EYFS Writing – 5 Steps to Success

Early Years Writing

EYFS Writing Skills

Children need to develop a wide range of skills in order to learn how to write and schools teach writing in a wide range of ways using a variety of programmes. There are a number of systematic, synthetic phonics programmes which have been validated by the government and these are the ones that should be used in schools.

No matter how it is taught or the programme your school uses all children, generally, learn to write in the same way through the same sequence of steps. While some children may pass through the steps earlier or later than others, knowing these steps and where your children are on this pathway will dictate which activities you make available in order to effectively move your children on to the next stage.

The skills involved in EYFS writing can be divided into 3 main areas and include –

  • Language for thinking
  • Gross and fine motor control
  • Phonic Knowledge

Language for thinking

Children need to be able to communicate effectively in order to articulate their thoughts and put them into writing. If they can’t say it, they can’t write it. ‘I Can‘ have a fantastic website which outlines the ages and stages of language development in children from birth and beyond. The important thing in school is to provide lots of language rich experiences which encourage the children to talk and develop language. When children first start to write they can find it very difficult to have something to write about. The free photograph pack below has 14 photographs and accompanying questions.

Select one or two photographs that you think the child will be interested in and encourage them to talk as much as possible initially, using the questions as prompts when needed. Make notes and assess their communication using the Development Matters document to support. The assessment can be revisited at a later date to show progress.

Gross and fine motor control

Gross motor skills refer to the large muscles in your arms while fine motor skills refer to the small muscles in your hands and fingers. When we think about the writing process we naturally think about the hand as this is the place where the writing implement is held. However, in order to have control of our hand movements we first need to develop the bigger muscles in our shoulders and arms. To write effectively children also need to develop good posture and balance which will depend on the development of the big muscles in other parts of our body.

Children can practise their fine motor control and EYFS writing skills with my beginning writing sheets – words.

Each sheet has a sentence at the beginning. Children need to circle the words. This activity will develop children’s awareness of words and finger spaces which they will eventually start to use in their own writing. There are 26 pages, one for each letter of the alphabet. Children practise their letter formation, first by tracing over the letters and then by writing the letters independently with a starting point and an arrow indicating the direction the pencil needs to travel. At the bottom of the page, the children need to attempt to write cvc words which either begin with the letter or have the letter positioned somewhere in the word.

As the children’s EYFS writing skills develop further you may want to use my beginning writing sheets – sentences. They work in exactly the same way but children are now asked to write a sentence about a picture rather than words.

Use them with my free sound mat below to support children in identifying the letters they need for their writing.

Phonic Knowledge

Phonics is the way in which words are broken down into their component parts e.g. phonemes or letter sounds. Children use these sounds to build words using their listening skills to hear the sounds that they need. Correct spelling isn’t a focus initially as the emphasis is on creating a word that can be sounded out.

To begin with, children need to recognise and write the letter sounds using the phonics scheme being used. After this, children will need practise in putting these letters together to write simple cvc words (consonant, vowel, consonant). Once children are confident with this they can then progress to simple sentences. I always like to start with ‘I can…’ sentences, e.g. ‘I can hop’, ‘I can sit’, etc. Gradually the sentences can be more complex and the children will start to hear more sounds.

EYFS Writing is a very complicated process and gives children a lot to think about, a little bit like learning to drive for the first time.

The information below explains the different stages of development that children progress through and activities that can be done to support this development. It is all summarised at the end of the blog in a free handy booklet that you can print. There are also some writing activities for you to print.

EYFS Writing – Mark Making in Early Years

Scribbling

eyfs writing

At this stage children will  usually hold a writing implement in the whole of their hand. They will be exploring the materials without any real purpose but this is a very important stage nevertheless.

Symbols

Eventually, children will realise that writing consists of symbols and will attempt to copy these by producing shapes, usually lines and circles at first.

First Stage of EYFS Writing

Transcript

On Saturday I went to the supermarket with my mum. We had a trolley. The wheels kept on going all wiggly. I wanted sausages but my mum got bacon. I can pick some food next time.’

Features Include

* Random use of letters.

* Frequent use of letters found in their name.

* Left to right and top to bottom direction.

* Purposeful writing.

* Often children read what they write.

* Recognition of some letters and their name.

* Can’t usually hear initial sounds.

* Continuous text, no spaces or words.

Intermediate Stage of EYFS Writing

Transcript

This is my bag.

Features Include

* Knowledge about letter shapes and sounds.

* Spaces begin to appear.

* Random use of letters replaced by  initial and perhaps end and middle sounds and some known whole words.

* Full stops used but not always in the right place.

* Children will read their own writing.

* Writing doesn’t always make sense.

Third Stage of EYFS Writing

Transcript

I played with my frisbee and I saw a bird. My frisbee nearly went over the fence.

Features Include

* Spelling attempts become readable.

* Letter formation moves towards correctness.

* Composition progresses.

* Better sequencing of ideas and events at greater length.

* Writing for more purposes.

* Children may read back, review and make changes.

Supporting Each Stage of EYFS Writing

Early Mark Making

* Provide play dough for rolling and cutting. To make perfect playdough click the picture below.

Printable Playdough Mats
Playdough Techniques

* Washing equipment and dolls’ clothes will strengthen hands and wrists for writing.

* Offer fine felt pens as well as thicker ones.

* Colour gloop and foam with paint or food colouring and use with simple tools e.g. straws, card combs, small brushes.

* Paint on wallpaper rolls, big cardboard boxes.

* Make mud pies outdoors, add sticks, twigs, and small logs to  extend their play.

* Offer small plastic buckets of water squeezy bottles, brushes or   sponges for outdoor painting on walls, doors and paving stones.

* Offer chalk for pattern and line making outside on walls and paths.

* Provide different types of paper in your writing area eyfs e.g. tracing, wallpaper, coloured paper  circles, strips, triangles etc. and a variety of writing materials.

* Provide a digging area outside.

* Make marks and letters in flour in a shallow tray.

* Provide tongues to encourage children to pick up  pasta, cotton wool, rice crispies and tweezers to pick up sequins.

* Play with bats and balloons.

* Provide hoops, bins and cones for target practice.

* Play listening games.

First Stage of Writing

* Practise name writing with various materials.

* Model how to write e.g. writing a  shopping list or a letter.

* Sing rhymes and read rhyming stories.

* Match rhyming words.

* Play ‘I Spy…’

* Split words into their component sound for children to guess what you are saying e.g. m-a-p.

* Introduce letter sounds.

* Provide a variety of mark making materials.

* Provide a variety of papers.

Intermediate Stage

* Practise letter formation.

* Use magnetic boards and letters to make simple words.

* Write the missing letters in a word starting with the initial sound, followed by the end sound and then the middle.

* Write simple cvc words e.g. map, tap, mat.

* Model writing simple ‘I can…’ sentences.

* Children write their own ‘I can…’ sentences e.g. I can hop, I can sit.

Third Stage

* Make and write words that can’t be sounded out e.g. I, my, the, to, he, etc.

* Provide different purposes for writing e.g. stories, lists, instructions etc.

If you would like a free copy of my ‘writing for different purposes pack’ then please click on the picture above. For more ideas on activities to develop writing click here. If you would like a free copy of the booklet below which outlines the contents of this blog as a handy reference then click here.

EYFS Writing and Development Matters

Development Matters can be used to assess children’s ability in writing, as it indicates the different features expected during the different stages of a child’s development. I have produced some exemplification to support you in making those judgement’s and identifying the next steps for progress.

Set up a folder using the pages to be used as a reference. Adding your own further examples will support in making accurate judgements and will help you to moderate the judgements that you make.

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