Google+ bakers and astronauts: Writing: Part One

02 March 2009

Writing: Part One

This week, I'll be sharing some thoughts about writing and young children. Reading and writing are essential skills, and their development begins in infancy and continues throughout a lifetime.

I'd like to say a few quick words about literacy development in the infant and toddler years. There is nothing more important to the healthy development of reading and writing skills than the development of oral language. Making noise and hearing language is the basis for everything else -- and i think people underestimate the importance of that fact. Children need time to play with language and sound and mouth movements and songs and rhymes and conversation before they write. I imagine most people who can ride a unicycle learned how to ride a bicycle first -- there are some basics that you should explore and experience in a logical order so that you do not get overwhelmed with the task at hand.

To learn about children's writing, you have to see children's writing. So today is for what writing looks like before letters.

Above is a drawing made by a two-year-old. She is not making random scribbles -- her marks seem to have some intention. She has enough fine motor control to "color in" some of the lines. Her words for this were "Mommy, Daddy, Me."
This black pen drawing was made by a child who is three years old. There was more time spent on this piece, and he experiments with a variety of lines and shapes in his drawing. Learning about sharp lines and curves is learning about writing. Children are practicing the skills they are going to need to write letters. Experimentation is so important to writing development -- I know I do not have fond memories of tracing letters over and over and over again to learn how to write them properly. Open-ended art activities give children the opportunity to use their muscles to control the marks they make on paper with the tools that they choose, making them the expert rather than the manufacturer of a product.

These sticky notes are the writing that is done while some four-year-olds in my class are pretending to be on the phone. They are messages and phone numbers and addresses -- in scribbles from left to right, and from top to bottom. The children are pretending to write like adults do, an that imitation and practice is a great way for the children to develop those skills.

This last example is of a child using their environment to inspire their writing -- this is a four year old using writing in their environment (a sign-up sheet in the classroom) to inspire their own writing. This child is created a sign-up sheet, and then signed his own name on the top line.

These four examples are a pretty natural progression of writing development from two years to four years; but I am not one to etch things in stone. Many people refer to windows of development, and that is an excellent metaphor, especially for writing. Children may show no interest until five or six; they may skip scribbling; they may need extra help gripping a marker before this exploration can begin.

I find children's writing quite fascinating, and I'm looking forward to writing more about it! Tomorrow I'll be sharing some more writing samples from the next "stages" of writing development, and then talking about book writing and encouraging writing in the classroom.
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