just how valuable and important these early experiences were and that they would result in the children achieving many levels of knowledge and performance.

Rather than solely teaching children to write by mastering first the parts (letters) and then building up to the whole (written lines), I began also to give the children the opportunity to attend first to the whole and then later to the parts. The example below illustrates what one child produced when the constraints of being correct were taken away. Instead of focusing on the mechanics she was able act as a writer and use her knowledge of stories to translate the writing verbally.

Early Years Writing

When asked to tell me what her writing said she told me the following: “Once upon a time I went into the garden. The porridge was too hot. When I came back it was just right.” In response, I wrote a question: “Do you live in that little house?” in order that she could see me behaving as a writer and again see the purpose of writing. She wrote the letters by the person she drew and told me it said “yes”.

By giving the children ownership of their writing, allowing them to feel responsible for its outcome, to make decisions and consider the task in terms of a real purpose, the transformation was remarkable. The children were now enjoying writing, they displayed positive attitudes and had powerful motives to learn how to use it for themselves, regardless of their relative abilities. The writing area was no longer avoided but now one of the most sought after areas of the classroom.

This is not to say that the mechanics of writing are not important, because obviously, they are. Without adult intervention and direct teaching the child in the example above would not progress, or progress would at least be very slow. In my next blog, I will look at the various features found in the different stages of writing and what they mean in terms of the experiences that we offer our young writers. The important thing is that we get a balance and we don’t put children off writing just because they can’t do it yet.

Writing for a Real Purpose

There are a number of resources that you can provide your children with in order to give them real opportunities to write. The list below, while not exhaustive, is a good place to start:

  • Clipboards
  • Keyboards
  • Cookery Books
  • Recipe Cards
  • Birthday cards
  • Greetings cards
  • Invitations
  • Postcards
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Postbox
  • Folders and files
  • Whiteboard
  • Notice board
  • Telephone and note pad
  • Calculator
  • Scissors
  • Joining materials
  • Hole punch
  • Assorted ready made books
  • Headed paper and office stationery
  • Diaries
  • Calendars
  • Address Books
  • Rulers
  • Forms
  • Shopping lists
  • Signs
  • Labels
  • Instructions
  • Directions
  • Menus
  • Orders
  • Registers

I have produced 12 pages of templates that can be used within the classroom to create real writing opportunities. A lot of them are two to a page to save on photocopying and quite often half a page can be a good size for children to use. If you would like a free copy then please click here.

It is important that children are given the opportunity to write in all areas of the continuous provision. Alistair Bryce Clegg and his website abcdoes has some fantastic ideas on how you can do this.

In Conclusion

In order for children to enjoy writing, the correct and proper attitudes towards it need to be instilled. Without them, failure or reluctance on the part of the children is likely to ensue. Children need to come to writing with high expectations, not only that they will succeed in unlocking its mysteries, but also, that the mysteries are worth unlocking, in order that success will be theirs. I learned that if we want our children to write well, they must have good and compelling reasons for doing so.

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